De­sign­ing un­der­sized spa­ces

Mir­rors work won­ders to add vir­tual space.

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - News - Joseph Pu­bil­lones

Mi­cro- apart­ments are the next trend in city liv­ing. In larger cities such as New York or San Fran­cisco, peo­ple have been used to liv­ing in cramped quar­ters for decades. Now, emerg­ing cities from Seat­tle to West Palm Beach are claim­ing small apart­ments as the new hous­ing pro­to­type.

You would think de­sign­ing small spa­ces is easy be­cause there is less to de­sign, but noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Small spa­ces are chal­leng­ing to de­sign and give de­sign­ers a run for their money to be cre­ative and in­ven­tive in their search for the right pint-size so­lu­tion. De­sign­ing small spa­ces that are liv­able takes the kind of in­ge­nu­ity re­quired by naval ar­chi­tects when de­sign­ing boats. Ev­ery­thing must serve more than one pur­pose and must be feel nat­u­ral.

In small spa­ces such as a one or two room apart­ment, a bed­room can dou­ble as a library when you flank a bed on the long side with a pair of book­cases and fill the bed with a dozen dec­o­ra­tive pil­lows, and a cou­ple of wall mounted lamps...and — voila — in­stant bed­room and library. This same ar­range­ment with a ta­ble on cast­ers and a pair of chairs can sud­denly give you a bo­hemian din­ing room.

Open­ing spa­ces makes un­com­fort­able spa­ces us­able. In smaller apart­ments, kitchens are often gal­ley-type and en­closed. Keep­ing in sync with newer home re­quire­ments, open kitchens — even in small, tight spa­ces — make a dif­fer­ence. Knock down a wall into the kitchen and gain vis­ual space. Also, us­ing open cup­boards in place of en­closed cab­i­nets makes items easy to reach, even if it means be­ing more rig­or­ous with or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Mir­rors work won­ders to add vir­tual space. While we have all seen the mir­rored walls pop­u­lar dur­ing the 1970s and ’80s, try us­ing mir­rors more ef­fec­tively with re­straint. A wall hung with var­i­ous style and sized mir­rors makes for an in­ter­est­ing fea­ture wall; al­ter­na­tively mir­ror the back panel of a wall unit or book­case to bounce light and im­plies space be­yond the sur­face.

When square footage is in short­age, look up to the ceil­ing. Hang­ing drapes as close to the ceil­ing as pos­si­ble al­ways helps to give the im­pres­sion of a grander and taller space. Use the light­est drap­ery hard­ware pos­si­ble in or­der to ac­cen­tu­ate the sense of ver­ti­cal­ity. Forego swags and jabots in fa­vor of a tai­lored valance, if at all.

Seat­ing is al­ways at a short­age in small spa­ces. Us­ing a sec­tional or L-shaped sofa will add more seat­ing and wil use the cor­ner space that is often left empty in a room. Ad­di­tional seat­ing can be ac­com­plished with fold­away chairs and ot­tomans. Ot­tomans are fa­vored, as they can func­tion as seat­ing and as cof­fee ta­ble when topped with a tray.

Fi­nally, when it comes to light­ing, small spa­ces should use re­cessed light­ing wher­ever pos­si­ble. Re­frain from the use of any pen­dant type fix­ture, which will tend to make your space clut­tered. Con­cen­trate light on any sur­face or area, which needs light for a spe­cific task. This will re­fo­cus your at­ten­tion from the tight space onto a dra­matic fo­cal point.

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