When it comes to decorating small spaces, one little rule can make a huge difference
Neale Whitaker believes bigger is better when it comes to decorating small spaces.
Idon’t believe it’s on the statute books, but in interior styling there is, apparently, an edict known as the cantaloupe rule. Like all such rules it’s there to be broken, but I find this one quite useful. The basic premise is that whether you call them knick-knacks, tchotchkes or lifestyle accessories, nothing on display in your home should be smaller than a cantaloupe (or rockmelon), regardless of the dimensions of the room or surface on which they’re placed. It can, however, be bigger.
Daft as it might initially sound, the cantaloupe rule is surprisingly relevant, especially with more and more of us (this columnist included) living in apartments. Nothing makes a small space feel smaller than small things. It is advice I could have done with as a kid. My seashell collection and teeny Dutch clogs certainly didn’t meet cantaloupe code, nor did the palm-sized Eiffel Tower. My pre-adolescent bedroom must have looked like a gift shop – for elves.
But cantaloupes aside, thinking big really is the best way to go in a small space. Anything that draws the eye upwards will make a room feel taller. Floor-to-ceiling shelving (or shelves placed at a height) is a great idea, and although they’re not for the faint-hearted, vertical stripes on walls can have an elongating effect. Likewise, an oversized rug with stripes running lengthways will suggest the room is longer. Remember that unless you want the room to feel like a 19thcentury opium den, light is the most effective way to maximise its size. And choose pale colours that reflect, rather than absorb, light.
As every 1970s nightclub owner can attest, mirrors are also your best friend in a small space. I live in an apartment full of them and they make it feel twice the size. But large mirrors can be expensive for sure, so think about hanging a group of smaller mirrors, gallery-style, as if they were artworks. Don’t assume either that small-space furniture needs to hug the walls. Moving the sofa and chairs into the room to allow passage around them will create an illusion of space, plus you can always pop a console or credenza behind. And the cantaloupe rule not only applies to accessories, but to furniture too. One oversized piece can add scale and drama to a small room. I once saw Gaetano Pesce’s voluptuous Up Series chair in a studio apartment and it looked stunning. That chair ain’t called Big Mama for nothing. Neale Whitaker is editor-at-large of Vogue Living.
“Thinking big when decorating really is the best way to go in a small space”
SIZE MATTERS (clockwise from left) Floor-to-ceiling herringbone bathroom tiles make a super-sized statement in this Melbourne bathroom by MMAD Architecture; a large woven rug gives this small living room the appearance of space; this look by Kim Verbist Interiors ticks the cantaloupe rule, with the Fog & Mørup pendant light adding drama.