By Cherie Barber
Recently I watched a video about an Australian in Japan who lives in a mind-bogglingly tiny, eight square metre apartment. Incredulously, it accommodated a kitchen, bathroom, living space and sleeping loft, albeit in miniature scale. Clearly, such cramped living is not for everyone, but it certainly does drive home how much better we can all be about maximising the space we have, whether it’s a teeny studio or your average-sized suburban home.
Here are some easy ways to supersize any living quarters.
Dual purpose furnishings
These days, it’s easy to find smart furniture that’s multi-functional. Sofa beds are an obvious one, whether it’s in the living room or a spare bedroom you’d rather devote to a home office or quiet retreat. Ditto a wall bed. Then there’s the step up to modular furniture like the popular Jasper lounge from King Living, which has shelves, back cushions and easily converts to a bed. Other space savers are beds with sliding drawers underneath, window seats or outdoor furniture with built-in storage, coffee tables with shelves or drawers, and the time-honoured bath with overhead shower. Shelves can also make an effective room divider in open plan.
Creating obstructions or a clumsy flow of traffic is a sure way to throw away valuable space. So it’s not just about the furniture you buy, but how clever you are with its placement. An architect once said something that has always stuck with me: design for how you live 95% of the time, not 5% (or something along those lines). Which is to say, if you like to entertain, but most of the time it’s just two of you eating together, then do you really want a six-seater table hogging up space? Instead, think about an extension table or a cantilevered table you can butt against a wall. And don’t forget the space a swinging door can take up, so think about a sliding or cantilevered door.
Using dead space
That tiny apartment in Japan is the perfect example of how to extract every last bit of space from a property, including air space. In a kid’s room, think about a desk with the bed above. Stairs can gobble a huge amount of dead space. Underneath is ideal for open shelving or even a built-in home office. The treads themselves can house drawers. In a kitchen, running your cabinets to the ceiling maximises storage.
Colour and light
Dark and warm colours advance; light and cool colours recede. That means a dark colour will tend to close in a small space, especially if it gets little or no natural light. That doesn’t mean you have to go for stark, clinical white. Any light neutral will help make a space look bigger. Add some mirrors to bounce around light, then introduce pops of colour in the furnishings or even a striking feature wall.
–Cherie Barber is the director of Renovating for Profit, a company that teaches everyday people how to buy and renovate properties for a profit.