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03 Feb 2017

Making Small Spaces Feel Spacious

A guest post by Elwood resident Henri Martinez-Lessard

Open the door of your apartment at Hassalo on Eighth and you’ll be invited into a world of mingling social movements. You’re greeted by bright, open floor plans fit with modern finishes, and smart technologies. Explore further and you’ll realize these spacious-seeming units are mostly between 500 and 700 square feet. You’re now at the intersection of the small house movement and green living movement.

These spaces offer more than the eye can see. Tiny living and low-impact/green living offers numerous advantages, unique opportunities for design and introspection. When faced with limited living space, questions present themselves: How will I use this space? What is important for my daily life? What do I want and need to surround myself with in order feel at home? The list may be long and never-ending, ultimately square footage will dictate which items make the list and which are cut.

Make living in your space successful and enlivening by creating multipurpose spaces decorated with multipurpose furniture. I’ll share some of my favorite ways to design a small space that will give you big time vibes and pack maximum impact into every single square foot.

Believe That Unconventional Can Work

Make your home a place uniquely suited to you. Don’t get stuck on the idea that a dining area is only for dining or that a spare room must be decorated as a guest bedroom. If you don’t need a dining table or have room for one, give your space a live-work vibe by making the dining area into your office. Clear your desk for special occasions requiring a dining table. Have a second bedroom but no real need for a second bed? Turn it into a dressing room, gallery or indoor garden space. If you don’t have a lot of furniture, consider anchoring a room with something unexpected like an imposing garden pedestal or sculpture. Adding elements meant for outdoors can add unexpected dimension.

Integrate Multipurpose Furniture

Shop for stackable or modular pieces that stow away easily or serve multiple purposes. Side tables that double as stools are a perfect way to add seating or table space to a conversation area.

Cherish and reflect your own favorite style but consider adding a piece of mid-century, modern or industrial furniture. These pieces are particularly well-suited to small spaces. They often feature minimalist bases or tops, can fit in tight spaces, and typically very strong. Check out Kartell’s Prince AHA Stool or their mid-century classic Componibili Round Storage Module, both are lightweight and stackable.

Add a piece or two of transparent furniture in glass or acrylic, they can add understated “wow-factor” and functionality without visually overwhelming small areas. I balance out the heavy quality of Restoration Hardware’s Flat Iron Desk by pairing it with Kartell’s Louis Ghost chair (in crystal, or smoke) in our dining room-office.

Free Up Your Surfaces

As it often does in my apartment, a desk can double as a dining table. It’s easier to make most furniture multipurpose by keeping its surface clear or clutter-free.

Surprisingly common household items can make artful displays, enabling you to free up most surfaces. Consider what can go on the wall and get creative with your display. Perhaps you have beautiful wooden or copper utensils that can be a hung on the tile backsplash, freeing up counter/cupboard space and adding personality to your kitchen. I hang rulers in a random composition on the wall above my drafting table which frees the space for other uses and allows me to quickly fold up the table top to create more space in the room.

Keep Your Paths Clear

Keeping open floor space is comforting visually and psychologically. Avoid feeling your daily path is impeded by clutter by ridding your space of too much or too large furniture.

Make big pieces blend in and small pieces pop. It’s okay to have large statement pieces but have a few others that blend into the background. Or try using smaller pieces to create negative space in front of large furniture. I have a large blue-green sofa against a white wall and use white side tables in front to create the illusion of negative space. Moooi’s Double Round Table Lamp is large and fills out a corner nicely while its white cloth blends into the wall behind it.

Search for pieces with hairpin legs or pedestal-style bases, they have all the functionality but typically have smaller footprints which keeps the area beneath them free or available for modular storage.

Paint Your Walls with Light

Adding light to a space instantly makes it feel larger and more inviting. If you long for colorful walls adding a Philips Hue Light kit can provide wonderful ambiance for your living space.

Freestanding pieces like Hue Bloom and Hue Go are small, stylish and discreet. Place a Bloom in a corner behind a plant for a striking, glowing silhouette.

Mix Textures & Colors for Depth

Don’t match too many fabrics. Smaller spaces need to pack more visual interest to keep the eye from getting bored.  I find mixing a variety of colors in a small space keeps the eye interested and avoids creating visual blobs or big blocks of color. Split-complimentary color combinations have vibrant appeal (even muted palettes) without being too visually demanding or harsh. Enhance your color scheme and connect colors by layering accessory pieces with different patinas. Stains, washes, or natural patinas are subtle and sophisticated and seem to work better in small spaces than patterns.

Add Plants

Incorporate plants into your décor, they evoke an expansive feeling, it could come from memories of visiting a vast desert, deep forest, or wide canyon. Mix foliage shapes to create depth and urban-jungle appeal. Adding plants not only improves the energy of a space, but also improves air quality.

Clean Living

Keeping smaller spaces clean takes less time but the products used can have a greater polluting impact on indoor air quality. Living in a LEED Platinum building means well-insulated apartments can keep you exceptionally warm or cool but can also occasionally retain fumes. Consider a sizable investment in Dyson’s Pure Cool Link Purifier or Humidifier. The quality of indoor air and humidity plays a big role in our health and well-being. Avoid scent-masking products or heavily scented laundry detergents. Many artificial fragrances contain toxins.  Consider instead, eco-friendly household cleaning products. Check out Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap and Mrs. Meyers Dishwasher Tabs.

Wherever you call home and however you do or don’t decorate it, remember to consider everything you allow inside and the effects it will have on your well being, sense of safety, and future developments.

Henri and Rusty