Decorating & Design - Design Lesson

Design lesson: Small space strategies

Kimberley Seldon

Kimberley Seldon shares her design principles for maximizing space in your home.

Soaring real estate prices have led to smaller houses and condos, and the need for inventive solutions to space limitations – one of the fundamental issues in design today. Dare to dream big and your rooms can be a triumph of style over size.

Principle: Built-ins and modular furniture units maximize storage and provide custom solutions for even the tiniest of spaces. The smallest rooms often end up as home offices and can benefit from built-in or modular furniture that effectively utilizes vertical and horizontal space. Here, built-ins like the bookcases in the foreground provide valuable storage, contain clutter (essential in small spaces) and define the room without enclosing it. If your storage needs grow, it's easy to add more shelves to the back wall thanks to the many affordable options available.

Principle: Streamlined furnishings, mirror and glass emphasize available space. In order to visually expand a room's size, designers and architects include negative space (the areas of emptiness that surround furniture) wherever they can. By choosing furniture with legs rather than skirts, incorporating glass where possible, and adding reflective elements like mirror, crystal and silver to an interior, you can amplify available light and space to create an expansive feeling.

Principle: Monochromatic colour schemes visually enlarge a space. Monochromatic colour schemes, in which all colours are close in tone and value, do an impressive job of visually expanding a room. The reason? When there's no contrast (the strong distinction between two values like black and white), the eye is able to move through a room uninterrupted, which creates the illusion of additional space. In this cosy bedroom, bronze greens dominate the colour palette and are punctuated with pewter, which has a nearly equal value. Since a monochromatic decor also emphasizes the various textures within a room, it creates an overall mood that's restful and sensual.

Principle: Multipurpose furniture creates flexibility within a space. Today, rooms are often required to serve more than one function. For instance, a guest may be temporarily housed in the living room or home office. In this library, a large daybed provides ample seating where visitors can curl up and read or enjoy a board game. Once the cushions are removed, it's a comfy bed with a softly upholstered wall for leaning against.


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