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Dream big in small spaces


Published: 06/14/2012


 If you live in a modest-sized home, chances are you’re keenly aware of the limitations of small-space living. But don’t despair; designers have a stack of tricks for making close quarters appear more spacious and inviting. Employ some of the larger design strategies here and you’ll make less space seem like more.

Create a seamless flow within the room by choosing a single, unifying colour for walls and using a similar colour for major furnishings. The visual cohesiveness 'stretches' perceived space and creates a calm and peaceful environment.

In addition, keep patterns simple and monochromatic; a tone on tone damask or stripe is ideal. Limit the addition of pattern, since a motif or design has more visual weight than a solid texture. When possible, choose wall-to-wall carpeting rather than one or more area carpets. This is another trick designed to enhance available floor space.

Hang draperies outside the window frame and as high as possible in order to stretch their perceived size. Keep draperies in the same colour as walls and this will emphasize the impact. Vertical stripes can add height as well.

Avoid filling the room with many pieces of small furniture. Fewer items of furniture of a larger size will actually make the room feel larger. Consider an ample two-seater, rather than a small three-seater, when it’s time to purchase a sofa. Guests rarely occupy all three seats on a three-seater sofa so that third seat is often wasted.

Choose furniture with legs rather than skirts and console tables rather than a chest of drawers to free up floor space. A glass coffee table allows the eye to travel unimpeded through the space.

Don’t inadvertently emphasize low ceilings by choosing sofas and chairs that are extra tall or by highlighting wainscoting or a chair rail. Instead, aim for long low lines with major furniture, and either eliminate chair rails and wainscoting or paint these elements the same colour as the wall. Again it’s the seamless flow that fools the eye into thinking there’s more space than there is.

With open concept spaces it’s tempting to let one room flow aimlessly into another. Creating distinct (though discreet) zones is the key to space expanding. Use a low bookcase, rather than a tall screen, to act as a room divider between the living and dining area. A daybed is another great option that won’t block vision. A change of lighting, say a chandelier in the dining room and a lantern in the living room, also will emphasize these distinct spaces.

Next, look for ways to hide storage in plain sight. A coffee or end table that opens to reveal storage beneath, bookshelves that provide floor to ceiling shelves and an armoire that houses anything from linens to the television set can all provide discreet storage.

Finally, mirror can be a wonderful ally, amplifying available space when placed strategically. Never place a mirror in a dark corner, as you’ll only intensify the darkness. Instead, position the mirror beside or opposite a window and you’ll bring daylight into the room. For a contemporary space, lean a tall mirror against a main wall with perhaps one item of furniture in its view. The floor space will multiply as will the item of furniture. One caveat, if you lean a mirror it will also magnify the ceiling; this may or may not be the outcome you desire. For real impact, consider wall-to-wall mirror. In a small dining room for instance, one mirrored wall can dramatically increase the perceived space and create a dazzling effect as well.

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