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Living Large in a Small Space

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo DaVinci 

Recently I was interviewed by Hunter Hauk for an article in D Home magazine on living large in small spaces.  The article, Is Small the New Big?, appears in the January 2012 issue and features some of my suggestions on how one might make the best use of small square footage.

Read Is Small the New Big? here.

Small space living is something my firm works with on a daily basis; whether our client is downsizing from a larger family home because they’ve become “empty nesters,” or they’re acquiring a second home (often smaller than their main residence, but occasionally much, much larger), or we’re working with the “second generation” clients on their first home. 

Life in a small space doesn’t have to be austere or cluttered.  Life in a small space can be elegant.  

The key is to see the space with different eyes.  

To begin decorating a small space, it helps to establish your goal for the space.  Do you want to make it feel more spacious and lofty, making the boundaries disappear?  Or, do you want to emphasize the coziness of your small space?

To achieve that open lofty feel, use a few fabrics generously, but limit patterns. Rather, look for glowing textures because too much heavy texture can feel like a bear hibernating in a cave. Keep the feeling gauzy and open with occasional glimpses of sparkly and transparency. 

If a cozy space is your goal, look for fabrics that have a matte finish, like cashmeres and soft wool.  Avoid overly “furry” fabrics and focus on luxurious texture instead.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

In this music/media room, we embraced the “coziness” of the small space by installing panels of quarter figured ash, stained a dark walnut then glazed to achieve a satin finish.  Furniture is croc embossed leather dressed with cuddly throws.

Wallpaper can also be used in a small space to great advantage.  Large scale pattern is very hot right now and can work well in a small space, providing it doesn’t compete with other patterns.  Small patterns would also work well, as they tend to blend and become neutral in a space.  Avoid mid-scale patterns though.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

The bedroom above embraces the dramatic in a relatively small space.  For its vibrant, young occupant, we pulled together a glowing palette of ruby pinks, chartreuse greens, and incorporated a sculptural wall covering, with deep dimensionality that is highlighted with a hand painted gold finish.

The example below shows how to expand a small space using a subtle and relatively monochromatic palette of lustrous cream and soft grey.  The walls are enhanced with a soft, almost tea-stained, hand-painted map of the world.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Utilize mirrors and mirrored walls, judiciously.  In this project we installed a custom, mirrored headboard.  This addition really opened up the space.  Additionally, they added a bit of “surprise” to a room. 

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Incorporating Lucite elements and glass tables provide necessary surface area without the added the bulk of wood or metal.  The resulting sparkle of these pieces adds an element of visual interest and surprise.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

In accessorizing, there are two schools of thought, and both can work.  First, accessorize with a few, exquisite objects with dramatic shape and dimension.  Second, if you have collections of small objects, group them for display on a tray.  Also staggering their heights using acrylic risers can help create a visual appealing display.  

You may remember the image below (featuring some of my small collection of Old Paris porcelain) from my post on Collecting.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

There’s so much more I could say about designing for small spaces, but that’s for another blog… particularly one about my granddaughter Tiger’s ingenious bedroom.  How’s that for a not-so-subtle hint at things to come? 

Love, Sherry 

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