Small space living: be stylish and eco friendly
Small space living: be stylish and eco friendly
We Brits have some of the smallest homes in the EU, as builders and developers give us tiny rooms, invariably with no built-in storage. And as buying property remains unaffordable for many so we're going back to being a nation of renters. In which case don't deny yourself good furniture, just make sure it's easy to pack up and take with you when you move.
It may be fun to play with dolls' houses, but living in a small flat or house can get people down for obvious reasons. Which may be that you bang your head on the ceiling if you're a tall bloke, or that it's a pain having to crawl over the bed to get into it, or that not having anywhere to put up guests overnight makes for loneliness.
But London contemporary interior designer Paul Warren says what really makes life hard for people is having nowhere to put your stuff - 'so you pile up clothes on the backs of chairs, books and magazines on the floor, and suddenly you're living like a hoarder even though you're not one really.'
'So few properties have built-in storage these days, which is outrageous,' he says. 'You buy or rent an expensive house and there are no wardrobes, bookshelves, or cupboards. So the key to living in a small space is to prioritise storage.'
If you own rather than rent your home, he advocates finding a local carpenter to make built-in storage if you can afford it. 'A slim wardrobe in an alcove.. shelving either side of a fireplace with cupboards underneath. Many older properties, certainly, will have areas where built-in storage is possible.
When you move into a small property, he says, be rigorous in taking only what you need. 'Make a list. We all need a bed, a sofa, a few chairs and a table.
'Get those things in place and see what space is left. There might be room for a coffee table in the sitting room. You might be able to fit a blanket box at the end of the bed, in which you can store bedlinen and sit and do your shoelaces up.'
Top tip: look out for pieces of furniture you can store things in as well as sit on. And with beds, choose a base that's raised off the floor so you can store stuff in boxes under it.
Cards on the table
There are many small space scenarios. You might have bought your first home - a flat or studio - and be in the enviable position of having some cash spare to buy some good pieces of furniture. Obviously once you've got your built-in wardrobe and shelves, you need to think about eating and how to entertain friends...so you need a table.
Extendable tables made from sustainable wood are readily available.. try John Lewis, West Elm and Ikea, while for more designer pieces visit Heal's or Conran shops. Or how about a low coffee table that can rise to become a desk or an eight-seater dining table? The Revo table by small space living experts Furl is just the ticket. Made in Italy, priced at under £1,000, it does offer good value if you think it's a sturdy piece of Italian engineering that will last for decades. Furl also offer pull down wall beds in units with integral shelving and hanging space which are perfect for studio flats. And while they're not exactly hand luggage, they can move house with you...
If your budget is small, Ikea's PS limited edition of range of pieces designed for small space living has some excellent products, so don't miss out. The PS range is updated each year.
Keeping with tables, if you like reclaimed timber you could talk to eco-friendly furniture designer John Osborn, who makes dining tables using scaffold planks that he upcycles by hand. He knows not everyone has room to have a large table up all the time, so his scaffold tables are collapsible and foldable and so can be slid under a bed or behind a sofa until needed.
Look into buying a wall bed or a desk bed. Wall beds fold up into a box frame, mattress and bedding as well, in the morning, so your bedroom becomes instantly more spacious.
Good quality wooden wall beds can run into thousands of pounds, but wall bed experts, such as the London Wallbed Company, will advise you. If you're likely to be staying in your small dwelling for a long time, a wall bed could greatly improve your quality of life by freeing up space.
Another versatile, useful product that's won admiration from many architects and designers is the British-designed Study Bed. It takes just a few seconds to turn the desk into a bed and back again - the mechanism means you don't have to clear your desk before pulling the bed down.
Made from MDF and wood veneer, It's ideal for a small bedroom or a home office - so much easier than having to blow up a lilo for that imprompu overnight guest. Prices from £1,680.
Alternatively, if you have the ceiling height, find a carpenter to make you a platform bed, and have your home office underneath it. Again, a good option for a studio room. And don't forget beds with deep storage under the mattress. Dreams and Warren Evans offer wood framed beds with ottoman storage.
For end of bed units for storage and seating, The Natural Bed Company has high quality wood products such as its Black Lotus collection. The oak/walnut end of bed drawer unit is very handy, offering a seat, a large drawer for storage and a shelf for shoes.
If you like to have books, you can make your own bookcase, which can grow as required, using cleverly designed modular plywood boxes from Barcelona's Kazam! They've called their product BrickBox and it comprises boxes (with carrying slots) that fit on top of each other. You can make the configuration you want, and when you come to move house, you just carry the boxes full of books out to your removal van. Use the boxes to build a room divider too. Choose large (57x27x36cms)or small (27x27x36cms) boxes, which you can order online.
UK furniture maker ByAlex offers a similar product, Playwell, which are wooden boxes with a shelf or drawer that can be slotted together to make whatever you need - a chest of drawer or a bookcase.
Full length mirrors that lean against the wall are great and ones with some storage behind are even better. The Brunel lean to mirror from Heal's has a wood storage box and a small rail for hanging clothes. And for a mirror with shelving, the Loft mirror from Mirror Deco is a good piece, ideal for a bathroom or hall as it has three shelves for things such as cosmetics, keys or tiny pot plants.
Super slender stairs
For self-builders with narrow access points, say to a loft or a roof terrace for example, the 1m2 spiral steel staircase from Dutch company EEstairs is perfect, as it occupies the area it's named after. It's very eye-catching and can be finished in any RAL colour you want. Around £2,900 ex VAT.
For kitchens, either try a modular compact module kitchen, or choose freestanding pieces, such as wooden trolleys which you can use to prepare food and keep things on.
If you're an owner and want a range cooker, look at the A rated electric Richmond model from British maker Stoves, which is just 55cms wide. Around £685.
You can keep things tidy with the Franke Largo Workcenter stainless steel sink which has two integrated bins, a small one to keep your cleaning things in, the other for food prep waste..so chop and tip.
And if you love Italian styling and can afford it, the Elica compact 35CC extractor would a welcome addition to your wall, offering a splash of colour. It's meant for small rooms, being a 35cm cube of steel with four powerful LED lights. It does its job very effectively while looking stunning. Around £1,300.