Smart Design With Suzette: Small House – Big Design

Create the feeling of more space selecting a warm ‘French vanilla’ color scheme. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

There are big benefits to living in a small home. It means thoughtful consideration of what goes in it. For some however, it seems limiting – more of a curse than a blessing. Regardless, if your home or apartment feels small to you, maximizing space is essential.

My first home was a 900 square foot bungalow in Florida. I quickly learned how to make the best use of a small space. Squeezing in as much usable space as possible makes rooms livable by helping it function properly, keeping claustrophobic feelings (and clutter) at bay, and making a home (especially a tiny one) feel more spacious.

No matter the square footage, it really comes down to being smart about organization and storage, making your space as efficient as possible. So keep these tips in your design tool belt.

Choose a Light Palette
Create the feeling of more space selecting a warm ‘French vanilla’ color scheme. Painting everything white opens the room up and makes it feel bigger.

Create Zones
Think about all the things you do in a space – relax, eat, sleep, work – and then establish separate zones for those activities. Keep the flooring consistent throughout to expand the space.

In small spaces there never seems be enough storage room for clothing, books, electronic media, or work areas. Consider built-ins that can be configured to fit your space wall-to-wall and floor-to ceiling to accommodate all your storage needs in one compact area.

Swap your sofa for a settee. Yes, a large couch will work in a small space, but some rooms call for something less intrusive. Also, furniture with legs feels less heavy than pieces that sit directly on the floor.

Make Every Piece Count – Dual Purpose
Look for multiple uses in everything you buy. An ottoman is nice, but an ottoman with hidden storage is even better. A table that can be used for dining as well as a desk makes a lot of sense.

Think Vertically
Go vertical and use the space up to the ceiling whenever possible – shelves and storage that have a small footprint but are tall can really help in a small space. Taking bookcases and cabinets to the ceiling draws the eye up, making a space feel more expansive than it actually is.

Create Site Lines
Tear down walls, enlarge windows, or swap solid doors for glass to open up views and connect adjacent spaces. Visually extend rooms by continuing the flooring material to the outside creating an illusion of a much bigger space.

Window Coverings
Here’s a little designer secret: The easiest way to make ceiling look higher is to place a drapery rod really close to the ceiling – roughly two inches below the crown molding. While you’re at it, extend the rod at least 4-6 inches on either side of the window so that the window appears wider and allows in more light. Hang curtains so that when they’re open, the entire pane is clear; open curtains should fall beside the window and not obscure any of it.

Light-colored cabinets, open shelves and glass-front doors will help to lighten a space. Too many cabinets, especially made of dark materials, will give the impression that the room is much smaller than it actually is.

Consider retro appliances. Generally speaking, vintage (and vintage inspired) appliances have a smaller footprint than modern-day appliances. They can also add decorative charm and a welcome pop of color in a small space. A 1950’s style Smeg refrigerator is less than 24 inches wide compared to a modern 36 inch wide model.

Swap extra chairs for built-in seating. Built-in seating requires less space than chairs and provides the bonus of much-needed storage underneath.

Custom Closets
Invest in a closet organization system. Made-to-measure closet systems are fabulous. A well-designed system can maximize your closet space and eliminate the need for furniture. I designed my master closet system and was able to eliminate an entire dresser. Best decision ever!

Keep It Clean and Get Rid of Clutter
A clean home always feels bigger without clutter. Edit, edit, edit. Look at everything with a critical eye. Don’t store anything that you don’t use. Have a place for everything and then everything can go back in its place.

Wall Art
Don’t be afraid of big art/wall hangings, especially in a color that recedes (like blue) to make the space look bigger. Keep things visually interesting in the space you do have.

Mirrors and Glass
Making a small space seem grand depends on maximizing light. Fill your room with light and reflect it with glass and mirrors. You can do that with a glass coffee table, rather than a wood one. Place metallic accessories around the room to create reflections and strategically hang mirrors near windows to bounce light around. Mirrors help magnify the space.

Living in a small space has its challenges and virtues. I find that it forces me to be more thoughtful with what I bring into my home. Since there is little room for storage, everything is on display. Because of this, I try to be careful with what I buy. I ask myself if I really need it and if I will want to look at and live with it every day.

Regardless of the ways in which we are challenged by our space, keeping the following inspired quotes in mind provides a good starting point to seeing the benefits these challenges provide.

“You know you have reached perfection of design not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.” Leonardo Da Vinci

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” Socrates

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” Elizabeth Ann Seton

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