Small Spaces

Thinking big

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Small Spaces

Thinking big

Small spaces seem to be the big thing these days. As baby-boomers seek simplicity in smaller, uncluttered spaces, and young up-and-comers seek affordable living in minimalist condos and lofts, small spaces have become the new trend in homes. Julia West, owner of the design studio Julia West Home, tackles small space living with simple suggestions for helping you make the most of the room that you have. We sat down with her and got the following helpful tips:

Q: Is the furniture you design for small spaces part of a larger trend?
A:
Yes, and I believe that this is a trend that is growing fast and will continue to grow. Smaller spaces in new and existing housing are a part of the reason for the trend as are the significant number of people downsizing. The latter are principally the beginning of a baby-boomer move toward retirement and are an interesting case in point for me because they are experienced users and buyers of furniture and have exacting standards both as to design and quality.

I believe strongly that furniture should earn its keep by justifying the use of a scarce resource, by offering the widest possible range of uses and also by having the satisfying appeal that's the reward of attractive design and clever function. Such a reward is enjoyed by consumer, maker and designer alike.

Q: How did the collection start?
A:
It got started when I realized how much I dislike the conventional coffee table; it takes up space and does little except collect dust and a lot of household mess. Generally made at 16 to 18 inches high, coffee tables aren't comfortable relative to the conventional sofa or chair because you have to stretch and reach down to place or retrieve objects.
   
So the first small spaces furniture that I designed addressed this problem by using a nifty mechanism that elevated the coffee table from its conventional height by bringing the top surface both up and toward the user where it rests securely before the sitting user with a relationship that's similar to that when one is sitting at a table or desk in a dining or desk chair.

So the coffee table enables eating, working with pencil and pad or laptop computer and lots of other things too; jigsaw puzzles, crafts, and so on, all while seated comfortably in chair or on sofa. The inside of the coffee table is also set up to accommodate those tasks having a number of configurations to store papers, pens and pencils, the laptop and even a few hanging files for the work in progress, as well as games, puzzles, wrapping paper and all of the gadgets and booklets related to a quiet evening in front of the TV. Imagining some of the things that that coffee table didn't do, led me to think about ways in which other pieces of furniture might give service to the user and how that could be done.

Q: What's in the works?
A:
We've been playing around for a couple of years with armoires that provide surprises. One example: traditional storage on shelves or a hanging rod with specific functional twists like a slide-out baby changing table, a second glide at keyboard height, and deep drawers in the bottom section for diaper pail and other storage, all useable later for a TV or monitor, full-width desk and places to accommodate a printer/fax/copier, paper, books and files.

We continue to muse on all the ways that the traditional armoire, chest of drawers, coffee table, end table, sofa table, dining table, desk, bed and so on can serve the user so that we wring the greatest utility out of the space the furniture occupies. The uses go beyond the home to the cottage, office and school. We're presently working on furniture for schools, offices, tiny buildings and other tiny spaces.

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Small Spaces

Thinking big