How to Design Around Small Interior Spaces

Ahmad AbouZanat

Designing small interior spaces is like solving a challenging puzzle. For beginners, you can either make the space too cramped and even cause it to resemble a labyrinth. But the great news is you don’t always have to live in a large lavish house to achieve your desired interior style. Whether you want the Regency glamour, the classic Victorian, or the Modern contemporary look, you can achieve your ideal style even if your home is a tiny apartment or condo unit nestled in a towering residential building of New York City.

A lot of people prefer to live in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city for the sake of convenience. And most of them live in micro-apartments for several reasons. In the housing industry, tiny homes and micro flats have become a niche trend for both reasons of necessity and sustainability. Living in tiny residences, especially in city centers, appears to be more cost-effective. There is no wonder why many people, especially young professionals who are planning to buy their very first property, opt for a tiny apartment. 

If you live in a small house or are considering acquiring a compact apartment in the city, this blog will answer questions on how to maximize your small space with good interior design. Ahmad, the founder of PROJECTAZ sheds light on the what he has learned from designing small spaces so you can have a little overview of how to approach the process. 

What’s the main challenge you face when designing a small space?

When it comes to construction and remodeling/renovation projects, it’s usually the limitation of workspaces that the contractors have and can work with. It requires more coordination and longer project duration to get the work done properly. Ideally, the client will store all their belongings in a separate space (like a rented storage unit for example). 

For furnishings, scale is very important. Having fewer pieces makes the space look bigger. A larger sofa with 2 small accent armchairs is a lot of seating and doesn’t look crowded. But 2 medium size sofas or 1 sofa + 2 larger chairs will look cramped in a small living room. 

Area rugs are also a great way to trick the eye into thinking the space is larger. If the existing floors are dark, go with a lighter area rug and a shade darker furniture. It automatically brightens the space and light color typically makes the space feel more open and larger.

Storage solutions are key, find storage places that are not added cabinets everywhere. There are a lot of creative ways to create more storage in a small project while making it look like a built-in, in case built-ins are out of budget.

Invest in smart furniture, there are all kinds of good quality furniture that transforms. Murphy beds and sofa beds are the most known examples. But nowadays there are Murphy beds that drop down on top of a sofa or a desk wall that slides to become a bed. 

There are companies that have motorized systems for a more luxury feel. With a push of a button, the bookcase wall will separate from its back part to reveal a walk-in closet or a desk with shelves and storage. These investments go a long way and provide different solutions without taking up too much floor surface all day, everyday. 

How do you enhance the look of a small space?

Color is definitely one of the main ways to do so. Keeping the general aesthetic not too busy and going for lighter or softer colors is very important. 

Understanding the functionality of the spaces is key. For instance, if the kitchen is small, while it’s tempting to do cabinets everywhere, it’s more important to provide worktop surfaces so the kitchen is functional. You can always store things in a nice credenza elsewhere but you cannot cook on the living room coffee table. 

What’s your way of arranging furniture in a living room with very limited space?

Arranging furniture in a living room really depends on how much time the homeowners spend in their space and what activities they like to do. Do they spend a lot of time watching tv, hosting friends over for drinks and snacks, or listening to music? Do they have children or pets, do they host friends for sleepovers, and will require a sofa bed? All things to consider in order to come up with the best layout. 

The answer to the best way of arranging furniture will dictate to several considerations. When designing a living room, you must determine whether a sofa with casual chairs or ottomans is enough, if a sofa bed for instance is required, or is it a typical sofa and side chairs. The size of the space also informs the direction of the coffee table situation, is it a centered table or a cluster of small tables that can be easily moved around.

Arranging living room furniture pro-tip: 

One of the main things for me is that the rug goes under the furniture and covers as much as possible from the flooring. It defines the space and makes it feel like a room within a room – which by default gives a sense of larger space. 

What’s the best way to decorate a small living room?

Go for small accents with high contrast, place them carefully and strategically. Decor items attract attention, what you achieve with high contrast is that the person experiencing the space, especially for the first time, is looking at all these different things that stand out. It can be artwork on the wall, tabletop decors like trays and vases, or soft items like throw pillows and blankets. Instead of being fixated on looking at a small space with furniture that fills up the space, the eye is traveling from one area to another discovering these smaller items. 

How do you bring the full potential of a small space through your style?

My approach is always very functional, no matter how large or small the space. I want to explore the full potential of the space to be functional, the more efficient it is the more successful the end result is. It also makes the smaller space make optimal “sense”. 

In terms of style, in the design phase, I go back and forth a lot to figure out the best placement of any additions to the space, be it soft or hard furnishings. I tend to keep the larger items lighter in color and accent that with contrasting yet complimenting accessories or smaller items. For instance, if we’re adding a built-in or a cabinet in a small space, I advise my client to go for either a natural look material that feels cozy or if we’re opting for color, I try to keep it light or sometimes bright all these finishes help keep the space feel elegant and sophisticated without it being overwhelming. 

When to Hire a Designer to Help?

When it comes to small spaces, one common misconception people have is that you don’t need an interior designer because the room is so small; you can simply design it yourself. However, this is not always the case. As previously noted, decorating a small space might feel like a difficult puzzle to solve. 

It can be quite challenging, thus obtaining expert help is still recommended. Hiring an interior designer will assist you to become organized with furniture purchases, layout design, arrangement, and decluttering. An interior designer also helps with making the most of your budget. 

PROJECTAZ provides consulting services, allowing you to contact our in-house chief interior designer, Ahmad, for help in designing your small interior space. Learn more about the different types of consultations we provide and tell us more about your project by filling out the form.

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