Published: February 01. 2011 2:00AM
Written by Kondria Woods
Photography by Fish Eye Studios, Mayme Baker Studios, etc.
A space to call your own is the best space in the world … even if there isn’t much of it. These days — and in more ways than ever — less is definitely more. We’re driving smaller cars, we’re striving for smaller carbon footprints and we’re living in smaller homes, with plenty of room for gracious style.
“Designing for small spaces does have its advantages,” said Adrienne Fulmer of Postcard From Paris (www.postcardfromparis.com). “Small rooms lend themselves to simple designs. This limits the number of components and allows one to give their full attention to the details of the room, which can make for spectacular surprises for your guests to discover.”
So just what is a “small space”? It’s a great question, as small is relative to where the space is actually located.
“I would say 1,500-2,000 square feet,” said Misty Green, owner of Details LLC (www.facebook.com/DetailsLLC). “We're fortunate that even apartments and condos in the area have decent space compared to New York City and other metro areas, where 550 square feet is the norm and 1,200 square feet is a luxury.”
From her retail location at Palmetto Home and Garden on Laurens Road, Green has seen a surge in small-space interest from her empty-nest clients and recent retirees. Many are transitioning into a townhome, a loft space or a cozy vacation home.
“Many of my clients actually like the fresh start, and are even changing styles from what they had in their previous homes,” she said. “They are keeping their favorite pieces and adding where needed. I always recommend that they purchase pieces they love and pieces that can work in a few different rooms and serve multiple functions. That way they will always have options with those items moving forward.”
“We’re not leaning toward McMansions anymore,” said Cynthia Hughes Masters, owner of Panageries (www.panageries.com). “People are getting smarter with their space, and it’s about editing your possessions, keeping what you really want and losing the rest.”
Mayme Baker, Mayme Baker Studio (www.maymebakerstudio.com), agreed. “The trend over the last couple of years has definitely moved toward scaling back space in general. For new construction and renovations, folks are more interested in functional, cozy spaces versus huge sprawling rooms. That, ironically, can make furniture arrangement more difficult than a smaller room. The emphasis now is on family space and not feeling like you need a staff to run the house.”
A big fan of small spaces, Baker’s creative touches can be seen immediately upon stepping inside the well-appointed home of her sister, GraceAnna.
“Small spaces are my favorite!” she said. “I consider them little gems, and like to think of them as a sparkly little challenge. You don't have to compromise wonderfulness just because you may live like a Lilliputian. Remember, a small space will look smallest when it is empty, or full of ‘bitsies’ or tiny furniture, so the more appropriate furnishings you add and the bolder the pieces, the better. Pick one really fantastical thing like a huge out-of-scale urn, a gorgeous grandfather clock that grazes the ceiling, a massive damask wallpaper, and work from there.”
Masters said she’s been working with many clients who are looking to get the most from putting their smaller spaces to work.
“Within one client’s home, the dining room needed to do double-duty as the office,” she said. “In that case, using a flip-top table that can double as a dining table or desk makes sense. Or using a bookcase that can hold a TV and allows a fold-out for a desk. Organization is key, and small spaces need storage. One of the things I look for is unused space, like the space underneath a set of stairs or a closet that can be opened up. In bedrooms, platform beds are more contemporary. Since they are built up, there’s no need for box springs, and drawers on the sides can be used for storage.”
Want to get serious about your own small space? Pull out those paint brushes and make your way to the paint store for a selection of swatches. Moe Draz of Postcard From Paris recommends sticking with the lighter, neutral side of color.
“Light colors on walls will make a small space feel open,” he said. “Keeping the same color throughout the space and adjacent rooms will give a seamless, more open feel. Painting the walls, ceiling and trim the same color and simply changing the finish of the paint will minimize the divisions between the surfaces and make ceilings feel higher. Dark hardwood floors tend to visually recede and contrast light-colored walls and furnishings. Of course, there are times when darker colors can work in smaller spaces. Dark, rich colors can be particularly striking in moody spaces like studies, bars or smaller living rooms.”
“The color palette you use is really important,” Masters said. “Don’t shy away from dark colors, but stay with something more tonal, like shades of gold, gray or green.”
Selena Riddle, owner of Elegant Environments (firstname.lastname@example.org), added, “Something in a lighter, neutral color creates a lot of openness. To add height to a room, you can bring the ceiling up by using a lighter version of the color used on the wall. This should make the ceiling appear as a shadow. Also, make sure that the colors flow from one room to another. Use an accent wall, like a vertical stripe, to also add height.”
Baker has a decidedly different and lively take on coloring a small space.
“Make it bold and juicy!” she said. “Why not? Life is short and the space is what it is. It’s not going to grow bigger just because you put beige on the wall. Don't forget wallpaper. You can transform a space with pattern and texture on the walls. As far as color, dark can be divine, depending on the space. It's a light-sucker, so it can either be really wonderful or just awful. I love avocado-y greens and mid-range pinks, which are exuberant and flirty. Charcoal grey, my new favorite thing, is lovely, modern, good. I recommend using light English pine antiques for instant patina. You can go with a gorgeous mustard, but not too brown, though, and it works every time, too. Paint the moldings all the same color, too. Just make them super shiny and the walls velvet flat.”