5 small space myths
We debunk 5 myths about decorating for small spaces.
Photography by Paul Chmielowiec
Small space myth 1: Don't use large furniture.
There's this strange myth out there that if you use large furniture in a small space, it will eat up the room. This can be true if you try to stuff a large bedroom set in a 10'x10' room, but you can still introduce large pieces in small quantities. Don't want to give up your queen-sized bed? Instead, cut back on other pieces like large armoires and bulky side tables. Your big bed will become a beautiful focal point in the room.
Photography by Kim Christie
Small space myth 2: Only use neutrals.
Sure, white walls can make a small room look airy, but don't limit yourself to just neutrals. The bedroom above (in a small Vancouver condo) has sandy walls, but also includes an artistic chalkboard wall. Pops of colour in the cushions bring life to the space and do anything but make it feel smaller.
Photography by Michael Graydon
Small space myth 3: They always look cluttered.
There's no need to get rid of all your 'stuff' just because you live in a small space -- just make sure you have savvy storage spaces. The teeny bathroom above has full cabinetry underneath the sink, but features sliding doors to keep things looking sleek. Thin glass shelves above the toilet neatly hold items that are frequently used so they're always at the ready.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
Small space myth 4: Avoid patterns.
Much like the myth of sticking to one focal point, many of us are scared to use pattern in a room in fear that it will look too busy. The living space above uses seven different patterns and they all blend together to create a cohesive space. The key is to use a similar colourway -- each of the patterns either use a neutral or the coral colour used on the walls.
Photography by Sue Stubbs
Small space myth 5: Stick to one bold focal point.
Many designers advise that you choose one eye-catching piece when decorating for a small space to avoid an overwhelming look, but this isn't always the case. The dining room above incorporates a bright feather wreath with a gorgeous natural stone fireplace and a Floyd Paxton pendant light. Even though each is a showstopper in their own right, the mix of one bright colour with neutrals ensures they work seamlessly together.
Image by: Donna Griffith | Styling: Christine Hanlon
Hushed tones and plenty of natural light make for a dreamy retreat
When these newlyweds ditched their condo for a house — as so many do — they set their sights upon Toronto’s leafy Summerhill neighbourhood , which they admired for its older homes. The couple found a 2,290-square-foot four-bedroom semi built in the 1930s that fit the bill in terms of age and locale, but it hadn’t been touched since the ’80s.
“It was so dark,” says one of the homeowners, referring to the interior, which was coated in dowdy browns and suffering from tiny rooms and windows, as well as a gloomy kitchen partitioned from the rest of the house. “We needed more light and a large kitchen for my husband, who loves to cook,” she says. Simply put, the house was hardly what you’d call a love nest. So the homeowners enlisted Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent to give their starter house a style transfusion.
“We wanted to create a classically inspired backdrop with clean-lined furnishings and art,” says Amy. The homeowners didn’t want to go too stark or too stuffy, so they settled on a transitional look with bold lashes of black and modern furnishings boasting traditional details. And, of course, they addressed the cramped spaces and lack of light.
To that end, the designers reworked the layout, removing the powder room, relocating the kitchen and expanding the windows at the front and back of the house. “We opened everything up so the light emanating from the new windows and existing skylight would stretch further,” says Ryan.
As for the finer details, near-black accents add striking drama against the palette of soothing greys, blues, browns and whites. “The colours in this home are very subtle, tone-on-tone and easy to live with,” says Amy. “We wanted the house to make an impact as a whole – not for any particular wall or accent to stand out above the rest.”
Whether the homeowners are upstairs lounging in the relaxed media room or downstairs sipping tea in the more formal living area, there is indeed a clear sense of cohesion, which is a hallmark of this home — and what makes it a far cry from its gloomy beginnings.
A dynamic explosion of hexagonal and subway tiles gives the third-floor bathroom edge. The contrasting grout as well as the blackened metal fittings, chair rail and sconces look sharp against the white backdrop.
Watery blues and greys lend a serene painterly feel to the tranquil second-floor family room.
The long and linear print of birch trees (with hand-applied copper leaf) echoes the shape of the low-slung sofa, which is clean-lined to suit the quiet space.
“I loved being able to customize the house to our needs,” says one of the homeowners. “My husband really loves the new kitchen.”
A spacious and stylish white kitchen flooded with natural light.
Vancouver designer Joanna Vagelatos updates a spacious family abode by adding tons of texture.
The house was beautiful the way it was. “A lot of people thought we were crazy to change it,” says homeowner Tanis Hill. “But it didn’t suit our style.” With sage green walls and an abundance of dark wood, the home was more heavy and masculine than Tanis and her husband liked. “Our aesthetic has always been light, airy and whimsical,” she says.
The couple purchased the 11-year-old French Provincial-inspired abode four years ago, when they were expecting their third child. “We actually put in an offer from the hospital room,” says Tanis. (Their children are now 7, 5 and 4.) In addition to light-filled wide open spaces and stunning architectural features, the 6,760-square-foot house in an established West Vancouver neighbourhood offered a convenient, tranquil setting ideal for raising a family – it’s four blocks from the beach and close to community centres, and there’s a babbling creek running through the backyard. “We picked this place for the children,” says Tanis.
To update the interior and give it a bright, casual Rachel Ashwell-esque vibe, the homeowners enlisted Vancouver designer Joanna Vagelatos, who now runs JV Design Group but was with The Cross Decor & Design when she worked on the home. During the six-month cosmetic renovation, Joanna transformed the space by painting the walls and millwork in soothing neutrals and replacing the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors with slightly greyed white oak. This created an airy backdrop for the cozy mix of natural fabrics and traditional and vintage-style furniture, as well as Tanis’s chandelier collection (“I love chandeliers – I own 10 of them!” she says).
But it’s the variety of textures and finishes that gives the home’s white, grey and linen palette interest and warmth. “You don’t need to add punches of colour for impact,” says Joanna. For instance, a weathered wood table keeps the dining area invitingly informal; linen and lace give the master bedroom a romantic yet unfussy feel; the chic crystal chandelier and pretty vanity chair enhance the all-white ensuite’s luxurious look; and custom-made burlap toy bins lend softness and uniformity to the playroom (“Plus, they won’t scratch the millwork like hard woven ones would,” says Joanna).
Indeed, the soothing space was decorated without ignoring practicality. “We did everything with the children in mind,” says Tanis. From the virtually indestructible leather covering the kitchen island stools to the stunning unadorned floor-to-ceiling windows (“I don’t have to worry about kids and cords,” says Tanis) to the durable hardwood floors, the house is a veritable indoor playground. “Once the makeover was complete, the kids got on their plastic toy cars and ripped around the rooms – it was their way of christening the place,” she says.
Transforming the kitchen meant replacing the dark granite countertops with honed quartz, spraying the dark wooden island white, adding extra cabinetry for a wall oven and panelled fridge and installing oversized wrought iron chandeliers. White cane-backed stools with grey leather seats match the chairs in the adjacent dining area.
Elements like the muted-toned bean bag chairs, subtle grey foam mats and a white-painted vintage piano provide the functional family playroom with a lively style that’s still sophisticated.
Tanis (pictured here with her three children) inherited the loveseat from her grandmother. The open shelves with burlap toy bins help keep the play area orderly.
The existing freestanding bathtub and marble floor in the ensuite were softened with fleur-de-lys lace café curtains and a linen-covered vanity chair.
A white caned bed frame enhances the master bedroom’s romantic French-inspired look. “It’s a place where we could layer lots of linen and lace,” says Tanis. An oversized chandelier suits the scale of the space and complements its delicate vintage vibe.
A decorative olive branch objet paired with an old hardcover and fresh blooms makes for an enchanting bedroom vignette.
Bergère-style armchairs paired with a scroll-leg pedestal table and cowhide rug define the sitting area in the master bedroom.
The interior’s neutral palette continues to the outdoor living space, which is accessible from the kitchen and dining area via white-painted French doors. “There are three sets of French doors on the back of the house,” says Tanis. “And when they’re all opened up, they reveal a beautiful setting.” Tanis and her husband love to spend time here relaxing.
The rustic stone fireplace, driftwood-toned coffee table and resin wicker sofas with linen-hued cushions give the covered lounge area an indoor-outdoor feel.
Stylish toss cushions and throws add to the outdoor sitting area’s cozy vibe.
A wooden dresser transforms into an ultra-stylish statement piece.
Put your DIY skills to the test with these simple and stylish IKEA furniture transformations.
Style at Home's talented design team puts their own unique spin on IKEA's VITTSJÖ nesting-style coffee table with three personality-packed rooms to match.
Discover how all three looks came together and how you can create the same look in your home.
We created a customized office desk for this cozy home office nook.
Using IKEA's ALEX desktop you can create the same look at home.
A simple DIY project dramatically transforms a regular wooden dresser into a luxe piece of furniture on a budget.
Using IKEA's TARVA three-drawer chest get this look at home.
Glam up a plain pendant light with a coat of gold spray paint.
Using IKEA's HEKTAR pendant light get the step-by-step instructions here.
Add some stylish storage to your space with this gorgeous do-it-yourself cabinet featured in our high/low: chic dressing room.
Using IKEA's SEKTION wall cabinet get the step-by-step instructions here.
Create your own free-standing island like the one featured in our Parisian-style kitchen. This budget-friendly accessory can be customized to suit your style while adding an extra prep area to any size space.
Using IKEA's KARPALUND base get the step-by-step instructions here.