Living in small spaces

Editor Mary Jane Harris says living in a small space need not mean sacrificing style


In my job I see all sorts of different houses – from compact cottages to large sprawling farmhouses. This week, the photographs of a small apartment popped up on my computer. It was so stylish and so beautifully accessorised that you weren’t aware of the space limitations. I know from personal experience that living in a small space is not all bad – there’s less to decorate, less to clean and, in fact, it’s far easier (and cheaper) to make a small space look fabulous than a large one.

However, there are a couple of guidelines that make all the difference.

1. Keep the floor, ceiling and doors neutral and the colour palette simple. Stick to two to three harmonising colours so that your room doesn’t end up looking too busy. Or choose a scheme like yellow and grey, and within that colour palette use an abstract pattern and a floral or paisley. Always use lots of white as a background especially if you are using a very strong colour, and tone down a hectic pattern with white or neutral cushions.

Decor: Lesley Donel-Douglas.

2. Modular seating is the most versatile and a corner unit takes up less space than a conventional sofa and two chairs. Choose low furniture to create the impression of height and so it doesn’t obscure sightlines across the room.

Decor: Home Concept.

3. Invest in an ottoman and use it as both seating and a coffee table. With the addition of a stylish tray you can use it as a surface for drinks, candles and books.

Decor: Cheryl Herweg of Changing Spaces.

4. Large pieces of art create an eye-catching focal point and look far better in a small space than lots of little pictures grouped together. The same goes for lamps and other accessories – choose big, bold designs rather than a lot of insignificant pieces.

Decor: Marc Shotland and Quique Sanchez.

5. Don’t neglect lighting. Table lamps, floor lamps and downlights bring a room to life. If you install a dimmer switch, you can change the mood to suit the occasion which makes a small space more versatile.

Decor: Kyle Roux.

6. Keep rooms uncluttered – lots of storage space is essential. Make the most of every inch with storage baskets under beds, double rails in cupboards and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Keep them as shallow as possible – just the width of a book so they don’t encroach on living space.

Decor Marc Shotland and Quique Sanchez.