If you live in, or near a major city, then you know that space these days is at an absolute premium. People paying well over a $1,000 a month to be cramped into studio or one bedroom apartments with several flatmates is no longer the exception but the rule. I've even heard one story of people paying $250 a week to rent out apartment balconies in Sydney!
From the crazy to the absurd, there's no shortage of stories demonstrating that housing is near, or at crisis level in many cities the world over. That's why it makes sense for all of us to make the most of the space we do have. I'm doing a talk about this very issue in San Francisco next month, and for those of you who can't be there I thought a few tips might come in handy.
Up, Up and Away
When real estate is scarce, going vertical is your best option. Look at any major, over crowded city in the world and you'll see all the ways developers have capitalised on the "sky is the limit" approach. At home, it's a wonderful option, too.
Going vertical also has the visual effect of making our ceilings seem higher, which will naturally draw the eye up, creating the illusion of more space.
Open shelving is always a great and affordable option, not only for storage but also for displaying curated items when room is scarce. If you have toys or other unsightly but necessary items, you can always stow away these pieces in baskets on a shelf whilst keeping your space orderly. In the bathroom, don't ignore the space above the toilet. You can opt for a shelf there to store towels and jars that hold cotton buds and other bathroom essentials.
Other places to maximise vertical space is with window treatments. If you're going for drapes, skip hanging them just above the window frame and take them all the way up to the ceiling so they hang just above the floor. If you own your home and have to decided to renovate your kitchen, embrace height here, too. You can go up to three metres (or ten feet) with your kitchen cabinets to really gain a lot of storage and even more "wow" factor.
Light is important to every space and in tiny spaces it's crucial. If you want to maximise space, maximising your light is a good place to start. You'll want to ditch the overhead lights if possible and go for two to three other light sources in each space-- one or two table lamps and a floor lamp are ideal. Wall sconces that can rotate out of the way are even better to limit the need for bulky tables and to free up floor space.
To get the most out of your natural light, hang mirrors on available walls adjacent to windows to practically double your room's natural light.
Finally, I know it’s tempting to feel like the only way to create an illusion of more room is to go white with everything. It's a safe bet that white walls will definitely help create the illusion of more space. I know when I'm feeling particularly chunky, I don't opt for white pants, I go for dark ones because I'm trying to minimise the appearance of space, not enhance it. White paint, especially in a semi-gloss or satin will help reflect light around the room and will definitely promote a more light and airy feeling in the space.
Just don't feel like white walls are a steadfast rule, they aren't. In fact, the big white box is definitely on the way out. Embracing colour, texture and pattern in other places like in home accessories, small nooks or even powder rooms (if you're so lucky) is definitely encouraged.
Function, Function, Function
I really can't stress the importance of multi-functionality in picking design pieces. And there really are some very cool, high quality products out there.
Some of my favourites include nesting tables that can go from being side tables to coffee tables to extra seating. We recently featured in our Friday Faves a rattan footstool that served three purposes, including hanging on the wall as art.
I also really like some of the new sofa bed options available now. They are comfortable and practical, especially if you live in a place where you can fetch a premium for your pad on Airbnb if you go away for a weekend, or more commonly when friends and family come out of the woodwork to stay at your place whilst they vacation in your city.
I'll have a lot more space-saving and general design tips at my talk in San Francisco on Wednesday, 7 November with L Seven Apartments. Let me know if you think these tips are useful and any other design tips that have saved you space and your sanity. I would love to hear them!