Even if you live in a large house, chances are there’s an area within that a real estate agent might describe as ‘cosy’ – and if you’re one of the increasing number of apartment dwellers, you’re likely to be pretty familiar with compact rooms. In fact, there’s a lot to be said for small living spaces. They cost less to heat and you’ll have less need for stuff, which is good for both your wallet and the environment. Here’s how to make the most of living on the small side.
Furniture custom built for your room will not only make the most of every inch, it will also maximise your storage options, helping you to keep surfaces clear – important in a tight space. Tailor your joinery to suit what you need to store and the room in which it stands. A wall of wardrobes stocked with different-height rails, shelving and drawers is an obvious choice for a bedroom. In kitchens, where storage demands are likely to be high, take wall cabinetry to the ceiling for maximum capacity (this also avoids the dust traps that can gather on top of units) and include as many drawers as possible in the overall layout; drawers can fit nearly a third more storage than simple cupboards. For living zones, think low-lying credenzas running the length of the room that can double as display areas, whilst in a dining zone, a lidded bench can generate more storage space as well as enhancing your seating options.
Free up the floor
Keeping the floor as clear as possible is a good design trick to make a room seem more spacious – we’re talking vertical solutions such as wall hanging the TV, and fitting open shelving. For the bedroom, a great bed is a must, but choose one with less visual bulk; the Koala timber bed base is curved inwards to give the appearance that it is floating, and as an added bonus, has a storage zone behind the slender headboard to tuck away chunky items such as extra pillows or blankets. In the bathroom, choose essentials that can be wall mounted, like the vanity and the loo. Gain extra marks if you can use the wall cavity to recess a shaving cabinet or conceal the toilet cistern – both moves will mean less protrusion into the room and a greater feeling of space.
Plan your palette
Painting the walls in a light-reflecting pale hue will make a room look larger, but you don’t need to go for a stark white box. Soft off-whites will do the same job, while cooler shades such as greys, light blues and greens also visually recede to make a space look bigger. For flooring, light, neutral tones with little or no pattern tend to fade into the background, while plain white on a low ceiling will lift it visually, helping add to the sense of space. Keeping to just a few colours in the room will generally deliver less visual noise. You could try painting architectural elements like skirtings and picture rails the same shade as the walls, instead of the more obvious white, for a less busy feel; try the same trick with big pieces of furniture, like a chest of drawers or wardrobe, to help them ‘disappear’ against the walls of a small bedroom. Alternatively, why not embrace the size and drench the walls, ceiling and architectural features in deep colour for a room with a sense of theatre and cosiness? The choice is yours.
Choose furniture wisely
Interestingly, restricting your furniture choices to a few larger pieces can work better in a compact
zone than a plethora of little items, which can make the room look like a hot mess. Just ensure you map out your space before you hit the shops to ensure your chosen item will work in the room. A good trick is to arrange sheets of newspaper to size on the floor, which will help you work out whether your piece is too big or small. Look for low set pieces with on-show legs – the lack of height will allow the eye to travel through the room, and the feet reveal more of the floor for a lighter, roomier feel.
The Koala sofa, with its mid-century vibe and sweet timber feet, neatly ticks both boxes. Glass and acrylic are good material choices for pieces like coffee tables and chairs – Philippe Starck’s Ghost chair has become a design classic – while reflective pieces like a mirrored cabinet or metallic lampstand help bounce light around, all of which adds to the illusion of space. Also, look for pieces that can work hard – an extendable dining table is a great choice, while a comfy storage ottoman can be coffee table, toy box and extra seat in one.
Four design tricks to try
• Arranging all your furniture against the walls can actually make the empty area in the middle the focal point and the whole room feel closed in. If you can do so without restricting movement around the room, try pulling the sofa forward off the wall to generate space around it, which will give it more of a hero status.
• Mirrors positioned near or opposite a window can help visually double the space. Just ensure, if you can, that the reflected view is of something pretty, like a leafy streetscape or a lovely garden, rather than a dull wall.
• Lots of knick-knacks and ornaments on every surface will make the room feel cluttered and cramped. Try editing your stuff – a good stylist’s trick is to work in threes and look for common elements, such as subject matter or materials, to create a cohesive look. Pack the surplus away and rotate when you like.
• Try positioning curtain poles well above the frame and extended beyond it, and hanging full-length curtains that just kiss the floor. It will help give the room height and visually big up your windows.
About the writer
Jane Parbury spent several years devising, crafting and editing the features in Home Beautiful magazine, both in print and online, before making a South Coast sea change and embarking on a freelance career. With wide experience as an editor and content producer for homes and lifestyle publications both in Australia and the UK, she lives and breathes all things interiors.