26 Nov 2014

How you can make the most of small spaces

Gunner Kenyon has kindly offered this article to Ruscombe Green. While based in the states he felt it would still be of interest to Green readers in this country....

According to the most recent reports provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 80 percent of the population of the United States reside in urban areas. There are many advantages to living in a city: short commute times, shopping convenience, entertainment choices, etc., but one major disadvantage reveals itself the moment one begins to hunt for a place to live. In cities, living-space can be a rare commodity.

As such, you may find yourself having to make the most out of whatever small amount of space you have. Here are 11 tips to help you do just that.

1. Unclutter
One of the major drawbacks of small living spaces is that they often have very limited storage space. As a result, every available surface ends up acting as a catch-all for various odds and ends, leaving the area itself looking cramped and cluttered. Start taking back your space by giving your home a thorough cleaning, and get creative when it comes to storage. Hideable storage (such as baskets and drawers which can fit under beds, on the backs of doors, and in any other unused areas) can help you get a handle on your mess. Likewise, shelves can be inexpensive to purchase and install, and can go on almost any vertical surface, such as around doors, on archways, attached to larger appliance, etc. Shelves can also be extended all of the way to the ceiling—just make sure that you have a step-ladder handy for when you need to retrieves something.
2. Climb
Speaking of ceiling-high shelves, you should pay special attention to the vertical spaces in your home. In kitchens, ceiling hooks and chains can be used as a way to store pots and pans, as well as other bulky utensils that may not fit as well in cupboards or drawers. In other rooms, you should ask yourself just how you can make use of the neglected space above your head. You may even consider something like a hanging bed with ladder access. And, if you’re not interested in expanding your livable space upwards, you can at least draw attention to that high-up empty area; paint or wallpaper the ceiling in an eye-catching way, and it will feel as though your home itself has grown larger.
3. Colorize
In fact, color can be used throughout your home to give it a feeling of expansiveness, even if you don’t actually create any new space. Multiple, disharmonious colors will make your space appear jumbled and crowded. Choosing a common color scheme, one that can be maintained throughout your walls, furniture, carpets, and other decorations, solves this problem. You can take it a step further by choosing light colors (especially white), which give the appearance of space and openness.
4. Brighten
The more shadows you have lurking in your home, the smaller that home is going to feel. So, let there be light! High-quality light fixtures can drive away those shadows with pleasant, soft light that will make your living area seem much larger, as well as significantly more cozy. And, wherever possible, you should be maximizing the amount of sunlight that enters through your windows. Consider using mirrors to reflect and redirect that light into spaces that would otherwise remain unilluminated.
5. Reflect
In addition to enhancing natural light sources, mirrors can be used to increase the apparent size of a room through the power of optical illusion. Large mirrors placed on walls make it seem as though there’s an entire other half of a room waiting beyond them, effectively doubling the visible (if not useable) living space.
6. Despecialize
In most homes, furniture and appliances have single, specific functions. However, in a space-optimized home, many common objects actually serve multiple purposes. Couches with built-in storage space, speakers that function as end-tables, sturdy entertainment centers that can have single beds placed on top—basically, if you can get more than one use out of the things that take up space in your home, you’re going to end up with more space in the end.
7. Minimize/reduce
We tend to think of furniture as being more elegant and luxurious when it’s large, but when the size of your furniture is interrupting the flow of traffic and making it difficult to enjoy the rest of your living space, then what good is that luxury? Consider replacing your big couch, tables, and chairs with smaller version that will not only make it easier to move through your home, but will also be easier to clear aside if you need a bit more floor-room. On the other hand, you can retain large furniture items and achieve the same result simply be decreasing their overall number.
8. Designate
If you’re unable to have specific rooms set aside for all of the different tasks you need to perform in your home, you can achieve a similar result by zoning off and designating space for separate activities. Room dividers, task-specific furniture, or even varying wall colors can all be used to indicate that the space in question is separate from the rest of the room, even if that division is completely imaginary.
9. Dig
Just as you can make good use of space above your head, you may also be able to gain value from areas underneath your feet. If you have access to a basement or crawlspace, consider investing in finishing or refurbishing those areas so that they can be used as extra living space or storage. Likewise, areas under stairs can be repurposed into useful nooks for clothes or books, and even rugs can be put to use hiding cables and wires. So, bow your head to the ground and ask yourself if their are any low-down spaces in your home that you’re neglecting to utilize.
10. Straighten.
When eyes see lines, they tend to instinctively follow them. When the lines in your home are jumbled and irregular, it gives the impression that the space itself is cramped and chaotic. Inversely, lines that are long and straight make everything feel more expansive. Try opening things up with a striped rug running the length of a room, or painting stripes along your walls. You can also experiment with the lines created by your furniture arrangement.
11. Modify
Last but not least, if you want to maximize the space in your home, you’ve got to keep things from becoming stagnant. After all, once something becomes overly common, it’s human nature for us to trivialize it. Familiarity, as they say breeds contempt. So, spend some time every six months or so and rearrange the things in your home. Try new colors on the walls, and see if any of your furniture could stand to be replaced. A change of scenery can do wonders for the overall feel of a home, and new space, no matter how small, always feels fresh and open.

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