An Interior Designer Share Tips for Maximising a Small Space
Small in square footage, big on utility
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Interior designers are experts at making the most of any space, no matter how small, which is why we frequently seek their advice.
To find out exactly how to make a small home appear twice as large, we asked Blaine Robert, founder of Blaine Robert Design to share some tips on how to transform a home lacking square footage into an elevated, spacious space you'll love. “It is all about the illusion in small spaces, and making the right choices can help to make your home look pulled together and spacious,” said Blaine.
1. Opt for custom-made furniture
The most common mistake that homeowners make when furnishing their homes is to buy loose furniture pieces from retail stores that they like, rather than considering the scale or proportion of the furniture. "What you love is not always the best choice for your space, especially if your home has limited square footage," he says.
"When it comes to tight spaces, custom furniture is preferable," explained Blaine. “It can be designed to specifically enhance a space by incorporating interesting curves and corners that are not possible to achieve when purchasing furniture from a retail outlet. Furthermore, retail furniture is generally limited in terms of colour and texture," he added.
"Being able to get exactly what you need for the space in the right colour, texture, and form is worth a little more money because the goal is to create a space that's tailored to the limited square footage, not the furniture itself," he continues.
2. Use doors to add an element of surprise
"In a large home, there is plenty of space to create a design feel, mood, and drama, but in a small space, you need to add an element of surprise to enhance the overall design feel and make your home look bigger," says Blaine.
You can accomplish this by using ‘secret’/concealed doors. "The ability to push a wall and enter a room immediately adds drama and intrigue. It encourages the eye to explore further and forget that the space is small in the first place. It also gives you the impression that there is a lot more room available than you previously thought," he explained.
In addition to hidden doors, you can also consider installing a frosted glass door between the bedroom and the bathroom instead of a solid wooden door. It takes up less space than solid wood doors and allows natural light to enter the room, making it feel more spacious.
"Typically, small spaces are intended for singles or couples for whom privacy is not vital. Thus, removing a door between two rooms, such as a home office and living space, can sometimes create a visually larger and more open space," Blaine added.
"If your home has a balcony, consider replacing your standard sliding balcony doors with French swivel or swing doors to visually open up the space and bring the outdoor space in," he says. The wide opening of these doors can help to make your living space appear brighter and more spacious.
3. Maximise storage to minimise clutter
Blaine believes that storage is key when renovating a home with limited square footage. “In my opinion, the smaller the space, the more smart storage solution is required to put away things so that the home is neat and organised, thus lending a spacious feel,” he explained.
“In a much smaller room such as the bathroom, you can consider hidden storage (under the sink or behind the mirror),” he said. Keeping the counter surfaces clean and tidy with only a few carefully chosen accessories can also create an uncluttered look and divert attention away from the room's size.
Cabinets are not the only option for storage. "If you're not going to be doing a lot of cooking in the kitchen, you can replace the upper cabinetry with a shelving unit," says Blaine. Open shelves are less bulky and the continuous length helps to elongate a space.
4. Create visual consistency or a unified appearance
Making sure that the overall design concept is consistent throughout the entire space is the key to creating a spacious environment. In the kitchen, for example, Blaine recommends incorporating a faux cabinet that matches the kitchen cabinet finishes to ‘camouflage’ bulky appliances such as refrigerators.
This lends visual continuity to the space and the minimalist look gives off a spacious feel to the space. Aside from that, you can also consider furnishing different areas of your home with the same colour palette and finish. This creates a continuous visual flow, encourages the eye to wander from one area to the next, and helps to shift the focus away from the small-size room.
It is also common to separate the flooring from the wall tiles in the bathroom or kitchen, but using the same tile or marble finishes for both the walls and the floor can create a seamless flow and, thus the illusion of a larger space.
Pro tip: Choose kitchen cabinets without hardware (knobs, pulls or handles). It will make the overall appearance and feel of your kitchen design more clean and sleek, lending a more spacious feel.
5. Add plenty of lighting to brighten up the room
Blaine recommends using plenty of white lights to create a larger space because it increases the space's visibility. You can see everything in your home, allowing your eyes to wander/explore. The trick, however, is to use lighting to enhance the look of your home, rather than highlight its flaws.
“Avoid those that reflect light up or down, as this reveals flaws in wall finishes,” he explained. “You can also consider warm white or slightly yellowish lighting. It helps to complement your skin complexion and introduce a high-end vibe to your space,” he added.
6. Choose a neutral colour scheme
"Regardless of your favourite colour, the larger aspects of the renovation, such as carpentry, furniture pieces such as sofas and dining tables, should always be in clean neutral colours," says Blaine. It will create a unified, cohesive space that feels light and airy.
"From there, you can add pops of colour through accessories such as carpets, glass vases, throw pillows, artwork, and other less expensive items," he continues.
Dark curtains should never be used in small spaces. According to Blaine, a combination of curtains, particularly sheers and blinds in light colours, can lend a calming effect and create the illusion of more room.
Pro tip: Avoid using wallpaper because it negatively affects the size of your space. Furthermore, most buildings in Malaysia are made of concrete, and the wallpaper can easily peel off due to changing temperatures (humidity or dryness due to the air conditioning).
7. Decorate the room with artwork
"Art is the foundation of great design. Adding artwork not only improves and enhances the overall look and feel of the space, but it can also draw the eye and distract you from how small your home actually is," Blaine says.
Unless you are a serious collector, Blaine recommends filling your home with artwork nearing the end of the design process.
“Clustering smaller-sized artwork in a room can create a focal point that does not compete with but rather enhances a specific area. Meanwhile, large oversized artwork can fill your wall without making the wall look busy. It can help to enlarge a room because the space as a whole attracts your attention rather than individual pieces of decor," he explained.
"While artwork is frequently reserved for main living areas, it is important to remember that it can also be incorporated into your most private spaces, such as the bathroom. If your bathroom is made of marble or tiles, you can use Velcro tape to protect the walls,” he says.
Pro tip: When choosing a suitable artwork, keep in mind that artwork is like makeup. It can enhance the overall beauty but like makeup, too much and the wrong colours can detract from a successful design outcome!
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