How to design small spaces
Designing small spaces is not an easy task.
The most common thing people say when asked about their homes is that they don’t have enough space.
But it’s not so much about “enough space” as it is about using that space in the best way for you and your lifestyle.
Urbanisation is happening all over the world, with people moving to cities and space becoming more and more of a challenge.
Did you know the average size of an apartment in Hong Kong is around 45 m2 (484 square feet)?
Compare that to an average apartment in New York which is around 75 m2 (800 square feet), or even a Tiny Home in the US, which on average is only 21 m2 (225 square feet).
Now we’re talking small spaces!
So let’s have a look at how to design them to make the most of each oh-so-valuable cm.
What you’ll find here
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Hi, I’m Nadine
Interior design expert, globetrotter and the creative mind behind this blog and NH.DESIGN.
I’m originally from Germany but have been living abroad for over 10 years, from Canada and the UK to Sweden.
Think m3, not m2 when designing small spaces
To maximise small spaces you should get away from thinking in m2, meaning just looking at the foot print and floor space you have available. Instead, take a look at your walls and ceiling height as well, turning your space from m2 to m3.
Using loft beds in bedrooms creates a whole new space underneath which can be used as a completely different room.
And creating entire walls of cabinets maximises the amount of storage space you get without making the room look small and compressed. In fact, cabinets in the same colour as your walls will blend in and create storage without even being visible.
Painting furniture in the same colour as the walls helps it to blend in and create a calm and relaxing space!!
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The right colours for small spaces
Choosing the right colour when designing small spaces is important. Most people think they have to choose light colours for small spaces but that’s not entirely true. Of course if you like lighter colours go for it, but you don’t have to stay away from darker colours if that’s more your style.
It’s all about how you use colours to make the most of small spaces.
Darker colours on the bottom mixed with lighter ones on the top draw your eye up and make a small space look taller.
And using colour to create zones in an otherwise open space really helps to visually separate different areas.
The overall design rule for any space when it comes to choosing colours is to stick to 3:
1 main colour, which you should use in 60% of the interior. That’s mostly your walls and larger furniture pieces.
The next one is your secondary colour, which should take up 30% of the space. That’s your flooring and some smaller furniture pieces.
And the last colour should be your accent, used in 10% of your space. That can be decoration or an accent piece of furniture.
Within those 3 colours you can choose different shades to create more depth.
Multi-functional furniture for small spaces
One of the key elements when designing small spaces is to choose multi-functional furniture.
That means things that are movable, foldable, stackable etc. Each piece of furniture should have at least 2 functions to really maximise the small space.
When designing small spaces, think about all the activities taking place and choose the furniture based on that.
A daybed can become a sofa during the day, a dining table doubles as workspace and a step stool can be a side table when it’s not needed.
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Organisation is key
Of course small spaces require a different approach to organisation.
There’s not much space to make a mess and when there is chaos it’s all on a very small footprint, which looks even more messy.
Using baskets, boxes, magazine folders and other organisers helps to keep the chaos at bay and makes a small space look more spacious, too.
Clear boxes make it easier to see what’s inside but it can easily look messy on an open shelf.
So if you have things out in the open, use labels on your boxes instead to find things more easily.
Because if everything has its place it’s also easier to clean up.
Choosing the right organisers goes hand in hand with the multi-functional furniture you’re using.
Make sure the organisers fit perfectly into the furniture and are the right size for what you want to store.
For example, these stackable VARIERA shelf inserts from IKEA double the amount of space you have in a kitchen cabinet.
Decorate with functionality
When designing small spaces people often think that they have to have a minimalist approach to decoration and beautiful objects. That’s not entirely true. While you should think “less is more”, you don’t have to get rid of everything that’s “just” pretty. Surrounding ourselves with beautiful things is just as important as having functional pieces. They make us happy and make a space feel like home, and that’s what we want after all.
There is a simple trick to decorating small spaces without them looking cluttered. And that trick is to decorate with functionality. That means to think about all the things you need to have your small space to make it functional. And then choose pieces that fulfil that function while looking beautiful at the same time.
For example, any space needs lighting, so choose lamps that are beautiful and serve as a piece of art. Or invest in beautiful glasses, plates and bowls and store them on open shelves in a kitchen.
Learn how to style any room in your home like a pro with my Styling Secrets guide.
Get creative when designing small spaces
There are tons of places to shop for furniture and accessories for small spaces. But you can also get creative and build your own, or personalise off-the-shelf pieces to fit your space and style.
And think outside the box!
A shoe cabinet can be turned into a recycling solution for paper.
A step stool can be a nightstand or side table when you don’t need it.
And a horizontal kitchen cabinet can become a hidden desk.
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Take care, Nadine
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