28 Small Spaces That Prove Less Is More
There’s a reason we dedicate every September issue to small spaces: the topic is a hot one. Whether it’s a first home in a cutthroat urban market (we’re looking at you, Toronto, Vancouver and New York) or a downsized pied-à-terre, homeowners are increasingly drawn to manageable homes that won’t strain their budget or limit their free time. Some consider it a challenge to design for close quarters, but these spaces aren’t constrained by diminutive dimensions, or imagination.
Prior to her role as Zoomer editor-in-chief, Suzanne Boyd did all her writing in this custom-made tent in her lower Manhattan Art Deco apartment, which was inspired by a logging tent at the cottage of Diane Bald and Michael Budman (of Roots fame). Outfitted with a Hudson’s Bay blanket, it was a reminder of her own Canuck roots.
Olympia Bermann’s 600-square-foot NYC walk-up never loses its appeal. The J.Crew designer’s open-concept living area didn’t allow for separate rooms, so Olympia combined her work and entertaining spaces by using an extra-long work table and end tables in lieu of the more expected coffee table. She spiced up the white palette with artwork and layered carpets.
The chic color scheme of former Flare editor Lisa Tant’s condo was inspired by a black and white Bearbrick from Chanel (seen on counter at left). Because the kitchen is visible from the main living area, designer Tommy Smythe minimized the TV’s presence by building it into the backside of the kitchen island so it’s almost completely disguised, and hid as many of the functional appliances as he could.
Open, breezy and sexy, the Vancouver home of stylist Kate Horsman is a natural beauty. The 1,100-square-foot Gastown condo was inspired by her love of surfing, and it shows. In the dining room, the weathered wood table, shell chandelier and silvery branch sculpture conjures up the beach retreat vibe.
Designer Sabina Linn made her diminutive Georgian look grand with a dark blue accent wall in the dining area. A bank of lower cabinets that run the entire length of the wall provides ample storage, while twin mirrors lend the space the illusion of greater depth and amplify the natural light.
In Sabrina’s small kitchen, there’s little room for a bulky island, so a round oak pedestal table serves as an extra prep surface or even an extra dining table. To make the space feel cozier, Sabrina layered a cotton flat-weave rug over the large floor tiles.
The owners of Toronto design store Mjölk, Juli Daoust and John Baker, stripped her family cottage practically back to the studs to give it a clean, Scandi look. The stonework in the 1,000-square-foot cottage was left untouched to provide contrast, while rugs and tapestries add texture, pattern and warmth to the white envelope.
Designer Tommy Smythe had his work cut out for him when he moved into a minuscule 180-square-foot Toronto rental apartment while looking for the right place to remodel. He painted the walls dark, curtained off the kitchen and incorporated his favorite furnishings and collectibles. An antique writing desk serves as his dining table, night table and desk.
This was the first white living room that Tommy ever attempted, and he pulled it off in this 700-square-foot, one-bedroom rental unit. White walls are a crisp foil to aged antiques and darker finishes. “The windows are this home’s best feature; white shows off the light and makes the room feel big.”
In this 900-square-foot basement, a Murphy bed can be easily lifted to morph the space from a guest room into a workout area for designer Barbara Purdy and her husband. Poplar boards and wood-look porcelain floor planks make the space feel like a modern cabin.
We love how the cozy dining banquette of designer Alexandra Hutchison’s 640-square-foot Toronto semi makes eating at home feel like being in a chic restaurant (perhaps it’s no surprise that her hubby, Craig Harding, is a chef). Bulky kitchen items such as a stand mixer and salad spinner are stored in the seat, and the table was a DIY project that Alexandra fitted with a new limestone top.
H&H interiors director Meg Crossley made her 500-square-foot basement feel light and bright by getting rid of bulkheads and placing the wiring and ductwork in a closet that’s concealed behind the doors flanking the fireplace. She covered the existing furniture, including a couch she’s had since university, in white slipcovers and painted inexpensive furniture to give it new life.
This 515-square-foot condo has to double as the home office for Montreal blogger Gabriele Savoie of Savvy Home. An oversized mirror gives the main room the illusion of more space, while a large tray of pretty accessories camouflages the air-conditioning unit.
Owners of small spaces are often tempted to paint the walls white, and that’s exactly what Nancy did in her Vancouver apartment. But for the principal bathroom, she opted for a moody charcoal color that at night seems to extend the view of the black sky, punctuated by twinkling stars.
In designer Cameron MacNeil’s 1,100-square-foot home, glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows flood the back of the house with light. Running the oak planks widthwise across the room makes the 15-foot-wide house look wider. A long 7′ William Birch sofa offers lots of seating and hits of black punch up the living room’s neutral scheme.
In the kitchen of this 700-square-foot Montreal apartment, the homeowner decided to put her collection of cake stands and candy dishes on display instead of hiding them to add charm to her white kitchen. Items can be kept out on the counter with pretty storage options, such as glass apothecary jars for dry goods and a tiered stand for plates, and the table doubles as a tiny island.
Designers Ian McLeod and Kerry Johnson enclosed the guest room in their signature “telephone booth” construction in this 960-square-foot Kitsilano Beach home. It makes the room feel like a large sunporch, and allows light to flow freely into the adjoining den and hallway.
In the Montreal apartment of designers Alexandre Blazys and Benoit Gerard, a heavy black steel and ribbed-glass wall fitted with french doors separates the bedroom from the main space, while letting light and air flow into the windowless room.
The intimate lounge area (formerly the pair’s home office) in the apartment of Benoit and Alexandre illustrates the power of committing to a dark palette. “The wood grounds the small room, creates drama and makes it feel bigger,” says Alexandre.
This 1,200-square-foot Vancouver home has a globe-trotting feel, which is established in the living room with an original 1900s Indian daybed. The concrete bench acts as a side table for the daybed and sofa to provide storage and display, and books are stored spine-in for a quieter look.
This two-bedroom home was a downsize for Maureen and James Botrie, and their daughter Olivia Botrie of Dart Studio saw it as an opportunity to blend traditional and modern elements. In the kitchen, Botrie ran the cabinets all the way to the ceiling for maximum storage and to eliminate the “dust collector” surface up top.
Designer Michael Angus gutted the two bachelor apartments above his eclectic home furnishing boutique, Angus & Company, and transformed them into an airy one-bedroom apartment. Substantial moves, such as a custom fireplace and impressive wood armoire, give the small space all the presence of a grand home.
Designer Colleen McGill turned this 800-square-foot condo bedroom into a luxury yacht interior with mahogany-panelled walls and cherry floors. Colleen stores stationery and gift wrap in the cabinets above the desk.
In potter Janaki Larsen’s century-old Vancouver apartment, she embraces a faded sense of luxury. The ceiling’s layers of old paint and wallpaper are left as is, simply topped with coat of clear acrylic sealant to prevent flaking. The dining table pushed to the side of the room frees up space in front of the fireplace and suits casual dining during parties.
In this compact circa-1910 Montreal triplex, designer Richard Ouellette of Les Ensembliers focused on the ceiling. Decorative artist Agnes Menabreaz painted a cloudy sky, punctuated by crystal chandeliers that look like glittery earrings. “It draws the eye up, and you forget the narrowness of the space,” Richard notes.
The front door of this 1,200-square-foot Toronto condo opened into a tiny, uninspired foyer. Designer Sabrina Albanese created a more memorable entryway by papering the foyer with a showstopping Kelly Wearstler wallpaper, which makes the living room feel much more spacious. She credits the strategy to Frank Lloyd Wright: moving from a room that’s dark and dramatic to one that’s bright and open makes the second room seem larger.
The floor-to-ceiling shelves in this cozy Nova Scotia pool house guest bedroom don’t just provide storage space for the family’s book collection; the book jackets add life and color to this white space and serve almost as art.