Interior design ideas: How to make small spaces work
September 30, 2019
As anyone who lives in London knows, space is at a premium in the UK capital. This means we often need to be creative with the small spaces we have. Our Senior Interior Designer, Rosie Ward, has first-hand knowledge of how to make a small living area work well. Her 1.5-bed flat in a premium location in Clapham, benefits from her design knowledge and know-how about small apartment interiors in London.
‘Designing solutions for small spaces is always an enjoyable challenge,’ says Rosie. ‘I like what Kevin McCloud says in a House Beautiful article about small-space living: “A big house is not necessarily spacious; a small house is not necessarily cramped. What matters is a sense of space and a sense of connection.”’
Read on for Rosie’s interior ideas for small spaces:
Getting an interior designer in before you move into a new small space is the best bet. We’ll come to see you in your current home and chat to you about how you live and how your home operates, before looking at the new space. Everyone has different priorities, and we’ll find out what’s most important to you. Then, we can put in the best bespoke interior design solutions for your space, created around your lifestyle.
I’ve worked on a project where we put a utility room in under the stairs, which is always a good spot to work with when space is tight. There’s often more room under there than you realise, and maximising every inch is key.
I am currently designing a joinery unit for coat and shoe storage which will also be used as a central divider for a room. To make this work, I have mixed closed doors for the storage with open shelving to display the client’s art collection. One client we designed a home for needed a lot of clothes storage, so we added a stud wall in the room to place the bed against and created a dressing room behind to give us two layers of cupboards.
Sometimes, redesigning a small apartment to gain the most space we can – moving stairs and walls – creates the best longterm solutions.
I’m quite a tidy person; everything has a place but I do have a lot of stuff. Somehow, I give away bags of clothes to charity and yet end up with the same amount again. I am forever throwing things out – so I totally understand the need to limit clutter in a small living space.
Managing which items are in use and which should be in storage is a good start for decluttering. For example, with limited space it’s sensible to pack away winter clothes in a suitcase and place in storage under a bed, in a cupboard or in a loft (if you have one) during summer – and vice versa during winter.
I’d advise adding coat and shoe storage in the hallway. Coats can be cumbersome and take up a lot of space. They need a dedicated space.
We have a long corridor with low-level fitted storage under the window for suitcases, bags and large items which would make the apartment cluttered if left out. Individual furnishings can be attractive, but you’ll rarely find anything as useful as something that’s designed and purpose-built to fit your home.
Tricks and tips
I’d advise putting in a couple of large mirrors to create the illusion of extra space in a small apartment. They’re also great for reflecting natural light.
I also suggest clever use of lighting. This is where an interior designer can really help. For example, alcoves can be atmospherically lit and bookshelves added to create extra storage with feeling of more space and depth. Natural light and placement of furniture are also key. Don’t block natural light with large dark furnishings, or too-heavy curtains. Creating a sense of airiness and flow is very important when designing for a small space.
When we look at your home, we work out how each area is used then identify any ‘dead space’. These are then the ideal spots to build in clever storage to maximise space.
Colour and texture
Using colour and texture to create a feeling of additional space is a good idea. I suggest keeping the main furniture within a palette of light colours, and adding texture and richer colour as accents, such as in cushions, throws, ornaments and rugs.
In our 1.5-bed flat in Clapham, we have one double room – our bedroom, and a single. Instead of wasting this single room as a guest-room which only gets used around once a month, we use it for storage, washing and ironing.
When guests come, we pump up a good-quality double airbed which fits the room, but which can be stored away easily. It is always best to make your flat functional for the things you do most often.
Everything in your home should have a place – you don’t want too many things floating about in a small apartment or flat or it quickly feels messy.
Perhaps your second bedroom could become a dressing room with a large long mirror to declutter your bedroom. If your clothes are crammed into your wardrobe, you need to create more space, otherwise the daily task of simply getting dressed becomes a hassle.
Rosie Ward is Senior Designer at Interiors by Sarah Ward. Her role varies from day to day. When she’s not liaising with clients, she is running projects and designing functional, practical and beautiful spaces. To discuss interior design projects in the UK with a member of the Sarah Ward design team, please call us on 44 (0)20 3667 7796 or email email@example.com