With the price of property increasing each day and accommodation becoming scarcer, people have to adjust to living in small spaces. With a little imagination and careful planning there is no reason why a small room or house cannot be made attractive and comfortable to live in as a large one.
Before you make any great changes, access your needs and re-examine your present arrangements. Look at what activities are carried on in a room eg. is there a hobby, which needs its own space, so that equipment doesn’t need to be cleared away on an on-going basis etc. Be prepared to get rid of items you don’t need, they only take up precious space.
When you know your needs and what you’ve got, you can take some action. There are three main things you could do. Your could organise the existing space and make better use of it, use decorating techniques eg. colour, pattern, lighting etc. to give the impression of space or you could go further and alter the structure of the house eg. removing an internal wall.
Reorganising the existing rooms
Reorganising the existing rooms in your home could use under-used space or let you combine different functions in the same room. For example if the biggest and brightest room in the house is an upstairs bedroom, turn this into your living room and the smaller downstairs room into a bedroom. With this arrangement you also get a great view if you are lucky enough to live in a scenic area. Or just swap bedrooms, let the children have the big one with the result they also have a play area in the room and also freeing some space in the living room.
One way to create a feeling of space and harmony is to cover all the floor with the same material or the same colour. For example the same carpets in the living room, bedroom and hall with vinyl or quarry tiles of a matching tone in the kitchen and bathroom. Carpet can look ugly when two different designs are joined at each threshold. Heavy patterned one will close the space. Choose simple pieces of furniture rather than those with fussy details and a lot of texture. Furniture that is on legs rather than on a solid base looks better in a small space, because the eye can follow the line of the floor. Avoid large pieces of furniture that can make the space camped and congested. For example if you have a large piece of furniture such as a bookcase, tone it in with the wall colour rather than contrast with it. That way it will be less dominant and more part of the room. If you need shelves, fit them floor-to-ceiling rather than in twos and threes in the middle of the wall. For storing modern items such as CDs and magazines etc. look for neat storage items that are now available.
You can use colour to alter the perceived size and brightness of a room; it will also effect the way you feel in it. Light colours make spaces look larger, while darker ones have the opposite effect. Using light colours on walls and even on floors will help light reflect around a room. You can use strong colours if they have a lot of white in them. You could use a strong or bright colour on one wall to add interest. Dark colours in recesses, such as either side of a fireplace, give a greater sense of depth. If you use a neutral, all-over background, you can have different coloured accessories and you can change accent colours for a fresh look.
Pattern and texture can be used to add excitement to a small room. Although rooms look bigger decorated in plain colours, patterns and prints can also contribute. They can be used in two ways – as the main decorative feature or add colour and accent to a simple scheme. Use a small-scale pattern rather than a large one. A striped wall covering hung horizontally or vertically will emphasise the width or height of a room. The same design used for curtain fabric can make a window look higher or wider. You can reduce he size of a large sofa by placing it in front of a window and covering it in the same print as the curtains.
If you are using a one-colour scheme to create a sense of light and space and you don’t want it to end up flat and boring, introduce a mixture of textures into the scheme e.g. crispy lace, linen, course tweed, glossy plastic etc. Smooth light reflecting paint will exaggerate the sense of space. Have contrast in texture eg. crocheted cushion on a polished wooden seat.
The window treatment you use in a small room is very important. As well as effecting the apparent size of the room, it will also effect the amount of light that it will get. Try to avoid fussy treatment that involves swags and tails, bows, heavy curtains, frilly blinds etc. If you must have swagged curtains, choose a plain fabric that neutralised any fussy effect. Go for unadorned curtains, blinds or shutters in a colour or pattern that doesn’t contrast too much with the walls. If a wall has two separate windows, particularly if different sizes, it may be better to treat as one ie. a single pair of curtains. To get the maximum light from the window, extend the rail or track on each side of the frame, so they clear the glass completely when they are not in use.
Mirrors are great decorating tools for those decorating small rooms. They extend space and reflect light. Mirrors come in sheets, tiles and in frames of varying sizes, so they can be used in all sorts of situations. Used on a centre wall, it will seem to double the room it reflects. At the end of a hall or passage it makes the space appear endless. Also can be used in alcoves and behind shelves. Mirrors are particularly effective positioned near or around a window. In a small room with only a single window, hang a mirror next to it, of the same size and with a similar frame, so they look like a pair.
Lighting is another great friend when one is trying to create a sense of space in a small room. As well as illuminating areas of activity and traffic paths, it will also create mood; define space and highlight or disguise features in a room. Try to avoid a single pendant in the middle of the ceiling, instead go for a combination of wall, table and free standing lights.
If reorganising the existing rooms or decorating will not meet your space requirement, maybe some structural change would. Before undertaking any such work, get some advice. Make sure any changes you make, such as reducing the number of bedrooms by knocking the two together, will not limit flexibility and appearance of the house; maybe making it difficult to sell or change the character of the house. Removing an internal wall will give a feeling of light and space and make a home feel less cramped and poky. You may want to combine the living and dining rooms or if the dining room is attached to a tiny kitchen, you could make the two rooms into a single, larger one instead. You could get rid of a long, narrow (and often wasted) entrance hall by taking down the wall or part of it to integrate the hall with eg. living room. A house can be opened up vertically as well as horizontally by eg. knocking out part of the attic floor in a bungalow or section of the upper floor in other type houses. It could give you a cathedral-like ceiling in the living room.
Also look at smaller structural changes such as switching the position of door and windows eg. open up a window to make a new back or side door. Or removing an internal door eg. between a kitchen and living room that is continually open. Simply enlarging a small window could make an enormous improvement.
Remember you don’t have to live in a castle to have a beautiful home, it is what you do with what you have that’s important. Being small has its advantages—less heating bills and time spent cleaning and will also cost less to decorate. Remember small is beautiful.
Mary D. Kelly