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How to Make a Small Room Feel Huge Part 2

Living in a small space becomes a lifestyle. You will have to adapt to your surroundings or a more compact way of living (unless you have always lived in small spaces) in order to ensure lasting happiness during your time there.

Your daily habits will need to adjust to a smaller space in order to keep it clean, functional and practical and you will need to work a little bit harder at keeping your space well organised and clean.

Winston Churchill once famously said: ‘We shape our homes…then our homes shape us’

What he meant was that our surroundings influence our lives, whether we are conscious of it or not.

So here are the more habitual and practical tips on how to make your small space feel much larger than it is:

  1. Keep clutter off the floor, tables, desks and beds. Everything should have its place and you need to be meticulous about putting things back in their place.
  2. Use the backs of doors for hanging storage. (This only works if the door is open most of the time so that the storage is hidden behind the door).
  3. Organise your storage by using built-in storage walls, use the hollow areas inside existing furniture (such as beds, desks, coffee tables & poufs). Make every piece of furniture work hard for you.
  4. Utilise shelving and organise things in regular shaped boxes. This makes everything look coherent on the shelving and gives you a way to find things quickly.
  5. Develop habits that make life in the small space easy to live with. Don’t torture yourself by not changing your lifestyle to fit in with the room. If you want it to stay nice and feel nice, you will also need to work at it.

One of the most effective habits to help you live in a small space is to put things back in their place straight after you are finished using them.

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You will need to acquire some good habits (I think) to live in a small room. That’s because anything left out (that wasn’t designed to be left out), will make the room feel cluttered and due to our perception of scale will also subconsciously let us know that the room is small. I am always amazed at how much bigger a room can feel when just a few of these ideas are used.

If you missed Part 1 of this post you can read it here.

How to Make a Small Room Feel Huge – Part 1

Having lived in small, shared, inner-city spaces for much of my 20’s, I found lots of ways of making my tiny rooms appear much bigger than they were and more importantly store all of my guitars and sporting equipment like snowboards, climbing gear and bikes out of the way for daily life.

I remember my first room in London was less than 4m2 (13 square feet) and I loved living there so much. It was cosy, with a big window and I even had one of my super tall besties stay with me in that room. I remember he had to sleep diagonally across with his feet in the storage part of my undersized bed. I think I paid £60 a week to live there (ahh memories).

It wasn’t until recently, when I was working with a client who loves large open spaces that I found he wasn’t convinced about something I had proposed, which led me having to make a digital 3D model to explain it. That is when I realised that this stuff can be quite hard to visualise, unless you have experimented with it or seen the results yourself.

So here I am going to share some of my secrets and experience with you. I hope this is useful and helps you to live better in your small space and enjoy your time there so that you too can look back in years to come with fond memories and a few good stories to tell

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Top ways to living in a small space and make it feel bigger than it is:

  1. Use reflective surfaces (high gloss) and mirrors. When the surface is super reflective you can even use black as it reflects just like a mirror.
  2. Keep furniture low so that your eye casts over it and doesn’t obscure the room when looking around.
  3. Use sliding doors and pocket sliding doors. These will free up the space in front of cupboards, bathrooms and allow you to use the surface of the wall that the hinged door usually hides.
  4. Keep vertical and horizontal lines going full length or height and use built-in furniture to accentuate vertical or horizontal lines. Our eye naturally follows the lines and when the line stops with an obstruction, our eyes rest on it. In a smaller space, you want your eye to be able to move at least a little bit before it stops dead, so stand back and see what is stopping your eyes from flowing.
  5. Put a reflective surface or mirror on the wall opposite the window. This will bounce light around the room and acts like another light source.

In one of my apartments, I built–in high gloss floor to ceiling cupboards with sliding doors on the wall opposite the window. It made the room feel huge and gave me a practical way of hiding all of my clothes.

Want 5 more tips and some good habits for living in a small space too?

How To Design A House on A Tight Budget Part 2

To be honest, I could write a book about this topic because there really is so much to consider and so many different ways that you can approach your project that can save you money.

The main thing I do believe though is that you need to have an end goal in mind and that is why the first 4 steps really help get you clear on what it is you want your end result to be. Unless you are clear on this, you will waver, and wavering WILL cost you money and you most probably won’t get the result you were aiming for (except by luck).

Step 5

Plan and layout your rooms. This is so easy these days! Just google kitchen layout or living room layout and get loads of ideas for your own space. Make a decision based on how you live and how you want to live in your newly designed space.

Step 6

This is a little harder unless you have some experience, but you will find out soon enough how much things cost in a home and where to source things. So the next step is to figure out where you are going to spend your money. This is usually where you will get disheartened. Seeing how much things ACTUALLY cost (seriously? £60 for 1 cushion!) – So now is the time to really know where you will spend your money.

If your lifestyle commands that your kitchen is the heart of your home, then that might be a no-brainer, the kitchen is where you spend the money. In a living room, it could be the lounge or the built-in tv wall. If you want to ration it around the house, then that’s ok too, just remember when you see that gorgeous rug that is completely out of budget… Be strong, there will be another rug, just as soft (almost), with a beautiful weave (almost), for a much better price…

Step 7

Spend time sourcing. One of the hardest things you will probably come across is where to find that amazing lamp you just need to complete your room and you can’t find it anywhere. The cool thing about being a designer is that people approach me to show me their products; so I don’t usually have to search for too long as I have good connections with the industry.

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For the rest of you, I have shared my Pinterest board, so that you can at least have somewhere to start as this is where I share all of my go-to places and it really is a great resource. Follow it here: https://uk.pinterest.com/jochrobak/interior-designers-resources/?etslf=6966&eq=interior%20designers%20re

If you have any great resources you want to share, please email me or ask to collaborate on my Pinterest board.

Step 8

Get it to a stage where you can live with it, then you can spend the rest of your days tweaking it, evolving it, testing other fun ideas or changing things up for the season.

It is an amaaaazing feeling when you have finished a room to perfection and it is just everything you had imaged it to be and more. Don’t stop until you get to this place. It IS worth it.

One of my followers said she saved loads by buying expensive furniture second hand and repainting it to look new. Let me know how you saved money on your own project?

How to Create a Sophisticated but inviting Living Room

Have you spent ages designing your living room, meticulously choosing pieces, mulling over colours, styles, Pinterest and Houzz photos, then stood back and instead of an “ahhhh” got a “hmmm”?

There is nothing more frustrating when you have an image in your mind when creating your dream space, for it to turn out different to the way it was in your mind. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. The hardest task for any home decorating project is finishing it to a point where you can sit down and enjoy it whilst in the space, rather than looking around and thinking, “something just isn’t right”.

If your brain won’t rest whilst in your space, here is a checklist of things to try which I hope will help you achieve your “ahhhh”.

Have your End Goal In Mind

Whether this is a style, feeling or theme, the first key is to keep every decision in line with your end goal. In the living room example here, my reader had set out to achieve an industrial look but ended up with something quite different. She has now decided on “sophisticated but inviting”. (Which I just fell in love with as a description!)

Be Confident With Your Story

Using this room as an example, you can see that all the pieces are telling a story individually, but they aren’t really communicating together to create one story.

So if we then take the brown leather Chesterfield sofa and the modern light grey sofa and use these as the main pieces to tell our story (I chose these because they are likely to be the most expensive investment pieces here) then they are definitely (in my opinion) speaking the same language of sophisticated. So what is missing?

Create A Focal Point

At the moment there isn’t a main focal point, it could be the artwork, or it could be the Chesterfield, or the gorgeous window, or it could be the fireplace. Ask yourself “where do I want my eyes to rest”? Because the sofas are already achieving my end goal, I would, in this instance for a cost-effective and quick fix, make the sitting space the focal point.

Balance The Colour

The colours already used in the main pieces that tell our story are brown leather, light grey, white and tan. So why did I introduce taupe? Taupe can be used as a neutral and here I used it as a backdrop to the focal point, which creates warmth and hopefully creates something inviting.

Taupe is also a very sophisticated colour, especially the regal undertone of purple, gives it a little bit of a luxurious feeling too. I also know that a “cold” taupe, will play off the existing grey, brown and tan and so I used the white and taupe as the backdrop (not the feature – the sofas and sitting space are the feature).

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Balance The Materials

I used the dimples of the Chesterfield to bring in a new item of furniture to replace the wicker chair. The leather in the Chesterfield has a reflective quality and the grey sofa is soft and light which means they are quite contrasting, even if they are telling the same story.

The imaginary piece of furniture I put in to replace the wicker chair was my idea for a piece that would tie these two pieces of furniture together whilst balancing the materials in the room. The dimples play off the Chesterfield, and the colour ties the grey and brown together (it’s a “cold” red undertone). I tried to stay consistent with the language of the style so it is still sophisticated and inviting.

I also added the metallic sisal rug for texture underfoot and the reflective high gloss table to bounce the light around the room. I also added sheer “cold” brown curtains for softness.

Balance The Furniture

The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to balance the furniture and house décor to tie it all together. I replaced the coffee table as it was still part of the urban industrial phase and brought in an inviting but sophisticated table instead. The finish as described above helped bounce the light and the white colour was to balance the white backdrop and bring its elements into the focal point.

I also added artwork with the same tones now in the room (cold purples, browns and reds), a white mother of pearl mirror and the Kelly Hoppen house jewellery on the coffee table to bounce the colours around.

What do you think? What would you have done differently? Do you think it is now sophisticated and inviting? Let’s wait and see what my reader will do (hopefully we will get an update soon!)

Greige Rage

The thing that every designer is talking about right now might feel a little underwhelming, although what I like about it, is its complexity.  (Geek alert).

The most used word I am hearing all over the trade shows is grey. Warm grey, cold grey, greige and even my clients want grey!

So I put together a little go to grey checklist for you. To be honest, grey is a trend, but it is here to stay for at least a few more years, so if you are thinking of tiling with shades of grey don’t freak out just yet.

  1. The first thing I would ensure I know when thinking about using grey at home is whether the grey I am using is warm or cold. The colour consultant at the counter of any paint shop should be able to tell you this if you can’t figure it out yourself, don’t feel to afraid to try it!
  2. Next understand what undertone the grey is. For example. Kelly Hoppen is famous for using taupe. Taupe typically has a purple or cool red undertone. This is technically a neutral although to an untrained eye it will look grey. Your grey will have an red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple undertone. You can always ask someone to help you at a paint counter (so don’t freak out just yet).
  3. Now consider are you using the grey as a feature, backdrop or a neutral so that some other colour in the room can steal the show? This is important because if it is anything but a neutral, I would always repeat the colour in the room at least twice.
  4. Test the colour in your own home. Buy a tester pot and paint at least an A4 sized piece of card with your grey. I always paint the wall behind in brilliant bright white to give me a better understanding of the colour. You can always just place your piece of painted card onto a larger sheet of white paper, this means the current wall colour wont reflect onto your paint choice to discolour it. This is important because depending on whether your room faces north, south east or west, the colour of light will be different during the day. You always want to test your colour in the space and in the same plane that it will be used.
  5. Know your base colour and keep it with you when choosing fabrics and furniture. This will make sure that the room makes sense together at least in terms of colour. You will be surprised how dirty a beige sofa can look with a blue grey wall if you haven’t gotten your colours right.

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This should give you the confidence to start using grey in your home, especially if you love the new styles coming out and those gorgeous understated images of calm living rooms and bedrooms. Decorating is more complex than most people think! I wasn’t taught how to decorate in architecture school. I learned from many years of experience and working on hundreds of properties, so don’t feel down if you aren’t a natural at working out your greys just yet. Practice and have fun!

Don’t take your interior so seriously. If you need some help, send me a message or give me a call.

More Ideas To Change Up A Room

Last week I gave you some ideas on how to revamp a tired room and I had lots of feedback saying that you liked the simplicity of the ideas and wanted more! So here are a few more ideas to pimp up space on a budget and without spending too much time on it either!

Create Storage or a display

I often find myself telling clients that all that is really missing in a particular room is storage. Be creative about how you store items. People do this easily with children’s rooms, but then forget about it when it comes to other rooms. If you love having a display of something you own, create a collection of something, books, pictures, photographs, shoes. Anything can be displayed in a creative and fun way and these days with the internet, try googling “Objet d’art” or “interesting ways to stack books”.

Organise your spaces to function properly

This is actually really rewarding and can save you time searching for items later. I always say, when clutter goes, creativity flows…

Update your light bulbs and lighting

Can you swap your lighting for a home system on an Ipad or RAKO style keypad, or a dimmer switch? You usually don’t have to really rewire with some systems either, you just need the system and some dimmable bulbs. This can completely up level a living or kitchen space, especially if you want to entertain or sell up.

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Create a mood for the daytime and a mood for the night time

I do this in my living room by turning on different lights during the day to make the space feel really bright, but at night I love only turning on the mood lights with candles and I even close the shutters early (while its still bright outside) so that I feel cosy when the weather is cold!

Replace something that you dislike

There is nothing more tormenting than a stained bed sheet or an ugly old set of chairs (I’m not talking shabby chic here, I’m talking broken, you get angry when you look at it and you waste your energy on hating it) –I rotate colours every season, but I usually go for yellow or green in spring, Blue and white in summer, red in autumn and white and black in winter. For some reason, these colours brighten my mood and compliment the weather for me. So find a colour theme that you can work with year round if you aren’t prepared to rotate and start replacing certain things with a vision in mind of the grand picture… you have one right?

The biggest mistake when choosing paint colours and my 3 step fix

Early on in my career, I remember asking one of the architects I worked with, which colour to choose for the outside of a property. She told me that she couldn’t tell me the answer and that I would have to test it on the house itself!

I thought it was ridiculous at the time but she was right, colour is much more complex than I ever imagined. That is because colours change with different amounts and quality of light.

To be honest, I never really understood what she meant that day until I had to really start choosing colours myself. I found that the colour I chose in the office, looked completely different when it was in the space! Absolute disaster!

The biggest mistake you can make with colour is not to test it in multiple locations in the same room.

Until you try this yourself, it is really hard to imagine just how different a colour can look.

Above is an example from my living room this morning.

Artificial light has different colours (remember looking into a mirror in a bathroom with fluorescent lights?) These can hugely impact the tone of your skin as well as the colour on the floor and walls! The great thing here is that you can control artificial light and so if you chose the right lights with the right colour, everything will be fine.

The same goes for daylight. (I know, how irritating right?) But you can’t control daylight like you can artificial light (except for curtains & awnings), so you need to know what colour and quality of light you get from each direction, then you can design alongside it!

Phew! And you just wanted to choose a paint colour for a wall right?

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So here is my 3 step process to ensure you choose the right colour every time:

  • Step 1 – Ask yourself: Why have I chosen this colour & what result am I looking to achieve?” (bright, happy, cosy, serious etc.)
  • Step 2 – Paint your colours on the largest sample possible and place it in the room in the same plane you intend to use it. (ie vertical or horizontal)
  • Step 3 – Test how the colours look during the day and night with different types of lights (put the exact bulb into the light fixture that you are thinking of using).

This way, you will be able to choose the colour that achieves the right result.

I explain this in a fun way, whilst decorating my living room in my free interior design course. You can watch it here.