I’m currently working on a great residential project- a new construction condo. The small scale of this project makes it a pretty quick job, but also somewhat of a challenging job. I am constantly reminding myself of the importance of scale, and hear the distant whispers of design school profs emphasizing respect and understanding of the principles and elements of design.
As I wrap up this project, I thought I’d share some tips for living large in small spaces.
Do throw out the rule book. It’s your space, it should reflect who you are and the things you like. So, write your own rule book by loosely following guidelines established by design gurus. Think of how you’ll use the space and design around that.
Forget about what the designer did in the model suite. It may be beautiful, but it may not be for you. Just because the den was set up as an office, doesn’t mean you must have an office. You can turn the space into anything from a guest room to an extra closet.
Make your own rules!
Do Light it up. Natural light is great, however most condos don’t get enough of it. So if you’re looking to brighten up your space try using artificial lighting and paint color to make your space, feel bigger and lighter. Lighting when used properly- in layers can dramatically alter a small space. Try to use a combination of ambient, task and accent lighting.
Ambient lights provide general illumination, think ceiling fixtures, like chandeliers. Task lights allow you to better see what you’re doing. Think reading and desk lamps. The third type of lighting to incorporate into your condo design is accent lighting. Think of wall washers on art work. These layers in combination with dimmers will give you maximum control over the illumination and mood of your space.
Paint is another inexpensive trick to alter the mood of your space. This quick fix gives you instant gratification, just keep in mind, light paint colors will generally, make your space feel bigger. Dark paint colors will have the opposite effect. If you have your heart set on dark walls, consider an accent wall. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Paint your space light.
Do scale your furniture to your space. Just because it’s bigger, doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t matter how great the deal is, always use a measuring tape, and if the furniture is too big, don’t buy it! Furniture that is too large, will only make your space feel crowded. Having said that, don’t run out to get micro furniture either. Purchase furniture that suits your needs and is proportional to your space.
Do Organize everything! Organization is important, and everyone who has ever lived in a small space knows this all too well. In a perfect world we would all keep to the one item in and one item out rule. However, for those of us that have a hard time enforcing this rule, good organization can help. Boxes, bottles and jars can all do double duty in your small space; providing a hidden home to items while being decorative. Coffee tables, armoires and beds are great examples of double duty furniture solutions.
Once you get organized, try to stick with it by cleaning out your unworn, unnecessary and over cluttered closets. Take stock of what you have and purge when necessary.
Do Inject your personality. Show off! Try mixing styles, add bold splashes of color and have fun with texture & patterns on walls, furniture & accessories. Take your prized possessions out of the closet and put them on display. Showcase things that you really like- framed photographs or collections, no matter how wacky or weird. Personal items help tell a story of the homeowner, and make a space interesting. So stop hiding your trophies, plaques and streamlined knick knacks, take things out and show them off!
It’s best to keep it simple! Remember to throw out the rule book, add layers of lighting, scale your furniture to the size of your space and keep in mind all furniture doesn’t need to be placed up against walls. Additionally, it’s your space and it should reflect you, so have fun and live large in your small space.