Making a home with little space livable is a challenge. You have to work with what you've got, and in doing so you've got to nail the design of each room in order to introduce a sense of roominess and comfort. Needless to say, this is much easier said than done. Common difficulties include optimizing the organisation of your furniture, finding the right lighting solution and a color scheme to enhance the atmosphere in what could otherwise be a claustrophobic domestic environment.
Whether your problem room is a bathroom, kitchen, living room or study, we've dug out seven photos of seven unfortunate rooms that embody a handful of the most common mistakes that make houses with smaller footprints come across as cramped and uncomfortable. And this doesn't have to be the case. With a little thought, and in some cases the expert help of home interior professionals, the tiniest home can blossom.
Warning – design disasters (but suggested solutions, too) below!
When it comes to interior design, unless your heart is set on the baroque, excess is almost always harmful to your home's positive sense of space. This is all the more true for a home that is essentially smaller in size.
The key is to keep each room's visual space unpolluted; and when it comes to functional rooms like kitchens, haphazard planning and design, stacks of unused items – grossly in evidence here – are not only going to clutter up the space visually, but preparing, cooking and cleaning up are going to become a less-than-enjoyable nightmare.
Place your bets on simple and spacious storage solutions and if you still find yourself short on surface real estate, ask yourself,
Do I really need this?
The golden rule: less is more!
In a smaller dwelling, each square feet is gold. Spaces must be well thought out and each precious piece of your property's footprint must be put to good use. Furniture is essential, but objects like couches and companion coffee tables are going to suck your space dry unless you exercise a good, critical sense of organization. This small living room has a lot going for it, if it weren't for the awkward layout of two couches, blocking egress to the outside through tall double doors. The only meager benefit of this clumsy arrangement might be the ad-hoc luggage storage space formed where the sofas meet! An out of place coffee table – too tall for the low lounge suite and not in keeping with what could charitably be called minimalist 'design' of the room – is the nail in the coffin.
Get back to the drawing board. Really – grab a pencil and a piece of paper, pace out your room's dimensions, make notes about what you've got to preserve (e.g. access to the outdoors), and make a sketch. With a bit of foresight and some sensible furniture shopping, this goose of a white cube could very well be reborn a swan.
Light is essential the source of all life. And it's essential to a home that feels, well, homely. Terrible lighting makes a terrible space worse, and destroys even the most dedicated designs.
To undermine the tyranny of bad lighting, out tip is to first and foremost make the most of the natural light that's available to each room. When this isn't possible, as in this cramped little kitchen, resist the temptation to install fluorescent tubes simply because you think this is going to mean a saving on your power bill (and whatever you do, don't leave fluorescent tubes bare).
There are innumerable modern lighting solutions that are incredibly economical. Invest in multi-modal light fittings – a range of lighting options mounted above prep surfaces, cooktops, dining table. This way, you can light to fit the mood, or the time of day.
Brown. The bane of many a decoration idea. We have nothing against brown itself – in the right hands the color is organic and evocative of nature in resplendent, woodland glory – but all too often it is simply old-fashioned, retro gone horribly wrong. This is all the more apparent if we're dealing with a cramped space with insufficient lighting.
Here, the polish of brown tiles makes the walls look like they're sweating – not a good look in a small bathroom that's going to need a good ventilation solution in the first place.
Get out the chisel. Dispense with the brown tiling, or any repugnant dark colors unless you can balance the palette with expansive and sanitary tones. A bathroom, especially when it's on the smaller side, needs brightness to evoke a sense of the sanitary as well as spaciousness.
Whether you like it or not, your home often reflects your state of mind. In the best possible sense, this mirroring is a good thing – have you noticed that when you're feeling stressed and disorganized, the state of your house is untidy to match? On the same note, don't you find that a good spring clean also blows the cobwebs out from a busy and cluttered head? This study is hardly a space for the studious. It's a piecemeal, thrown together mass of desk, mismatched office furniture, shelving, and knick-knacks casually tacked to the wall.
Get modular with storage, push desk space up against a wall so you've plenty of room to kick back and put your feet up on the desk when those moments of reflection and inspiration take hold, even out the color scheme to create a clean and cohesive space conducive for thinking, or simply organizing the month's bills. Displaying a couple of personal curios is all fine and good – but present them in an orderly fashion. File your things in space like you'd like to index your inner life – balancing creativity with a by-the-book approach.
This kitchen veers awfully close to the brown-tiled fiasco of the bathroom above, but it's clear the homeowners have put a little thought into the space, accentuating the death of natural light by matching the playful blood-orange tiles above the bench top with a couple of rag-rugs on the floor. And they've come up with a neat idea for maximizing prep-space real estate, too.
Consult with a kitchen planner if you're looking to play some tricks on your cramped kitchen space and get the most from your fittings. This ingenious slide-out panel is an immediate boost to the available space when an extra surface is needed for food prep or even presentation.
While this 'funky' piece of vintage furniture might have looked like a good idea on a popular selling website at the time, was it really worth it? A hasty furniture purchase can break a space. Bulky, fashioned from cheap, laminated imitation wood, this disco sideboard's only saving grace is the unusual geometry of the shelving unit. Otherwise it simply doesn't fit.
Go back to step one: ask yourself,
Do I really need this? Too many pieces of furniture are vanity objects – we desperately want to give them a home, but we too often find ourselves living in a room that feels homeless as a result.
Don't be afraid to dump!
There are far more appropriate, practical, space-saving and damn good-looking design ideas to be found in the pages of homify that will satisfy your love of eye-catching furniture without drowning your room in bad, brown, bulky burdens.