We all have lived in a small space one time or another. Whether it be a loft in the city or a charming bungalow in a suburban town, small spaces pose similar design challenges. Through the years, I have picked up on many creative ways to use a limited space to one’s advantage. A friend of mine recently asked me to give her some quick tips on how to successfully design her New York apartment, and I decided to share them with you in this week’s article. In the spirit of the subject, I have derived each tip from the letters S-M-A-L-L.
SCALE: It's important to use furniture that is proportionate to the size of the room. Properly scaled furniture will make a room feel so much more spacious. For example: A huge sofa may be comfortable, but more times than not, it sucks all of the life (and space) out of a small room. I know we all like comfort, but there are other ways to achieve it without having an “elephant in the room.” In its place, you can use a smaller proportioned sofa and a club chair. This will give you the same amount of seating while opening up the room visually. It also helps to choose furniture styles with clean lines so as to not make the space look too busy. During the design process, I draw out the furniture plan in a computer program called CAD. This way, I can make sure that each selected piece of furniture fits in the room perfectly. It is like a puzzle to me – I love the challenge!
Multifunction: Selecting furniture that has more than one function is key. Storage ottomans are always a hit with my clients. They serve as a coffee table, foot stool, blanket/toy holder all in one! Secretaries are also great: They serve as a small desk and fold up out of the way when not in use. You can also use them as a bar. Set out a tray, an ice bucket and some drinks – and voila! Cocktails, anyone? Check out my blog post on the Hallings Secretary here. One of my favorite space saving tips is using a banquette. Ask my husband or anyone that knows me well – I love a banquette. Banquettes save space in dining areas while providing a comfortable place to lounge. Always the prime seat in a dining nook, banquettes make you want to just cozy up and enjoy a good cup of coffee.
Accentuate: Highlight the focal point of the room. Is it a fireplace? Or is it the gorgeous view to the outdoors? Make sure that your seating arrangement draws your eye to the best feature of the room. If there isn’t any architectural feature or view to speak of, use accessories to create one. In a client’s dining room with no windows, I mirrored one whole wall to reflect a window in the adjoining room. It is amazing how the reflected light in the mirror really opened up the room.
Lengthen: Just how flared jeans make a girl look taller, curtains that are mounted close to the ceiling lengthen a room. You may not be able to widen a room, but you can make it feel more spacious by accentuating its height by drawing the eye upward. Sheer curtains are a great way to achieve this: their light and ethereal quality makes a statement and lifts the eye without weighing the room down.
Listen: If you are a designer, listen to your client. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, listen to your instincts. When it comes to small spaces, throw out tradition. Turn a closet into a built-in desk area if your needs call for it. Turn your dining room into a library if you need a place to store all of your books. Some of my favorite dwellings are those that reflect the lifestyle of the client. In the words of the musician Charles Wright: “Express Yourself."