How to create big impact in a small space
Small space living has been a growing trend for quite some time with soaring real estate prices and people trading in size for location. Existing in forms such as tiny houses, micro apartments and simply smaller-scaled homes, finding ways to best design and maximize our space is all that more important. The idea of working with a small square footage is often daunting as it’s difficult to find the sweet spot between both form and function. And, in these challenging times, we rely on our homes more than ever to house our possessions, keep us sane and balance our emotional ethos.
One of the most powerful ways to maximize a small space is by going custom. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, custom solutions (like millwork and drapery) are tailored to fit any space. With storage often being a challenge, incorporating floor-to-ceiling millwork uses a smaller footprint compared to freestanding pieces that can just add weight and take up room. In addition, custom millwork can be designed in any style to add depth and detail along with hiding clutter. Homes with children benefit especially from hidden shelving. Custom drapery is another way to elevate and add volume. By hanging drapery high at about one to two in. below the ceiling, it creates the illusion of heightened ceilings, lengthening the room and drawing the eye upwards. In a small space, custom is worth the investment.
Scale and proportion are critical components in small space design. When furniture and decor shopping, our brains often equate smaller items with smaller spaces… but this isn’t always the best solution. The more “things” that exist in a space the more cluttered it can look. Instead of opting for multiple arm chairs and an apartment sofa, sometimes a larger custom sectional is the better choice as it can create the illusion of a larger footprint. A common design mistake we encounter at Louis Duncan-He Designs is seeing clients with area rugs that are too small. Even in a large room, having a rug in the wrong scale tells us to “live” within that limited footprint as it dictates the overall usable space. The same line of “go big” thinking can also be applied to color. Don’t be afraid to scale up! Painting or wallpapering an entire room instead of a single wall helps define the space instead of splitting up an already modest room into even smaller sections. Going bigger in scale can lead to more confident and impactful designs.
Multi-functional and creative
Multi-functional is the name of the game when working in a limited area. An ottoman can extend seating, serve as a coffee table and create a focal point with the simple addition of a tray. Multi-functional furniture offers flexible performance and has since evolved to include transformative pieces which can quadruple your capacity within the same footprint. Companies have already done the heavy-lifting to create innovative pieces so make sure you’re taking full advantage of what’s available today. After all, one of the biggest goals for compact living is to find creative ways in maximizing space.
I repeat, a small space does not have to be an obstacle for good design. Larger spaces may allow for more room, but can also equate to more spaces to design. This can be daunting, labour intensive and expensive to perfect. Instead of thinking of it as a hindrance, see a small space as an opportunity to explore your imagination. Set guidelines can force us to think more clearly and beyond our creative comfort zones. With the aid of a creative compass, an artist can often create more impactful work when provided with the right parameters. And just like an artist, sometimes working small can lead to the biggest rewards.
Designer Louis Duncan-He is Creative Director and Principal of Louis Duncan-He Designs. This Calgary and Montreal boutique design firm offers complete residential design services throughout Canada. With a distinct timeless perspective, the company creates unified authentic designs.