Designing Small Spaces

Blog Posts  |  Design Articles  |  April 26, 2018

Designing condos, apartments and other small spaces

We often think of moving to a smaller home as a means of retiring and living with less (AKA downsizing). In reality, young adults also live in small homes when they first start their education or career.

In this blog, we’re going to talk about all kinds of small space living, not only from a professional point of view, but also from a personal one. As an interior designer who has just moved in to her first 2-bedroom condo, I have plenty of first hand knowledge on the subject.

Think of your small space as a box. Obviously, the smaller the box is, the less it can fit. Common sense, right? But in order for this box to become a home, it needs to accommodate all your day to day activities; such as sleeping, eating, studying/working, watching TV… etc. With the lack of space however, we need to be a little bit more creative when designing for such functionality.

Here are some recommendations to help make it happen:

Think of everyday living:

When if comes to small rooms, you really do have to prioritize and see what is most important to you. There’s probably only one or two people living in the space, so technically, you don’t need a lot of furniture on a day to day basis. You just have to find solutions for when you entertain and have people over. For example, in open concept condos, you will have a kitchen island that can be utilized for dining purposes. It will fit 2-3 people, so maybe you don’t need a dining table after all.

Or, maybe expandable tables are the way to go in your room. They don’t require a lot of space and they give you the flexibility to make them larger when needed. For instance, a 36” round dining table is enough for 2 people and can fit 4 people if you add a 16” leaf, making it 36” X 52”. This would be very handy when you’re entertaining and when you need some extra surface space for working, studying or doing crafts.

Kitchen Island as a main eating space.

The same table with and without a leaf.

Use visual separation of functions, not visual barriers:

This might be the number one mistake people tend to make in a small space, I often see individuals using a big bookcase to separate the dining room or office corner from the rest of the living room. While this is a great idea in concept, implementing it means that the room is going to get smaller. These tall elements are considered visual barriers and can divide your room and make it look crowded.

If you want to separate the different areas you have in one room, opt for area rugs. Area rugs add interest in the room, define the space and ground the furniture together. Furthermore, a rug used within a seating area makes a statement. It clearly identifies that the zone serves a different function than, for example, the dining room or office space which can share the same room. (Blog: How to select the perfect area rug)

Tall bookshelf used as a room divider and is a physical barrier.

Area rugs used to define the eating area from the living area (visual, non-physical, separation).

Storage and multipurpose pieces:

You can never go wrong with having more storage space; trust me on this one! Whether we’re talking about a TV stand, a coffee table or a bed frame; almost all furniture pieces can have some sort of storage element. Multipurpose furniture combine two or more features into one piece, hence, they take up a smaller footprint. I will let the pictures do the talking:

Whether it has a storage compartment or lots of drawers, extra storage space is great.

Personally, I love these ottomans that can be used as coffee tables and have storage too.

The footboard has 2 oversized drawers.

Make room for overnight guests:

One final way to save on space, is with a Murphy bed or a sofa bed. They can be great space savers when you don’t have an extra guest room. A sleep sofa in the den or office can quickly transform the space into a cozy bedroom for friends & family.

To view some of our smaller scale furniture see our Urban Attitudes Collection.

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