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How to optically increase your room size using flooring

How the choice of flooring can alter the visual appearance of your room

Interior spaces are somewhat restrictive, especially in urban areas where residential spaces may be limited to pre-existing structures or restrictive on expansions. In order to maximize the visual space, you should consider renovations of the floor and/or floor coverings. By understanding how the visual elements of the flooring space can alter the perception of the actual space, you can visually increase the room size using flooring.

What boards to use and why

Use smaller boards on your flooring
Where you may be able to cover the span of your room using twelve boards, if can do so with twice that many thinner boards, then the space will appear larger. The way in which this is accomplished is that people perceive space by the quantity of the boards it takes to get from one side to another. So if it takes 24 boards to get across a room as opposed to 12 the space will appear to be larger than it actually is. Of course, you do not want to take this to the extreme as the effect will be lost and you will have a "tile appearance" to your hardwood flooring. The trick is to find a happy medium.

Using lighter wood will open up the space
Jonathan Sapir an expert on wood flooring and MD of Wood and Beyond says, 'Lighter woods optically increase your room size. If you have dark furnishings in your room, consider using a lighter wood or to paint the floor white. The light reflected from the white floor will give it a more open and "natural feeling" making the space appear larger.

Place a wall mirror that accents the floor space
Restaurants and commercial property have been using this technique for years. If you have a space that has an unused wall and can capture the flooring spaces accurately (without distortion) implement a mirror on that wall so that the floor space looks doubled. When using this technique it is best to place the parallel to the lay of the board. This will counter affect any tunnel effect which you may get from using a mirror perpendicular.

Avoid large kickboards
Kickboards frame a room and give it a definitive space. If you want to have your room appears larger, than use smaller kickboards. Better, eliminate the kickboard and substitute minimal trim to increase the space. Think of it this way. If you have a picture and it has a large frame around it, you focus more on the frame and less on the picture. The size of the picture is clearly and overly defined. However, if you use a gallery wrap painting or a small frame, the emphasis is more on the painting (interior space) then on the frame (size of the room).

Do not use dark flooring unless you have superb lighting
Dark colours minimize space. This can be used to your advantage. Do not use dark coloured floors in small rooms which do not have a great deal of lighting. However, you can use the dark coloured floor on open floorplans to help move the eye to the adjoining room. This creates a greater space than if you had a lighter floor against a darker floor. Do not use dark flooring on rooms with dark walls as it will confine the space.

Consider your orientation
The angle in which you place your flooring can greatly help optically increase the room size. Hallways which have the flooring placed elongated (meaning you are looking down the length of the flooring as oppose to at the width) maximize the space. This is one instance where you want to have the train tunnel effect. Also, some rooms can benefit from having diagonal placement of the flooring, especially if the room adjoins a room with tile or the orientation of the flooring changes. For example: If you have a room with horizontal flooring and you want to optically maximize the space you can orient the adjoining rooms flooring so that it goes diagonally to the room connecting to the horizontal boards. This makes the eye go across the room and then travel to the adjoining room.

Eliminate the seams
Certain rooms appear larger if the seam of the flooring is eliminated. Open floor plans, conservatories, and bathroom areas are typical spaces which benefit the most. If you chose to use such a method it is best practice to have neutral or lighter flooring as opposed to a darker colour.

These are but a few of the methods you can use to optically increase the space of your rooms. Of course there are other methods which you can use. You should use the help of an interior designer or consult someone that specializes in floor design to get the best advice as to the proper flooring and techniques to use to maximize the visual appearance of your interior space.

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