SMALL IS BEAU­TI­FUL But you have to learn to use your space well

HOME STYLE With Chris Read

Star Courier (Surrey & Hants) - - FRONT PAGE -

When I travel abroad I of­ten marvel at how much space stan­dard houses seem to have. I sup­pose, his­tor­i­cally, our small houses are a re­flec­tion that we have an aw­ful lot of peo­ple on a small is­land.

We new- build the small­est houses in Europe and the po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ments about why that is the case are not to be found in an in­te­ri­ors col­umn! But this is the case, and we have to man­age our space to do lots of things.

Mind you, space isn’t al­ways the best thing to have – very large rooms need care­ful plan­ning so they don’t feel non- hu­man in scale, and we all have a ten­dency to fill it if we have it.

On the whole, space is a good thing to have. The prob­lem of a small space is com­pounded by builders’ seem­ing in­abil­ity to de­sign built- in stor­age – how many Bri­tish houses have a cup­board by the door for coats? Yet ev­ery house­hold needs one.

Free stand­ing wardrobes are prob­a­bly the least at­trac­tive item of fur­ni­ture ( I hope I’m not hurt­ing their feel­ings), and take up more space than built- in ones that have been in­tel­li­gently de­signed, es­pe­cially at the build stage.

We need to con­sider stor­age as a pri­or­ity when look­ing at how we use small spa­ces, and I would rec­om­mend look­ing at as much built- in as pos­si­ble, to give clean un­fussy lines and max­imise the stow- able space.

You will of­ten see seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory ad­vice on how to make the most of a small space. You need to con­sider both func­tion and how to make it ap­pear big­ger than it is. Some will say use small items of fur­ni­ture, and this makes sense be­cause you need to ful­fil the same func­tions as a larger space.

How­ever, you will also see the op­po­site ad­vice, based on the ap­pear­ance – use large scale pieces to avoid a feel­ing of mean­ness that can arise from lots of small pieces.

There is no doubt that one of the keys to suc­cess­ful de­sign is a feel­ing of gen­eros­ity, it pro­vides a re­lax­ing set­ting and can make a sim­ple space feel lux­u­ri­ous.

But how to do this with­out com­pro­mis­ing on func­tion? You have to live in this space after all.

The key of course is bal­ance. At least one large, even over- scale, piece will not only pro­vide a feel­ing of gen­eros­ity but can also de­ceive the eye. Where we see a large item, we tend to as­sume that the pro­por­tions around it are to scale.

The trick is to choose wisely: make sure the large item is some­thing to catch the eye. It can be an item that doesn’t use space needed for some­thing else, such as a pen­dant light over a ta­ble or is­land. Or a large pic­ture, prefer­ably one with lit­tle de­tail, such as the one shown here.

Or seat­ing – al­ways use­ful to have a cou­ple more seats than you need for ev­ery­day life, and who doesn’t lie on the sofa oc­ca­sion­ally?

Avoid so­fas with huge arms – so many have them – this re­duces the seat­ing area con­sid­er­ably. Or go for no arms at all: I love the look of this sofa by De­light­full, which also adds to the feel­ing of space by be­ing low to the floor. Just make sure your visitors are all young and nim­ble...

A clas­sic trick for small spa­ces is to use mir­rors. A full mir­rored wall will ex­tend the vis­ual space by 100%, but I’m not too keen. It makes me feel sea­sick, not know­ing where the room ends. They’re also a pig to keep clean.

The trick here is to give an al­lu­sion of ex­tra space, not an il­lu­sion.

You can place mir­rors to re­flect light too, low lev­els of nat­u­ral light be­ing an­other clas­sic of our hous­ing stock.

I like the cir­cu­lar coloured ones from April and the Bear, es­pe­cially the rose one at 110cm di­am­e­ter – more re­flec­tion and over­scale too!

Pur­chas­ing dual pur­pose fur­ni­ture is a bit of a mine­field, as it in­evitably means com­pro­mise, at the worst, per­form­ing nei­ther func­tion well, so real care is needed when choos­ing.

Some dual pur­pose pieces have im­proved re­cently, such as wash­erdry­ers. But a sofa bed is of­ten going to be a hard sofa and an un­com­fort­able bed – try as both be­fore buy­ing.

Ex­tend­ing and fold­ing din­ing ta­bles are great, but plan where to put the ex­tra ( fold­ing or oth­er­wise) chairs first – con­sider up­hol­stered stools in­stead, or look at in­ge­nious fur­ni­ture so­lu­tions like the one from Go Mod­ern Fur­ni­ture.

Round ta­bles are of­ten more use­ful in a small space, as the lack of an­gles makes them eas­ier to ne­go­ti­ate.

Tech­nol­ogy is an area that is re­ally help­ing to re­duce clut­ter, hid­den or oth­er­wise, mu­sic be­ing the ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple. No stacked stereo sets, no more CD tow­ers ( a pet hate of mine). I’ve thrown away all my photo al­bums – I look at my pho­tos more now they are in a beau­ti­ful lu­mi­nous qual­ity on a back­lit screen than I ever did be­fore. But if some­one tried to re­place my books en­tirely with an e- reader I’d be the first at the bar­ri­cades ( apart from those trashy nov­els that I don’t want any­one else to know I read of course). I’m run­ning out of space on this article, dang it, I wanted to write about how to use light­ing and the im­por­tance of the ‘ spa­ces in be­tween’…

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