Us­ing big ideas, say Colin and Justin, will make smaller spa­ces seem way more gen­er­ous


As homes get smaller, and life­style needs grow big­ger, es­tab­lish­ing a smart re­la­tion­ship be­tween square footage and func­tion is cru­cial.

If you’re feel­ing squeezed, worry not: spa­tial elas­tic­ity and schematic ‘il­lu­sion’ are our stock, in dec­o­ra­tive trade. We have all the an­swers.

With imag­i­na­tion, any­thing is pos­si­ble — dark rooms can be light­ened, nar­row spa­ces widened and the tini­est nooks made (to ap­pear, cer­tainly) big­ger.

Planned prop­erly, it’s also pos­si­ble to squeeze sev­eral func­tions into one tiny room. The se­cret is as­sem­bling ev­ery­thing with­out ‘smoth­er­ing’ your en­vi­ron­ment so that each func­tional layer can ‘breathe’. Here’s how:


In multi-pur­pose rooms, keep func­tions de­fined. Use fur­ni­ture (open shelving, for in­stance) to de­lin­eate space and, if you can, cre­ate zones within zones.

It’s also good to es­tab­lish ‘vis­ual bar­ri­ers’ to de­mar­cate ar­eas — a low side­board, for ex­am­ple, lamps ei­ther side, looks great as a fence be­tween zones, as do dec­o­ra­tive screens, tall plants or plinths.


Give multi-task rooms a sin­gle iden­tity to cre­ate har­mony — use com­pli­men­tary colours and items that share vis­ual con­nec­tiv­ity.

A din­ing ta­ble and a cof­fee ta­ble, for ex­am­ple (whilst po­si­tioned in dif­fer­ent zones) will ‘con­nect’ ar­eas if made from match­ing timber or if they share sim­i­lar lines.


Use ‘in­tel­li­gent’ pieces — so­fas that be­come beds, cof­fee ta­bles that raise to be­come din­ing ta­bles or ot­tomans with re­mov­able tops that dou­ble as stor­age or seat­ing.

If lo­cat­ing an of­fice in your bed­room, make part of your closet a ded­i­cated work sta­tion (rather than sim­ply stick­ing a desk at the bot­tom of your bed) and avoid of­fice light­ing in favour of a home­lier ap­proach.


• Ot­tomans: seat­ing, stor­age or cof­fee ta­ble in one.

• Drop-down cof­fee/rise-up din­ing ta­bles: two dis­tinct pur­poses from one piece.

• Sofa or wall beds: a guest suite in min­utes, no spare room re­quired.

• Cof­fee ta­ble with stash­able stools: ad­di­tional seat­ing as re­quired.

• Ex­tend­able din­ing ta­bles: en­ter­tain­ing/of­fice space at the flex of a flap.

• End ta­bles with draw­ers or shelves: An easy way to in­tro­duce ex­tra stash zones.

• Ar­moires: as a home of­fice or closet. Great for bed­room of­fices — pin sleeves in­side doors to stash files.

• Stack­able chairs: Need we say more?

Case study 1: Dou­ble duty hall­way.

Rather than paint ev­ery­thing white to ‘push’ pro­por­tions (yawn) we added an el­e­ment of dark mys­tery.

Sure, the wall­pa­per is ebony, but it’s far from de­press­ing. The ad­di­tion of in­ex­pen­sive nickel up­hol­stery pins on each seam adds fur­ther me­tal­lic de­tail­ing and a quirky edge, to boot.

Is it dark? No, it’s at­mo­spheric. And there’s a BIG dif­fer­ence.

We spec­i­fied a nar­row con­sole that dou­bles as a desk — the sec­ondary shelf stores a lap­top when not in use. Givenchy style boxes house ca­bles and of­fice para­pher­na­lia and, while ad­mit­tedly black, they’re bright­ened by their high gloss lac­quered fin­ish.

An ot­toman on wheels can be rolled else­where for ex­tra seat­ing when guests ar­rive, and there’s handy stor­age be­low.

A tri-tier cir­cu­lar ta­ble takes up the same foot­print as a sin­gle sur­face op­tion, yet pro­vides three zones for stor­age. To fur­ther en­hance, we used a short pile rug as ‘floor art’ — when chal­lenged to make a big state­ment, think hor­i­zon­tally. Hey presto: a fifth wall, ev­ery inch counts, right?

Fi­nally, to bounce light, we spec­i­fied lots of glass and shiny fin­ishes; the chunky crys­tal can­dle­sticks and state­ment art­work add a stoic feel.

It’s all in the trick­ery — the rich­ness sug­gests space is more gen­er­ous than it ac­tu­ally is.

Case study 2: Comfy coral style notes.

If size is an is­sue in the bed­room, a sym­met­ri­cal ap­proach will make ev­ery­thing feel more stream­lined.

We cre­ated a ‘stay­ca­tion’ vibe — the bul­bous green lamps — and the nat­u­ral tex­ture of framed coral ferns — ef­fort­lessly bal­ance the sum­mery ac­cent wall.

A large wicker blan­ket box at the bot­tom of the bed serves as an an­nex to the closet. Opt, as we did, for boxes and wheeled trays to en­cour­age a bet­ter sense of or­der.

To pro­vide more stor­age, we po­si­tioned wicker boxes on the ta­ble cross-mem­ber bases.

Hope­fully, hav­ing stud­ied this week’s dec­o­ra­tive skinny, you’ll feel em­bold­ened, and ready to mea­sure up.

From lit­tle acorns, af­ter all, whack­ing great oaks grow, huh? Okay, so your space may be small, but it will, if played prop­erly, feel won­der­fully big on style and func­tion. More from us next week!

Watch for Colin and Justin on Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pres­sure (Cot­tage Life TV), Game of Homes ( W Net­work) and City­line (Ci­tytv). Find the Colin and Justin Home Col­lec­tion in stores across Canada. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.col­i­nand­

Style note: If lack of space is an is­sue in the bed­room, a sym­met­ri­cal ap­proach will make ev­ery­thing feel more stream­lined.

Give multi-task rooms a sin­gle iden­tity to cre­ate har­mony — use com­pli­men­tary colours and items that share vis­ual con­nec­tiv­ity.

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