Australian’s love their McMansions, and we are still building some of the biggest houses in the world in many parts of the country. With so much emphasis on keeping up with the neighbours, it might come as a surprise that house sizes are trending downwards. We are more and more likely to consider an apartment or a smaller home than we were 5 or 10 years ago. The growing trend is towards urban consolidation, where people prefer to live closer to the city and amenities. This has driven the boom in apartments being built in and around the city fringes. Check out this article from Your Investment Property Magazine that details the types of properties we prefer, and what’s driving this shift.
Whether it’s your first home or a terrace house/apartment in the city centre. Small spaces always seem harder to decorate and tend to get more cluttered as there is less storage available to you. But, there’s a lot to be learned from the new tiny house revolution, and we can certainly get some inspiration from them for our own homes.
Don’t let small spaces get the better of you, renovating and decorating a small space can still be a lot of fun. You just have to think smarter and be creative. There is a lot you can do to the space to make it more inviting and appear brighter and larger. Changes to the layout of the furniture can have a huge impact on the flow of the room as well, so this is something to consider if you are redecorating.
So, here are my top tips fon how to make the most of small spaces when renovating or decorating:
Choose appropriate size items
When buying or replacing furniture, ensure it is appropriate for the size of the room. Oversizing furniture is one of the most common mistakes I see in small spaces. As nice as a large corner lounge may look in the shops if it’s too big for the room the space will look and feel cluttered and busy.
Choose furniture that fits nicely in the room whilst still giving you plenty of space to walk around and be comfortable.
Stick with a few key pieces of furniture and don’t over clutter the space, as this will make it feel smaller.
Choose multi-purpose furniture
If you have a smaller space to work with it is a great idea to use furniture that has multiple uses. For example, an ottoman or coffee table which also has a storage compartment built-in. This helps to reduce the number of items that you need in the room and also helps to keep it from becoming too cluttered. I love to use a large ottoman with storage because it can be used as a chaise on the lounge, or a coffee table, or an extra seat. It’s just a smart way to make the most of a piece of furniture.
Select the right style and size sofa/lounge
As mentioned above, the scale of furniture in any room is key to its success. If you have a large room, and you don’t fill it with enough furniture, it will feel unbalanced and uninviting. The same applies to small rooms. You want the room to feel cosy and balanced, and be a space where you want to spend time. Therefore, picking the right size lounge or sofa is very important. It’s usually the biggest piece of furniture in the room, and the one you use the most!
You want to be able to easily move around the room. This means you need to leave space between furniture. I suggest taking measurements of the room, and then take your tape measure with you when you are shopping for the sofa. You need to avoid the temptation to put lots of stuff in a small space.
Select a lounge colour that is going to match the rest of the décor in the room. A light-coloured sofa will help to make the room feel light and bright. However, this is not always practical if you have small children or animals in the house!
Sometimes it’s better to have a modular sofa that you can reconfigure depending on what’s happening. I encourage clients with small spaces to get a matching ottoman that doubles as a coffee table or chaise. This allows you to use it for extra seating when you have guests, but also use it as a table for putting your feet up when you’re lounging at home on your own.
The height of the lounge is also important. Get a low line lounge if you can, as this will give the illusion of more space. By creating a larger gap between the top of the lounge and ceiling it makes the ceilings feel higher.
Another tip is to use a lounge with no arms. It doesn’t sound like it would make much of a difference to a room, but it really does. Having a sofa without arms will make the room look larger as the furniture is less chunky.
Use low line furniture
Again, low line furniture such as TV units and shelving also help to make the room look larger and more open. Because you have all the overhead space available the room will look brighter and less cluttered.
Using furniture that all matches will also help by keeping a streamlined look. A cohesive theme is less busy and easier on the eye, so things flow better and feel more calming.
Use a round, glass table
I suggest glass tops for both the coffee table and the dining table.
A rounded table takes up less space than a square or rectangle table. Using a table with a glass top rather than a solid wooden one also gives the illusion of the space being larger because you can see in and around the table. The glass also reflects the light giving the room a brighter and more open feel to it.
Where possible it is a great idea to use sliding cavity doors. They save room and allow you to use the limited space available to you. They are great for the bedroom, bathroom and wardrobe doors. Sliding doors take up a lot less room when they are opened as they slide into the cavity in the wall. This gives you the ability to utilise the wall space and area surrounding the doorway for furniture or art.
In the bedroom, sliding wardrobe doors allow for more usable floor space, and this is crucial when it comes to small bedrooms.
Mount your TV
It is surprising how much bigger your room will look without a big, bulky TV unit in it. Having the TV mounted to the wall opens up the space below the TV. This gives the illusion of more room. Not to mention it keeps little fingerprints off the screen and eliminates the risk of it tipping and falling on someone as well! Just remember to hide the cables and run them through a conduit or feed them back through the wall. This keeps them safely away from the kids and out of sight.
Use built-in storage where possible
If you are looking at shelving, build it into the space and take it all the way to the ceiling. This elongates the space and naturally takes the eye up to the ceiling, which makes it feel bigger. I like to have doors on at least some of the shelves, so you can hide away things that aren’t worthy of display. As much as I love an open shelf, in a small space, it gets filled very quickly. It almost never looks like the magazines that are so beautifully curated with the perfect artefacts!
In a small kitchen, paying a little more for custom cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling is definitely worth the investment. You can put all the things you only use occasionally up the top, and out of the way. This can add an enormous amount of storage to any small kitchen.
In the bathroom, incorporating mirrored shaving cabinets and recessing them into the wall will add a huge amount of storage to your bathroom.
Use the vertical spaces available
As mentioned before, take your storage all the way to the ceiling. It adds a massive amount of storage that would otherwise be wasted.
Another thing I have recently done in my bathroom is to pitch the ceiling on the same angle with the roofline. The room originally had a dropped ceiling, and it felt really cramped and small. So, when we demolished the room we took out the ceiling too. We then got a carpenter to change the ceiling line for us. It has made a huge difference in the overall feeling of space in the room.
Photo supplied by Unsplash
Small spaces can still be beautiful, it just requires more planning and commitment to keep it tidy. And think of the positive impact you are having on the environment by living in a smaller home. Your carbon footprint will be much smaller and your energy bills will also be much lower! I like to remind myself how small homes are in Japan, especially the big cities like Tokyo. Use some of the decluttering techniques from my previous blog post here to get rid of any unwanted items. And remember to work with what you have, get creative and most of all – have fun!