Secrets to making small spaces feel BIGGER without buying anything – & why you shouldn't put furniture against the wall

CRAMMING a workstation into your living room might have left the space feeling cramped, but restoring balance to your home is easier than you might think.

While more than half of Brits have got stuck into ambitious DIY and home improvements during lockdown, it turns out creating a harmonious living feeling living space is simple – and you don’t have to buy anything new. 

By re-shuffling your existing furniture around and following a few simple interior design commandments, you can make rooms feel bigger, calmer and more pleasant.

Architect and interior designer Cliff Tan uses a mixture of clever design principles and the ancient art of feng shui to create the perfect living spaces for his clients.

Cliff studied architecture at university and learned feng shui from his step-grandad, who was one of Singapore’s most prominent practitioners.

Speaking to Fabulous Cliff, who demonstrates feng shui in action on his TikTok account, Dear Modern, explains how to maximise positive energy in your home.

Never put your bed in the corner

According to the principles of feng shui, each room has a piece of furniture which we should put in the ‘command position,’ and should be the focal point of that area.

The bedroom is a place for rest, relaxation and romance so the bed should take centre stage.

“The bed should be in the 'command' position of the room,” Cliff says. “This means it should be as far from the main entrances as possible, and have a solid wall behind it for support.

“It should also not be in line with the door, and there is energy flowing in, which is not great if you want a restful sleep.”

Giving your bed the correct placement is said not only to make the space feel more orderly and spacious, it can also improve the quality of your sleep.

Cliff advises leaving a gap either side of the bed so ‘Yin’ energy can flow along the left side and ‘Yang’ can flow along the right. 

Creating symmetry in the bedroom, for example by leaving room on both sides of the bed or putting a matching bedside table either side, is symbolic of equality in a relationship.

Clear away your clutter

One of feng shui’s most basic principles says that the home is an outward expression of our inner selves, so if your home is a mess, it should come as no surprise you’re feeling frazzled. 

“Mess and clutter should be kept away at all times,” Cliff says. “Only leave out things which are important to you or add to the aesthetic of a place.”

Decluttering draws the eye to negative space – that’s areas on surfaces like tables and shelves – which automatically makes the room feel fresher and larger.

“This is not to say that you should leave your space sterile and minimalist.

“Objects can be beautiful, but should be given their place,” he adds. “If you have too many things which you love to all display, then the trick is to set them in groups. It is always important to have lots of space in areas like surfaces.”

Green-fingered people will be pleased to hear, one thing Cliff recommends keeping on display is house plants.

He says: “Plants purify the air and bring nature into a space, but they can also act as screens to regulate Chi, for instance if you have a huge window with too much energy, plants can be placed to frame it. 

“Then there are the more 'feng shui' aspects of plants. Plants can bring in certain elements which you might desire in a space, such as wood. 

“Though not all plants represent wood, depending on the shape of the leaves or their colours some can even represent elements such as fire. You want to avoid cacti in the home because of their thorns.”

Create a specific workspace

Many Brits will work from home for the foreseeable future this year, but that doesn’t have to mean work should take on more importance than leisure in your house. 

“One of the most classic pieces of feng shui advice is to avoid working in a bedroom. 

This is down to the specific room and balance, and how a person feels,” Cliff explains. 

“Deciding where to place a desk in a living room is a tricky question because they both have anchor pieces, the sofa and the desk, and they both require the command position of the room.”

However, it can be done. Cliff suggests trying to segregate study or work-related items as far as possible from those conducive to relaxation.

“The advice that I can give for this, is to ensure that they are kept as separate as possible, and try not to have the desk facing the TV. 

“You want to encourage efficient working, and when it's time to rest, then you move on to the sofa to relax.

“Bookcases represent learning and knowledge, so strictly speaking these should be placed in the parts of the home where these qualities are important.”

Don’t point all of your furniture at the TV

When it comes to deciding how to set up your living room, Cliff recommends considering how the room is most commonly used.

Though many British households anchor their furniture around the TV, this isn’t the right move for everyone.

“The sofa should be in the command position, furthest from the main entrances as possible, and have a solid wall behind it for support,” Cliff says. “The furniture placement should therefore suggest the use intended for a room.”

Is your household full of social butterflies who need space to chat from dusk until dawn? 

Or are you TV enthusiasts who bond over screen time together? Think about what the room is used for and slot the furniture around your lifestyle.

“A living room generally is a social space, where people gather and chat.It is not a cinema or theatre where your objective is to face the screen, so two sofas facing one another or a sofa facing an armchair works best” he continues. 

“Of course, there are exceptions. If the TV to a household is everything, where they interact through the TV, then you shift the furniture accordingly.”

Choose your accessories carefully

Accessorising a room with your favourite throws, pillow and mirrors is the best part of decorating for many DIY fans, but Cliff warns the colours and textures will affect the alignment of a room.

“When it comes to colours and patterns, it is a question about the elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water,” he explains. “These elements are related to the space, it's environment and the personality of the person. 

“For example, a kitchen shouldn't be blue because there is too much water element in this colour, but this can be balanced out by adding in earthy colours.”

Meanwhile, mirrors create the illusion of extra space with reflection, but their placement is also known to impact your sleep – something many of us could use a little more of.

“Mirrors have the ability to double everything that they are faced with, so if you want to double the warmth and joy of a dining room, place a mirror there,” Cliff adds. 

“However, this does not mean putting a mirror in a bedroom doubles the peacefulness you get. 

“Mirrors can only act to enhance energy, which you want less of in the bedroom, and is why they should be avoided.”

In other DIY news, this mum was quoted £15,000 for her dream kitchen and did it herself for just £150.

And this savvy mum completely transformed her kitchen without help for only £60 with Wilko paint and bargain vinyl.

Plus this mum transformed a rundown "drug pit" into a plush modern family home for just £5k as she shares jaw-dropping makeover pics.

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