Since the 1980s, houses across the UK have been getting smaller, with many incorporating that common design flaw known as the box room. Over the last ten years, the average number of bedrooms in new homes dropped below three for the first time ever and living room sizes are the smallest they’ve been in 50 years.
Thankfully, homeowners and tenants alike have become more innovative and interior design approaches more creative; even the most restricted of spaces can be easily transformed.
Whether you’re preparing to put your house on the market or want to make a small room feel bigger in a home you’ve just moved to, following these three key rules will help:
1. Less is more
While you may feel the urge to ‘stuff’ as much ‘stuff’ as you can into a room, this is a big mistake. Clutter, especially for home sellers, makes a room look messy and cramped. To open out the room, think about how you can store belongings out of sight.
When it comes to ornaments, select one or two large feature pieces that catch the eye rather than multiples of miniature nicknacks. The same goes for furniture. Choose larger statement pieces that make the room appear calm, not crammed.
Avoid dark colours, despite what interior trends dictate. Dark colours absorb light and can create a sense of oppression in small spaces, so choose light, soft shades from the same colour family for your walls, floors and ceilings. You may also consider striped wallpaper to elongate either the height or width of a room.
2. Create a room with a view
If your room has no windows – like many bathrooms in a mid-terrace – or there is barely room to swing a cat, expanding the view of a room to make it appear more spacious is crucial. It’s all about smoke and mirrors – well, kind of.
Mirrors certainly help give the illusion of space, as does glass, reflective surfaces or Perspex furnishings. Strategically placing a mirror opposite a window – or a doorway in a windowless room – can make a space feel twice its actual size, while transparent tabletops let light flow freely. Clear, as opposed to opaque shower doors, also have the same effect in small bathrooms.
Go easy on the window dressings to ensure you let in as much natural light as possible. You may want to think about leaving windows uncovered altogether, if appropriate, or use sheer fabrics for a less stuffy feel.
If you have limited natural light, consider adding a couple of table or wall lamps in addition to a central ceiling light, which results in a harsh pool of downlight in one area and leaves corners in gloom.
3. Super space-saving storage
The general rule of thumb is that the more floor you can see, the bigger the room will appear. With this in mind, look for spindle-leg furniture and choose open bed frames over divans so clear space is visible. Ottomans and footstools that double as storage will help keep clutter to a minimum, while folding or ‘pop up’ furniture will save space.
Diagonal lines are the longest in a room, so furniture placed on the angle – such as a coffee table – can work well. Consider vertical storage if your ceilings are low to give the illusion of height and you could install shelves just below the ceiling or above door frames, which makes use of otherwise wasted space and serves to draw the eye upwards.
In larger spaces that are small for their purpose, such as open-plan kitchens and living/dining rooms, use furniture to effectively break up the space without restricting its function. Folding dining tables, alcove seating and a kitchen island unit with a deep enough overhang to accommodate bar stools are good ideas.
With our living spaces getting smaller, we need to ensure our ideas are getting bigger. By following these three key rules, you’ll be able to turn any small room into a functional and stylish space to live, laugh and love.
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