One of the most common interior design conundrums, especially in city houses, is how to make the most of a small space, both functionally and aesthetically. I have written on the topic more than once before, and it still comes up so frequently, that I thought I'd lay out some basic principles.
Bigger But Fewer
Big pieces in a small room? Sounds counterintuitive, right? In fact, the fewer discrete pieces you have in a small room, the more spacious it will feel. Resist the urge to fill it up with smaller pieces - the more things you have, the more cluttered and "filled up" it will feel. Of course, the big pieces need to still be in proportion to the room - too large, and you will defeat the purpose entirely. If in doubt, call upon an expert.
If you're going to have fewer pieces, you're going to have to make them work twice (or even thrice) as hard. Go for pieces that do more than one thing. Choose a console that can double up as desk space. Use low and wide bookshelves as bedside tables. Get a storage bed. Get an elegant day bed instead of a sofa. Use a pretty chair as a lamp table, and turn it into seating when needed. Use a storage ottoman as a coffee table. Use a drinks trolley as a console. You see where I'm going with this?
When horizontal space isn't enough, use whatever vertical space you have. If you are lucky to have high enough ceilings, build a mezzanine. Use wall space - get a Murphy Bed or a desk that folds up into the wall when not in use. Get your wardrobes or storage built all the way up to the ceiling. Skip the floor and desk lamps and use wall/ceiling lighting instead. Keep horizontal surfaces as minimalistic as possible, and the floor as clear as possible.
Since space is at a premium, make sure whatever space you do have is working hard for you. Customise all your storage so that you can maximise it. Skip the off-the-shelf shelving (heh). Invest in bespoke storage and get a good designer or reputed joiner to cleverly incorporate all your storage needs into whatever space you do have. At ShilpAtelier Interiors, we offer detailed joinery design as part of our services.
That Old Favourite Trick - Mirrors!
Using mirrors is the oldest trick in the book to make small spaces seem larger. And that's because it works! Just don't use them indiscriminately. Mirrors should ideally be placed with due consideration to sight-lines, lighting and reflection. Make sure you pay attention to what's being reflected in the mirror and where you can see the reflection from. Placing a mirror opposite the window is generally a good idea - it doubles the light, and reflects the outdoors. Conditions apply though - if placing a mirror means compromising on privacy (having your bathroom or bed reflected in it as well, for example), or reflecting a blank, boring wall, you might want to reconsider. Ask an expert, when in doubt.
It's a good idea to create zones through partitions in small spaces. Glass partitions prevent the space from getting even tighter. Sometimes a bookshelf can create an effective multi functioning partition. Zoning helps prevent clutter and conflict, and makes your space more streamlined. Oh, and also - if you must use doors, use sliding or pocket doors, so no space is wasted on the door swing. A good spatial/layout planning exercise can help you create effective zones within your space.
Keep It Light
Another obvious one. Keep it light. Maximise light in the room by using cleverly layered lighting. Reflect light sources by using strategically placed mirrors. Keep furniture colours light, and reflective - pieces that allow light through, like a slatted lamp, or a chrome chair are good additions to the space. Avoid using dark, heavy rugs. If you can, use sheers on windows and doors. Keep it light, unless...
Go Dark! No, Really
Counterintuitive again, but sometimes, the best way to tackle a tiny space is to go dark and dramatic with it. It creates much more of an atmosphere and statement than trying to maximise light (which may not always be possible) - but making it dark and dramatic can make the space really impactful and much more pleasant to be in. Paint the walls dark, use art to add contrast, use heavy drapery and furnishings and low level, atmospheric lighting. Be brave. Do it!
Edit, Edit, Edit
Less Is More. Not all your things will fit into a small space, so don't force it. You don't have to strip back to Zen monastery levels, of course (unless that's the vibe you're going for) but keep a healthy balance between essentials and decorative pieces so that the space looks well-balanced and not like an overstuffed headache.
These are only some of the ways you can make small spaces work for you! Always ask an expert, when in doubt. (Have I said that before? I think I miiight have). You can reach out to me with further questions and comments here.
Top photo Design Credit: Carrie McCarthy; Photography: Janis Nicolay; Source: House and Home