Jun 28, 2011

Small scale design - 10 ideas

Apartments, dorm rooms, condos, cottages and other small living spaces can be difficult to design.  Sofas meant for great rooms overwhelm these spaces, and standard sized tables are often bigger than needed. Here are some solutions for working around scale issues and not requiring custom furniture.

1) Make large pieces armless.  Many sofa arms take up 12-18" of space.  Using an armless loveseat, settee or sofa will save space and the lighter weight will assist with making a small space feel larger. Using low arms or open arms, as in the wooden chair pictured here is another idea.

2) Lose the coffee table. Don't take up center space in your room with a large table in front of your sofa or chairs. Opt for end tables or smaller nesting tables that you can use as needed.

3) De-clutter with covered storage.  Try covering bookshelves with doors or panel drapes so the things you store don't overwhelm the room. If your dining room doubles as an office and you have unsightly file cabinets, create a Velcro attached skirt to hide them when not in use. Using bins and boxes to store items on shelves keeps them within easy reach yet organized and neat.

4) Pull furniture off the walls.  Gain the illusion of space by floating pieces in the center of the room rather than lining the walls.  Angling pieces helps too if the room is very small.

5) Have pieces do double duty. In a small living room, use a console behind the sofa as a desk as well as for lighting, display and storage. If you place the sofa off the wall, the table and a chair should fit nicely as well as function beautifully. A bonus is to use ottomans that store under the table and serve as extra seating when needed.

6) Use attractive containers for storage. Paper covered boxes, lidded wicker trunks and boxes, and other similar items, keep your mail, magazines, extra blankets and pillows, and much more within easy reach and attractive at the same time. 

7) Mirror, mirror on the wall...In small rooms without much natural light, add a mirror. If you have a window, try to place the mirror to reflect daylight into the room.  If not, use a table or floor lamp in front of the mirror to double the reflected light.

8) Monochromatic works.  When small rooms are designed in varying shades of one hue, with a few bold accessories (pillows, art and area rugs) making a statement, they do feel larger. As an example, the eye doesn't notice the large sofa, but rather the iron tables and lighting.

9) Add shelves.  For rooms that serve many functions, it helps to designate areas with free standing shelves. In rooms without much storage, keeping desk items, books, collectibles and storage bins on shelves does create a cleaner space and adds to the illusion of more space.