It has been reported that Britain has the smallest homes in Europe (academics at Cambridge University researched it, so it must be true). All I know is frequently we are required to cram our entire worldly possessions into one tiny space and the results can feel claustrophobic, hectic and anything but aesthetically pleasing.
Achieving a place you can relax in takes some conscious effort and some planning. From an artist’s garret to a Georgian pile, space challenges us in different ways. Add kids, pets or home working and you really need to think about how it works for you, DAY TO DAY. In one house we lived in, it wasn’t until the day we moved out we realised that we had used the formal dining room just three times. We had no kids, ate out or worked late most nights and Sunday lunches were something only ever consumed in a pub or at our Mums’. Even more regrettably, it was probably the largest room in the house #numpties.
It very much depends on HOW you are going to use it, but space needs to be given dedicated time and planning – get an expert if you have to, especially if you’re purchasing somewhere. Properties literally open up and transform your experience of living there, when a kitchen has been moved from front to back of the property for example. These projects require professional advice obvs, so pop down your sledgehammer until you have spoken to someone.
The good news is that the key to successful small-space living might be easier than you think. If you’re not up to structural but want to feel less hemmed-in and more chilled-out, the tips I am about to share with you are worth a read.
What do you NEED, what would you LIKE, what have you GOT? Sounds like a conversation I would be having with our household finance department whilst clutching a winter coat in the Cos sale but the same rule of thumb applies to our homes. What can you gift, shift or put in storage? Could you hang bikes on a wall in the lobby or outside on a rack instead of clogging up the hallway? Could a desk fit under an open staircase or in a bedroom alcove with a foldaway chair? If you have rooms you don’t use FREQUENTLY change them to what you need. Arrange them for the WAY-YOU-LIVE-NOW. You won’t regret having an office all year long just because Auntie Barbara stays for one night at Christmas in the spare room. (Sorry Barbs, you’re on the office sofa bed this year).
These are your best friend. Consider a large one on a wall opposite the window or any light source where it will reflect it back into the room. You may have an old one you can paint the frame of in a coordinating colour or how about with some neon acrylic paint… sounds dodgy, looks great in a bathroom! If you’re in a rental property or not keen on drilling holes in walls, get a freestanding large mirror – Ikea.com have some good ones. For a salon feel, try hanging several mirrors together in a gallery wall style.
In a bathroom, on the rear of panelled doors and alcoves and to the sides of chimney breasts, mirrors work wonders, I am not a huge advocate of mirrored ceilings, but hey, each to their own. Mirrors reflect light and create the illusion of a much larger space.
This principle works in your garden too. If you’ve no more than a couple of paving stones to call your own, paint a garden wall bright white or a punchy colour, hang or stand an old mirror adjacent and I guarantee it will feel bigger
3. TRANSPARENT FURNITURE
Not all of it, Not unless you want to look like you live with the Invisible Man but maybe try a glass coffee table or see-through side table. Kartell.com do some incredible things with Perspex. In an office or kitchen, try a ghost chair, (cultfurniture.com have some great replicas). I love the versatility of this Peekaboo console table / desk. It can be used as either and would happily work in a lounge with some lamps on if behind a sofa or in a narrow hallway. In various colours, a sheer piece of furniture could be a real focal point. Think about furniture with legs too…if you can see under or through an object or pieces of furniture in a room it creates the illusion of more flow .
4. WINDOW TREATMENTS
Take them DOWN!! Seriously, curtains eat space and drown a window . Your view is precious and does not need swathing in drapes with Jane Austin style ‘puddling’ if you want your room to appear larger. If you HAVE to have them, then fix your curtain pole a good 15 cm either side of the recess of the window so that when they’re open, the curtains do not restrict any of the window itself.
A fitted slat or roman blind at the top or even some window film should suffice and will make a huge difference if you need some privacy but want to keep the light. (Brume.com do some great ones but if you’re not overlooked, go commando!).
5. PAINT COLOURS
The received wisdom on this is that light colours make for the illusion of bigger space. I am not 100% convinced that this is the only way and have decorated a whole room in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Railings’ without it disappearing – so I maintain white is not your only option. I did however use white to paint the floor and that’s an ‘instant tardis’ tip for you.
What can enlarge a space is less borders / barriers so you could try painting your skirtings, walls, doors and door frames all in the same colour. A pale soft grey shade like French Grey from Little Greene all over and paired with white painted floorboards would definitely max out your meters2.
There are entire schools of though on colour in the home and you could always try a specialist colour consultant such as Lucy Curtis from the Colour Club, who knows a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t depending on what end result you are trying to achieve.
White is a good call for walls and floors if you have to house lots of smaller pieces and possessions in one room, as the multiple colours and pattern these will throw in the mix will probably work best against a clean background. White will definitely simplify and avoid looking too cluttered. of course there are hundreds of whites! If it feels too cold, go for a softer white such as Chalk No4 from designersguild.com.
6. MULTI USE / FOLDING FURNITURE
Storage Storage Storage is your mantra for modern living that and its best friend, multi-use furniture. Anything that has function as well as form is indispensable in small living spaces. Tables that double as seats and anything that folds away or can be wall-hung is a bonus. Sofas that convert to extra beds for guests and can hold their own bedding underneath are another lifesaver. Consider also using cupboards, alcoves and recesses for anything from desks, to bookcases to a bar !
This is where you can get really creative and so much the better if you’ve any carpentry skills. You can have full sets of drawers recessed into eaves in loft rooms and window seats in living rooms. These make excellent hideaways for magazines, throws, remotes and all the inexplicable ‘stuff’ we just *need* and that make rooms look unnecessarily crowded. There are also incredible bed/desk systems for kids, students, home-shares and adults alike. (Top tip: people get rid of these frequently on eBay as they move or kids leave for Uni so do a ‘local’ search and see if there is anything near you).
Vintage wooden trunks that can hold books, tissue boxes, and other non-essentials can also work as coffee or side tables. Ditch table and free standing lamps and think instead about wall sconces. Funky wall hung lights now widely available, can double as art if you pick the right thing for the right room. This divine cactus light will be going in a child’s box room I am doing, saving valuable table space and looking great whilst being a perfect night light. Five Little Diamonds or Rockett St George for similar lights and funky lightboxes.
Not necessarily multi-use but definitely space-saving is the new range of furniture from marksandspencer.com – LOFT. Those clever folk have scaled down some key pieces for your pad and the collection’s compact design is ideal for smaller spaces. Many pieces have feet or hairpin legs which is a key ruse for making the eye travel around and through furniture and suggest empty space.
You can play height-enhancing tricks by hanging your art, mirrors or pictures lower, aligning them above your furniture than higher up the walls. This serves to create an impression of higher ceilings and more head room. Combine this trick with smaller-scale furniture or pieces that have legs exposing the floor and you are onto something. Justine Hand of Remodelista says “Furniture that is lower to the ground will create a feeling of openness in a room simply by the fact that they leave more space above them. In the bedroom, choose a loft bed or even try placing a mattress directly on the floor. In the living room, embrace your inner Mad Men style with low-to-the-ground mid-century pieces. Or, if your tastes run more toward the romantic and ornate, 19th-century furniture also has a low profile”.
So there you have my 7 top tips for making changes to your home to maximise your space. Grab a pen, paper and your paint brush start planning your bigger, calmer space and see if you can expand a little. No point being a waste of space…..
Adventures in Styling. If you like ’em, share ’em ! <a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14809779/?claim=qp8kaq82utu”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>