Making the most of small spaces

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Small may be beautiful, but living in a small space is not always easy. Our tips will help you make the most of every room, no matter what its size, writes interior designer, Katherine Sorrell.

1 Are you making the most of every centimetre of your space? The best way to tell is by drawing a scale plan and checking for areas that could be improved. Ask yourself whether relatively simple changes such as repositioning a radiator, re-hanging a door or simply moving the furniture could make a big difference.

2 Storage is vital. In fact, it is often the case that losing a little floor area to create built-in storage will actually make the room seem more streamlined and therefore larger. Think bookshelves and cupboards in the living room, wall-to-wall wardrobes in the bedroom, floor-to-ceiling shelving in the study and a tall coat cupboard in the hall. Add storage into any ‘dead’ space you can, whether it’s in chimney alcoves, around a bed head or above a doorway. Wall racks and hooks on the backs of doors are invaluable.

3 Whatever storage you buy or build, don’t forget to design their interiors to make them incredibly functional. Adding internal drawers, shelves, baskets, hooks and so on will enable every bit of space to be put to good use.

4 Aim high. In a child’s bedroom, for example, a high-sleeper bed can include a desk, sofa or play area beneath. Why stop at the normal height when bookcases, kitchen cupboards and wardrobes can all be built right up to the ceiling, adding some vital extra storage space? You just need to remember to plan for somewhere to store a ladder or step stool, too.

5 Get clever with colour. While pale colours appear to recede, and thus increase the sense of space, darker colours absorb light and therefore appear more enclosing. So, for a bright, airy, open look, opt for a unified, pale colour scheme. Paint built-in storage and radiators the same colour as the walls to make them disappear.

6 Use mirror and glass to open up a room. Think about light sources – whether sunlight through windows or light fittings – and place mirrors so that they bounce the light around. And choose glass or acrylic when possible for furnishings or accessories so as to create that barely-there look.

7 While it is not always necessary to opt for small-scale pieces, select furniture carefully, avoiding deep, squishy upholstery, fussy details and bulky outlines. Simple, lightweight styles have the least impact in a small space, and anything raised on slender legs will make the room seem larger (because there is more visible floor area). When appropriate, look out for compact, folding, wheeled, extending, dual-purpose or wall-mounted furniture, each of which can provide great solutions for different space problems. The only condition is that it must be comfortable, fulfil its function and suit your overall style.

8 Decide on one design style and make sure it is cohesive throughout. Employing complementary (pale) colours, interesting natural textures and subtle patterns will generate a sense of harmony and understated visual appeal.

9 If you are working on a renovation, then larger-scale alterations may be achievable, even if you cannot enlarge your square footage. Consider replacing bulky radiators with underfloor heating, going open plan, enlarging windows, replacing doors or walls with glass to allow light to flow from room to room, or even – if height allows – adding a mezzanine floor level.

Clear your clutter and create some space
In a small home there is simply no room for excess clutter. It can be really hard to get rid of stuff, but if you don’t use it regularly, you’ll have to be ruthless. Sort it into boxes or bags marked for rubbish, recycling, giving away, mending or storing elsewhere. Aim to do one room per week, or a few minutes a day – then get into the habit of keeping on top of it so it doesn’t build up again.

 

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