Thanks for dropping by for my second installment of the Designer Roundtable Q & A Session!! I’ve rounded up some fab designers to answer questions related to interior design and decor. Today we’re talking small spaces!
Be sure to join into the conversation.
via First Time Fancy
1. Name an easy, inexpensive way to make a small space look bigger.
- “The least expensive way to make a small space look bigger is to eliminate the clutter. Neatly tuck things away in bins under the bed, decorative boxes on shelves, or hide them under table skirts. Too many accessories can also look cluttered; pair them down. Rather than having a vignette with several items on display, opt for one larger piece that makes a statement.” – Peggy Pardo
- “Light and Mirrors!!!” – Adam Zollinger
- “The most critical element in small space design is creating negative space volume. One of the easiest ways to insure that the space reads open and airy is to make sure that there is a clear line of sight from the entry to the furthest point in the room. Furniture layout tricks include putting your highest pieces against the far wall, and avoiding the creation of “virtual walls” that will cut up the space by making sure that deep case goods, and mounted shelving on walls perpendicular to the entry, are considerably below eye level. In small spaces, I like to limit any deep furnishings that will not be against the far wall to a maximum height of about 35 inches. When wall mounted shelves are required for storage, I situate them so that they are viewed from the front, rather than the side. If the configuration of the room doesn’t allow for that, I will use relatively narrow shelves and stagger them to avoid creating a monolithic structure that will impede the eye from traveling effortlessly around the room. Having a focal point on the far wall will also work to direct the eye to the farthest point in the room and make the room feel larger.” – Peggy Berk
- “Mirrors are by far one of the easiest ways to make a small space look bigger! Helps bounce around light through a space that may have otherwise been dark… by brighting and therefore visually expanding the space!” – Whitney Jones
2. List the most essential furniture needs of a studio apartment.
- “When choosing furniture for studio apartments, it’s important to select items that have more than one purpose. For example, storage ottomans are a stylish way to store linens, towels and other items when cabinet space is lacking. They also provide extra seating when you have guests and are easy to move around so you can put them where you need them.” – Peggy Pardo
- “Sleeper sofa with Air Dream Mattress!” – Adam Zollinger
- “It’s important to meet the functional needs of your client in every situation so it’s really is the client whose needs determine what is essential. However, fulfilling those requirements should be accomplished in a more efficient way in small spaces. In multi-functional small spaces, multi-functional furniture can be a great asset, however, its use needs to be balanced against lifestyle issues and the importance of maintaining discrete functional areas when they are warranted. For example, a coffee table that elevates to dining table height might work great in some instances, but might not be practical for someone living in a studio who entertains a lot and wants to separate the dining experience from the conversation area. No matter the size of the space, I don’t expect my clients to accommodate themselves to furnishings – the furnishings should accommodate the client. Individual culture is just as important as individual style when designing a successful room and should be respected in spaces of all sizes.”– Peggy Berk
- “I’m not sure if these count as ‘essentials’, but stools/ottomans that double as storage and nesting tables are great for small spaces. The stools/ottomans store items and do double duty as extra seating, while nesting tables can be stacked together to make space or moved around a space separately to give a hard surface to sit drinks, snacks, books, etc on.” – Whitney Jones
3. What’s one great tip for decorating small spaces?
- “My favorite tip for decorating small spaces is – Bring the eye up! Using both the wall space up to and ABOVE eye level makes a room seem much larger and provides an opportunity to display items you may not have room for at floor or table level.As you can see in photo #1 (above), I’ve used a wall-mounted plant stand to add height and visual interest to an otherwise “dead zone” behind the bathroom door and above the towel tower. There is no room on the floor for a plant stand so placing it up on the wall creates a nice “green scene” and gives you something pleasant to enjoy while “catching up on your reading”. An additional tip is to “cheat the corners” of a small room to avoid a boxy feel. You can see that the angled placement of this bookcase in photo #2 (above) opens up the space and eliminates the sensation of being in a long narrow room. Topping it with objects of varying heights also draws the eye up as I discussed previously, bringing the whole corner to life.” – Susan Lacy
- “Multi Function!!! Do not put anything in that space that only acts as the thing is was intended to be!” – Adam Zollinger
- “To unify the rooms in a small house or apartment, choose a main color and use it in some way in each room. It could be the dominant color in one room, a secondary color in another, an accent color in another room, and so on.” – Peggy Pardo
- “When it comes to style, the eclecticism that can work so well in larger rooms serving just one or two functions, can easily cross the line into a cluttered look if not handled deftly in a small multi-functional space. Choosing a more homogenous style will help maintain a sense of harmony in the room. The smaller the room, the greater the impact of wall decor – so if you love a busy look, try to incorporate it into your room with your wall decor.” – Peggy Berk
- “Embrace natural lighting and mirrors! They both help visually expand the depth of a room. Another tip for decorating a small space is to use double duty furniture. For example, if space is limited, use your dining table as a desk for work. Just bring in stylish file cabinets to combat clutter and add a wood top to serve your dining needs, like storing dinnerware.” – Whitney Jones
4. How should you organize a small, cluttered space?
- “When organizing a small, cluttered space, be creative in your use of storage containers. Use things you would not normally for storing necessary objects. For example, in the closet/office I’m creating(see my blog at pcidesignreflections.blogspot.com) I’m using the recycled candy wrapper planters in photo #3 (above) for paper clips, tacks, etc. In photo #4 (above), you see the wire baskets I’m going to spray paint and mount on the wall to hold post-its, index cards, and the like. The whimsical cat planter in photo #5 (above) will hold pens and pencils. Using these items as unexpected storage pieces allows them to serve form and function in a fun way.” – Susan Lacy
- “Any way you can – Only have the things you will actually use in your home.” – Adam Zollinger
- “When organizing a small space, think vertically for storage. Most rooms have lots of unused vertical space that you can take advantage of for storage. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases or shelving will give you plenty of much needed space-saving storage. For easy access to the items stored on top, keep a step stool handy.” – Peggy Pardo
- “Space planning for a small space has to be meticulous. Limit your traffic pattern to one continuous linear, L-shaped “corridor” that will enable you to navigate through the space and access all areas without weaving in and out among the furnishings. This not only will preserve as much floor space as possible for necessary furnishings, but also help to define functional areas and keep the space feeling open and uncluttered. Define and mentally draw a virtual room around each functional area (or use painter’s tape on the floor to help you visualize it more easily), leaving the traffic lane free of furnishings . Then, approach the furnishing of each area as if it truly were its own room, staying within its confines, and selecting furnishings of an appropriate size and scale for the allotted space. Take into account the visual weight of the styles you select, not just absolute dimensions.” – Peggy Berk
- “Stylish cubbies and baskets! I’m not big on labelling, sometimes it looks a bit too “DIY”, but I find that a great way to ‘label’ a basket is just by separating them by color, style, and with decorative tassels or trim.” – Whitney Jones
5. Is there a small space decorating rule that shouldn’t be broken?
- “The unbreakable small space rule: Do not use furniture that is too big! Your room will NEVER feel comfortable if the furniture is too big!” – Susan Lacy
- “Don’t buy stuff for hypothetical situations, dinner parties, or guests that may NEVER happen!” – Adam Zollinger
- “The only rule I follow in design is that there are no rules. It’s about what you love. Design should be fun and you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new.” – Peggy Pardo
- “As a rule, I’m not big on rules. But generally I would say that you should avoid anything, such as furniture and area carpets, placed in a way that that visually cuts up the space.” – Peggy Berk
- “Using furniture that is too big or too small! Just because your space is small doesn’t mean you should have itty-bitty furniture, but you shouldn’t have furniture that’s too big that it visually looks ‘squeezed in’.” – Whitney Jones
6. If you had the ability to decorate a very small 250sft studio apartment however you wanted, explain briefly what it would look like.
- “My ideal small space would be full of multi-purpose furniture, functional storage, lots of natural light, and have plenty of comfortable seating. It would also be warm, inviting and have a touch of glamour.” – Peggy Pardo
- “I would do it just like the model IKEA homes, but with higher quality materials! Don’t reinvent the wheel!” – Adam Zollinger
- “They say a picture is worth 1000 words, so I thought I’d share a recent project. This owner of this small studio apartment required both a home office and an area in which she could set up a portable rehabilitative massage table when needed for her clients, as well as dining for four to five, and sleeping accommodations for three on occasion – a formidable challenge in a room that is only 12 feet at its widest point.Multi-functional furniture from Resource Furniture provided a great solution. The sofa on the right is framed in a wall unit that lowers a queen size side sleeper over the sofa and ottomans without necessitating that any furniture be moved. On the opposite wall, Resource’s Cabrio desk converts to a side sleeper as well. Side sleepers are not that common in the market, but can be great space savers as the beds open parallel to the wall, instead of perpendicular to it. A built- in banquette in the widowed niche is a great dining solution in a small space because it eliminates the need for pull-back space for chairs. The two ottomans in front of the sofa were customized to dining chair height so that they can be pulled up to the dining table to provide the additional seating there when needed. The far wall adjoining the dining area was used to create a horizontally oriented focal point that would draw the eye to the farthest wall from the entry and promote a feeling of spaciousness.” – Peggy Berk
- “I would have a wall of built-in bookcases for storing everything from clothes to movies to books. I’ll have a sectional sofa that does double duty as a sleeper and a bed built on a platform tucked away in a corner with linen drapery mounted from the ceiling separating it from the rest of the space. I would have a rectangular table that serves both dining and work surfaces and small kitchen that opens up to the entire space.” – Whitney Jones
Interior Designer/Owner of Adam Zollinger Interiors
Owner of Shabby – Your Chic Lamp Boutique on Etsy
Interior Designer of Area Aesthetics Interior Design
Interior Designer/Owner of Pepper Creek Interiors
Interior Decorator & Professional Organizer, Owner of Spaces by Design
Author of The Moving Handbook
Interior Decorator/Owner of Whitney J Decor
Care to chime in about small space decorating and any of the questions/answers above? Agree or disagree? Be sure to drop a comment and let us know!
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