Designing a small home that functions well and looks good can be like sliding around pieces of a puzzle until everything fits together beautifully and works seamlessly. A small space can take more space planning and careful consideration than a property two times the size. Before you start unpacking or purchasing items for your new space, consider these dos and don’ts.
Do Consider Wall Sconces
Small spaces often mean low ceilings, like in this one-bedroom condo designed by Christine Ralphs. Instead of a typical pendant light that might bring attention to the tighter quarters, Christine opted for a stunning, multi-arm sconce that not only provides two-way directional light but acts like a sculpture on the wall.
Photographer: Virginia Macdonald
Designer: Christine Ralphs
Don’t Let A Closet Go To Waste
You might call it a closet or a den or a small bedroom. Whatever it is, don’t let that small space get used only as a drop-off spot for dirty laundry and unused exercise gear. Retrofit it as a craft room, home office or in the case of this Vancouver apartment, a cool butler’s pantry and bar.
Photographer: Joann Pai
Designer: Jackie Kai Ellis
Do Use Furniture To Divide A Room
In this open-concept apartment, a long island not only functions as a dining room table but it helps separate the living area from the kitchen. While this island is built into the millwork, a floating furniture piece or table would also work.
Photographer: James Jones
Don’t Let Conventional Design Rules Stop You
Typical design wisdom will tell you not to place any furniture in front of a picture window. However, as decorator Tim Lam shows in his own condo, an airy, streamlined desk with built-in storage not only brings this window into focus but provides a generous work surface with a great view. Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry along the opposite wall maximizes storage.
Photographer: Stephani Buchman
Designer: Tim Lam
Do Disguise Windows and Patio Doors
Windows and doors are two things that can be very hard — if not impossible — to change in a condo, loft or apartment. Draw attention away from them by putting the focus on a dramatic drapery. In this condo by designer Cynthia Ferguson, graphic, floor-to-ceiling panels add symmetry and harmony by giving the two features equal weighting.
Photographer: Donna Griffith
Designer: Cynthia Ferguson
Do Hide Away Appliances
This hardworking kitchen corner houses a stacked laundry, refrigerator and freezer and a coffee station. Elegant millwork doors and panels keep the sightlines in the small space uncluttered creating a more unified and calm space.
Photographer: Maxime Desbiens
Designer: Jean Stéphane Beauchamp
Don’t Let the Limitations Of A Space Get In The Way Of Your Vision
A typical seating arrangement was proving difficult to execute in this small space due to a massive load-bearing column that couldn’t be altered. The answer? Custom banquettes built into the walls. The bonus is they’re deep enough to double as guest beds when the back cushions are removed. “Sometimes, embracing the flaws in a space results in the best solution,” says designer Nam Dang-Mitchell.
Photographer: Colin Way
Designer: Nam Dang-Mitchell
Do Opt for Banquette Seating
Not only is banquette seating cool to sit in but it also frees up precious floor space. In a typical dining room setup, you need to provide circulation space around both sides of the table for guests to pull out their chairs and maneuver. With a banquette, that extra room is only needed on one side effectively giving you back 2-3 feet of space.
Photographer: Lauren D Zabarsky
Designer: Studio Roslyn
Don’t Think You Can’t Decorate In A Maximalist Style
If you think you need to live minimally in a small space think again. Some of the best small spaces are beautifully curated jewel boxes lined with wallpaper, stacked with patterned pillows and layered with eclectic art.
Photographer: Virginia Macdonald
Designer: Philip Mitchell
Do Consider Vignettes
Creating meaningful moments throughout a small space is key to making it not only functional but also full of surprise. Here a narrow corner becomes a cozy spot to read and place to grab a drink. A rounded chair and a diminutive drinks table are small space-friendly furniture items.
Photographer: Alex Lukey
Designer: Jodie Rosen