Style Lessons for Small Spaces

Small Space, small spaces, style for small spaces

6 style lessons for small spaces

By Barbara Ballinger
Chicago Tribune

Small is getting bigger for sure. The average American single-family house will drop to 2,152 square feet this year, 10 percent smaller than five years ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders. But there’s a growing percentage who live large in much smaller quarters — less than 1,000 square feet, considered the benchmark for “small” by many, and closer to 200, 300 or 400 square feet to qualify as “tiny” or “micro.”

Design experts are busy bringing out an arsenal of strategies to make small-scaled life comfortable, even liberating. Many home- owners know about using dual-functioning furniture, enlarging windows, expanding space through white palettes, and having fewer possessions. But in doing so, many worry about giving up style.

There’s no correlation. “Less really can be more if you have around you what you love, and what works for you at whatever time of life you’re at,” says Sara Emslie, an interiors editor and stylist who lives in a 646-square-foot, two-story home on the outskirts of London, and has compiled ideas in her first book, “Beautifully Small: Clever Ideas for Compact Spaces” (Ryland Peters & Small, 2015). Here are six of her favorite tips:

Play up architectural features.

Start by taking advantage of the framework — walls, ceiling, floor and a building’s history, which can add interest and character. A partial wall or ceiling beams can minimally and visually divide a multi-use space rather than chop it into tiny rooms.

Changes can be made for better flow when there’s little space to navigate, such as relocating a central staircase in a two-story space. Look at the space vertically, too, especially if it has high ceilings or unused roof space. You might build in a mezzanine or loft.

Rethink traditional living.

For instance, skip a designated dining room or area, if parties aren’t your thing and you’re content eating at a breakfast bar. Or if you’re not into cooking, devote less space to a working kitchen. Dual purpose rooms and areas also work well, such as a room with a bench for seating with storage underneath.

Go beyond white.

White is not the only effective choice. Grays are enjoying the limelight as a neutral that works as well. Emslie also suggests painting floors darker than walls if rooms have compromised ceiling heights. For rooms with lots of natural sunlight, she says, go with brighter hues; for rooms that are very dark, go dark — not to expand space, but to make it feel intimate and cozy. Texture can also add color by offering a layered effect with tactile touches in velvet, chenille or leather.

Favor one style.

Any style can work, and even clutter can be attractive if done with some restraint and organization. Emslie’s one caveat: Don’t make the final result so busy that the brain feels overloaded. Group objects in an odd number, perhaps, three, five, or seven.

Scale right.

A large sofa can work in a small living room if the space is not filled with too many other furnishings and possessions; same goes for a big bed in a small bedroom, or you can go with a smaller bed with a high headboard. Vintage furnishings were typically scaled smaller than modern ones.

Bring in the outdoors.

Views draw the eye out and expand interior space. Or bring in the outdoors through your choice of artworks; perhaps, an image of a seascape by a window. If you have windowsills for planters or window boxes, make the most of them — anything that links the inside with the outside will allow the eye to be drawn out and create a feeling of life beyond the room and the space outside.

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