Inside design: Thom Filicia
Style at Home: When designing a small space, where do you start?
Thom Filicia: Be efficient with the way you use space. Make it multi-functional – your communal areas should be able to go from everyday to evening entertaining. To maximize space, you have to understand furniture layout, traffic flow, lighting and storage (which is a big deal in a small space). Be clever integrating those elements, and use designer tricks.
S@H: What kinds of tricks?
TF: Applying high-gloss paint to the ceiling to make a room seem taller. And using mirrors to open up a room. A mirror can be used in a way where you don’t see it as a mirror but rather as the illusion of having space. It’s very effective. If a small space has only one window, you can create the illusion of two windows with an extra mirror, which will also bounce light into the room.
S@H: What's your No. 1 small-space secret?
TF: Be dynamic. Think about meeting someone who’s short but has a dynamic, outrageous personality that makes them seem tall. That applies to interiors as well: when you put small, dinky furniture in a small, dinky space, that space will feel even smaller. Instead, isolate your anchor pieces and give them generous breathing room, then go smaller scale with everything else. Or pair a great big sofa with reading lights or a hanging fixture instead of end tables. Small spaces that are comfortable, accommodating and thoughtful in terms of the use of space suddenly don’t feel that tiny anymore.
S@H: Do you take risks?
TF: I always say, “The smaller the space, the bigger the risk.” I’m a firm believer in personalizing your space – you want it to tell your story. What’s a big risk for me might be safe for somebody else or over the top for another person. Risk is relative to budget, frame of mind, point of view and aesthetic. Whether you’re a conservative person on a conservative budget or a flamboyant person on a flamboyant budget, whatever the risk, make it bigger in a smaller space.
S@H: What about colour? How can it make a room feel larger?
TF: I’ve seen very small spaces done in light colours that worked well, and I’ve also seen them done beautifully in dark, saturated shades. Some people feel that light tones open up a room, while a lot of designers think that in darker rooms the walls recede, and there’s merit to both opinions. It’s important to mix light and dark to have things pop off one another. It gives a space energy.
S@H: What do you recommend in terms of furniture?
TF: Because small spaces often have lower ceiling heights, they benefit from lower, leaner furniture lines. For example, when I design small bedrooms, I use reduced-size box springs and prop the beds down lower to give more volume to the space. In a petite entry, you want to think about getting things out of the way – look for pieces that are interesting as a sculpture but can also be used as a coat rack. I have what looks like a tree sculpture when it’s empty, but it’s a functional coat rack when company comes.
S@H: What's your favourite room to decorate?
TF: The powder room is the perfect surprise. It can be a playground because it’s used infrequently – it’s really for your guests. It can be fun, a little wacky and not what you want to see every morning, but it should always have a bit of the unexpected.