Interior designer Keith Carroll offers his expert tips and insights on how to create a balanced, captivating and functional space, no matter how small.
West Village, New York City – Decorating small spaces can be a design challenge, but interior designer Keith Carroll has found a way to master this art. He shares his expert insights on how to effectively decorate small spaces as we explore his New York City studio, which reflects a fusion of his Louisiana roots and his love for Paris.
Keith’s journey from a small town in the Louisiana Delta to his NYC studio in the West Village highlights the diversity of spaces he’s encountered. In his 240-square-foot studio, Keith has skillfully combined classic elements with an eclectic touch. He demonstrates that even in the tiniest of spaces, you can create a harmonious and vibrant environment.
“I felt like this is a laboratory for my work so I let go and did what I wanted. It is classic style and layered, filled with things that I love – from colorful fabrics, wallpaper (yes, you can wallpaper a tiny room!), and antiques to contemporary and modern art and sculpture.”
The key to decorating small spaces, as shown in Keith’s studio, lies in achieving a balanced style. Keith’s design philosophy is classically-inspired but filled with objects, art, and books that give it an eclectic twist. He’s artfully integrated a variety of patterns, colors, and textures to infuse depth and character into his small studio.
One of the most critical aspects of decorating a small space is creating focal points. Keith’s favorite feature in his studio is the fireplace, which he painted black to provide architectural interest and serve as a visual centerpiece. For Keith, a strong focal point can make the room feel more inviting and engaging — especially when it comes to small spaces.
“The building is from the late 1800’s, and it had nice big windows and a wonderful fireplace. I knew I could make something magical out of this,” says Carroll, “I painted the fireplace black to give it more architectural interest and serve as a focal point – you always need a focal point, particularly in a small space. So I would say the fireplace is my favorite feature, it feels warm and inviting.”
Keith’s tips for decorating small spaces are straightforward yet invaluable. He encourages being bold, unafraid to use patterns, wallpapers, and even larger furniture items to add character to a compact area. In his own studio, Keith started with wallpaper “Cow Parsley” from Cole & Sons and incorporated substantial furnishings like a large armoire, and leveraged mirrors to reflect light and create a sense of spaciousness. The ceiling, painted in Benjamin Moore Blue Veil, helps to visually raise the ceiling height.
“If you have a boring, bland door, spice it up with a great, unexpected color! Here I used Benjamin Moore Purple Rain and turned it into a pin board of some favorite photos, postcards and mementos of my trips.”
To avoid making the bed the central focus of the studio, Keith designed a banquette with a twin mattress, turning it into a comfortable and stylish piece of furniture. The green upholstery and bullion fringe add a touch of luxury to this multifunctional gem.
“I did not want a bed to be the central focus,” explains Carroll. “I wanted to feel like you were walking into a beautiful little Salon in the French Quarter or in the Marais in Paris.”
Keith’s only wish for his studio is to introduce a Zig Zag chair, a classic piece from the 1930s. This modern addition would infuse a dash of contemporary style, contributing to the eclectic atmosphere he’s cultivated in the space.
Among the treasures Keith cherishes in his studio, an antique French Fauteuil chair found at Dunn & Sonnier in New Orleans and slipcovered in a wonderful Cowtan & Tout chintz, an early portrait of Julius Caesar from a little antique shop in Rome, and a 19th-century mirror stand out. These pieces reflect his appreciation for art, history, and the allure of imperfection in design.
When guests enter Keith’s studio, he wants them to feel warm, invited, and intrigued. It’s a small space that continuously piques curiosity and offers a welcoming environment, much like the Southern hospitality he holds dear.
“It’s a place for me to work and relax and also to entertain friends. I’ve had cocktail parties here and a few dinners, believe it or not.”
Keith’s journey to becoming an interior designer is an evolution of creativity. “I think design was in my DNA all along,” says Carroll, “My first real exposure to design was the trips I would take with my Mother to Natchez, Mississippi. The early-to-mid-19th century homes are incredibly well preserved and beautiful. Many are classic Greek Revival and that style and influence has stuck with me. My work is still grounded in that classic style.”
Despite starting in corporate communications, his move to New York City opened his eyes to a world of design possibilities. Twelve years ago, he embarked on a new path, driven by his passion for creating captivating spaces in both classic and eclectic styles.
To Keith, home transcends physical space; it’s about the emotional connections. His work aims to recreate the warmth, safety, and celebration he experienced in his childhood home, offering clients a similar sense of comfort and embrace in the spaces he designs.
Photography: Nick Parisse