As daunting as the challenge of filling those large areas of a home or apartment can be, the art of making the most out of smaller spaces can be even more of an enterprise.
A small space can be anything from the nooks and crannies of an older building, the limited space of a studio apartment or that three-room bungalow.
There are, fortunately, as many small space options and accessories as there are nooks, crannies and closets. For anyone with a little imagination and a sense of order, there is a myriad of possibilities for the aspiring home decorator in all of us.
Toronto decorator Karl Lohnes has made a career out of the industry of small spaces. As host of HGTV’s This Small Space for seven years (with over 200 shows in the vault, it is now in reruns in both the U.S. and Canada), Lohnes is well qualified to serve up some small-space advice.
“One thing I have learned is that most people feel that they never have enough space. However, no matter what kind of home you own, there’s probably a small space that people are not sure what to do with,” said Lohnes, who is now style editor for Style at Home magazine.
Spaces like vacated children’s rooms, kitchens in older homes, dining rooms and front foyers can all be targets for a new look, according to Lohnes. The front foyer, for example, often affords a home’s first impression.
“Foyers tend to be busy places with all sorts of stuff hanging and on the floor,” he said. “Get rid of the stuff that is not seasonal, throw in a bench seat, (preferably with storage capacity), lay down a boot tray, install a mirror to open it up and a nice, neat and new space is created.”
Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, a New York designer and author of the best-selling book Apartment Therapy, knows that purging all that stuff collected over the years is one of biggest hurdles toward making space.
“We’re attracted to our stuff,” he said from the modest West Village apartment he shares with his wife and daughter.
“In tribal times, our stuff was more for survival. Now that we don’t make our stuff anymore, there’s a glut of it around at cheap prices.”
Get rid of the clutter, suggests Gillingham-Ryan, and you won’t be embarrassed to have people over to entertain.
“Homes and apartments have become places where we don’t spend enough time,” he added. “Cleaning, organizing and arranging your space is essential. Use light colours that open a place up. In a studio apartment, paint the ceiling white, then make the walls an off-white to open the room up.”
The Hovsepian family – Alexis, Melissa, Joshua and mother Ruth – proved that small space can bring a family closer together. All three children survived sharing one bedroom in their Mile End apartment on Park Ave. until their mother decided it was time for a change, bought a 100-year-old, 1,100-square-foot apartment just two doors down, and brought in WOW interior designers Leslie Ornstein and Joanne Padvaiskas to spruce the place up.
The long rectangle of an apartment endured some major renovations and now has the feel of a much larger, modern space, with warm colours, a bared brick wall, hardwood floors, and ingenious use of some limited storage areas.
The whole family unknowingly followed Gillingham-Ryan’s advice, and purged themselves of a good number of mostly unused and outgrown stuff before moving into their new digs.
“I figure we all got rid of about two-thirds of our stuff,” Ruth Hovsepian said. “We didn’t want to clutter the place up. We just brought essential and precious stuff with us in the move.”
Ornstein and Padvaiskas outfitted the three small bedrooms with limited closet space into workable manageable living areas with plenty of room to move while accommodating just the right amount of stuff.
The master bedroom has a built-in chest of drawers flanked by two closets, enough for Hovsepian’s clothes and shoes. A room for the two girls is divided using back-to-back chests of drawers, giving it a two-rooms-in-one effect. The captain’s bed in Joshua’s room, with drawers underneath the mattress, allows him some added storage. Ornstein and Padvaiskas also incorporated a number of cubbyholes into the design – ideal storage spaces that take up little space.
“This is a real family unit,” Padvaiskas said. “They can be together, but yet not encroach on each other.”