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Space Saving Ideas For Homes

Having lived in shared accommodation for most of my life and having travelled and moved way too many times, I have so many space saving ideas that I have used and also thought about using! Here are some of the ideas that you may be able to implement in your own home to save space and make better use of it too.

Use a narrow dressing table or hall table as a desk.

I spent many a sleepless week wedged between a stool and a (very nice cherry wood) futon whilst living in Perth (some great idea I had once to move to one of the most remote parts of the world). During that semester at university, whilst I worked endlessly on my design projects and competitions, I realised that I not only gave myself RSI, but also ruined my lower back, by staying in a random position working from the floor for literally weeks on end. So, I wouldn’t be doing that anymore, but how do you fit a desk in a room smaller than a tin can? I remember when I found the solution for all of my problems! I was living in a pretty big (2.7 x 3.5m2) room in Reading, and one of my flatmates was moving out, when I noticed his desk was much thinner than mine.. it was a dressing table.  It was beautifully narrow, albeit awfully ugly. When I tactfully swapped my clunker for his narrow commode, I had made enough space not only for a desk, but there was also just enough space to do yoga in front of my desk!  In our Battersea apartment, I bought a wonderfully narrow dressing table and used it as my desk and it worked perfectly and it still does today in my home office. This idea can be transferred to breakfast tables, sofas, hallway tables. Think what piece of furniture in a tight or multi-use space could be a different shape but still function as it needs to, which allows either more space around it or another function (and double bonus if you don’t have to fork out money for it!)

Make your rooms work hard for you.

When space was really tight, I made sure almost every single room had at least 2 functions. For example, my bathroom was also a storage room with a hidden utility, my kitchen was also the dining, guest room and living space and my bedroom was my yoga space, home office, walk-in wardrobe and sleep space. If your rooms are thought out properly, you can make them work harder than just a whole room designed to be an office… that is unless of course, you have the opposite problem where you have too much space and coming up with how to fill the space seems impossible without leaving large patches of emptiness and miniature looking seating arrangements.

Be Tidy.

If you do just one thing – designate a space for certain things. Thats it. You won’t have to think about where something goes ever again and you are more likely to put it where it belongs. I also don’t mean the floor in front of the cupboard (I know people like this). I mean office stuff is always in the top drawer, glasses are always in the cupboard above the sink, bags all belong on the rack and shoes by the front door or in their boxes. Create a system that works for you and makes it easy to put things away. If for example the box for your shoes is the last one behind three others under the bed and you know it takes at least 4 minutes to access it, the likelihood of you putting it away at 1am when you are falling into bed is zero.

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Build Anything you can ‘in’.

Yes, I mean built-in wardrobes, built-in shelving, built-in kitchen cupboards build it in! I can hear the naysayers already, yes ok it saves inches, but … it saves inches. When you live in a small space, you need all the space you can get. Building it in, means that when you undoubtedly start over filling everything, it also has more chance of surviving, that’s because if its built-in, its usually more sturdy and intended to last longer. For example, book shelves. We’ve all had one, over stuffed and more crooked than Pisa. Ive never seen a built-in one fail… and in fact I’ve had to rip a few out on building projects, surprised to see that they were still going strong 50 years from the day they were installed.

Use air space and use solid space.

By air I mean ‘in the air’ and by solid I mean use the space under your existing furniture. Obvious examples are using the space above and below your bed. I designed a storage wall for my apartment because my partner has loads of cds and dvds and these fit perfectly into narrow cupboards, which when mixed with deeper cupboards can look a bit more modern. Yes I struggle with the fact that storing things under my bed is bad Feng Shui and I know most of you will think argh, its so 60’s to build cupboards around my bed, but it ultimately is how you design it. Yes it can look crap, or you can make it work for you and it can look great!

Use practical furniture.

Yes unfortunately the word practical must feature here. Lounges with built in storage that convert to beds (seriously ugly, but man how practical is that?) I decided on a bar table in our dining area and bought two stools without backs, so that when they aren’t being used we can keep them under the table. There are some really ugly practical pieces of furniture, but these days with access to the internet and online designers, there really is no excuse, well, unless its a gift, or a hand-me-down, or an heir loom… but there is usually a solution for those too.

I hope that gave you a few ideas to try.

Bedroom Before & After – With tips & Ideas to create beautiful and functional spaces

We all love a good before and after. Many big transformations can take time and are most often unbelievable or difficult to imagine. What could you imagine when looking at the above picture? What would you have created if you were asked to provide a bedroom with lots of storage, a study/home office space with book shelving and a brighten up a long room? (P.S. A wide angle lens for the after photo helps too).

Many see this room as too small, messy or dark and feel they could never make it perfect. Below are descriptions of what I did to the room to make it brighter and more functional. Keep in mind that pretty much everything inside the room went back in there except I changed the desk for a different desk and hid a lot of it in the storage (the bike got stolen within a day of locking it outside … good old London).

1. Built-in storage concealed behind large sliding doors can make a room feel bigger than it really is and save space as the doors don’t open out. Here the high gloss white doors reflect the light from the window, bouncing light around the room.

2. Framing a room can make it feel smaller, so in small spaces its best to keep open shelves to a minimum if you want to make the area feel neat. Instead I created a vertical line with the book shelving, so the room feels taller and more open, especially as previously this end of the room had a tunnel effect.

3. A designer tip is to match your sheets with one of the base or highlight colours of your room. This will make it all look as though its been thought out.

4. Track lights can be really versatile for rooms with multiple uses as you can direct them in different ways. These were the cheapest we could find and they were from IKEA (but still cost over £200!

5. Thinking ahead is really important if you plan on concealing power cables and positioning switches in convenient locations. We reconfigured the lighting in the room by removing the ill placed pendant at the end of the room and positioned the track lights along one wall. We also added lighting above the artworks which doubled as bedside / reading lights.

6. Try integrating minor colours into adjacent rooms to give a natural sense of flow between spaces.


7. Open bookshelves can look really messy, but if you have a lot of books, try containing it to one area and play with organizing them in interesting ways. The open shelving here was set back to make the darker / heavier area with the bookshelves appear less heavy. Looking back now, I could have styled the books better before I took the photo – but you can see it here, fully loaded and very used!

8. Reflective surfaces close to windows can act like mirrors. Light colours help to reflect and make a room feel larger – (but don’t be fooled – high gloss dark colours can also make a room feel larger – just not brighter).

9. Ensure there is enough room for your spaces to function properly. A room can be beautiful to look at, but success comes from getting it practical as well as beautiful.

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10.  If you aren’t confident with colour but want to use it, keep the base pallet simple and use colour in accents or decorative items.

Just because you want a room to be beautiful AND functional doesn’t mean you have to compromise. As long as you have a clear direction and a good design to work with, your design project will almost certainly be a success. Many people think that a room project must be complete with all of the decorative items in place or else it wont feel “complete”. As long as you hold onto your vision, even if on a budget, you will be able to keep working towards your goal, working on each item at a time.

And just a few not so great photos of the completed room to prove that it is the same room!

I would love to know what you would have done differently.  Everyone’s personality, requirements and tastes are different, so if I designed the space for you, how would it have ended up?  Email me and let me know.

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?

To Walk-in Wardrobe or Not To Walk-in Wardrobe

Since moving into our cute, albeit average, three-bed house in Berkshire I have dreamed of finally having a walk-in wardrobe. The reality is, there are two of us in a three-bedroom house, so it is a possibility and it could potentially suit our lifestyle.

When is it ok to remove a bedroom to use it as a walk-in wardrobe? I always ask myself the following things when deciding this for a client:

  1.   What are my daily habits and will a walk-in wardrobe transform my life and really make a difference?
  2.  Is there any other place or space to fit a semi walk-in wardrobe, rather than taking up a whole room for this necessary and hugely practical life changer?
  3.  What kind of property is it, and what affect on the property price, functionality and overall practicality will taking a bedroom away have?
  4. What do the market and location suggest about this decision?
  5. Who is using this house and how? Who will want to use this house in the future and how?
  6. Am I lowering the property function and value by customising the house to my own needs?

I have transformed bedrooms into walk-in wardrobes for clients in super luxurious properties in Sloane Avenue and other places in London, although I would definitely think twice about doing the same thing in our three bed Berkshire home.

Why? The area we live in is a family area. It is domestic, and people want and need three bedrooms. If my husband and I were considering selling and we had created a home with 2 bedrooms in a house that would have sold for 3 we would have cut ourselves short by a bedroom and might also find it difficult to sell the property.  Our home isn’t in an area where houses are large enough to command a more luxurious lifestyle either.  If our 3 bedder was an apartment in a dense city environment where a 3 bedroom property is usually difficult to lease out and the area was in high demand for young, corporate couples, then I think the choice would have been a lot easier.

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I don’t like making long-term or expensive decisions that would lower the functionality of a perfectly good home, even if that functionality is adding to my own life. However, if it transforms my life in a way that nothing else would (ehem, yes we are talking about a wardrobe) then I would look deeper into it.

Currently, I am not at that place where a walk-in wardrobe is going to completely change the way I live, mainly because my clothing and shoe collection is very manageable. To those of you who laugh in the face of house prices based on how many rooms it has (rather than m2), I envy the simplicity.

For now, it looks like I might end up with a brand new wardrobe, about the same size as I currently have, just a bit nicer, more practical and with a few more drawer packs. That is until we build the master suite in the loft, of course…