Never Too Small Essential Guide to Your Living Room

Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, and whether you’re in the middle of designing your home or simply looking to mak

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Never Too Small Essential Guide to Your Living Room

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Never Too Small

Essential guide to your living room

Contents

1.

First steps

6

5.

Be frank 8 Layout 9 Budget 10 Be open minded 10

2. Finding your style

6. 12

Defining zones

Furniture

35

Choosing a sofa and furnishings 37 Choosing other furniture 40 Choosing multifunctional 43 Upcycling/second hand 50 DIY 52 Rugs 54 Curtains 59



Floor to ceiling units Wall mounted shelving Savvier storage Storage tips and tricks

65 67 68 69

Awkward spaces

71

23

Furniture 25 Doors and curtains 27 Colour 30 Materials and finishes 31 Lighting 32 Creating levels 33 Making it work 33

4.

62

Tiny entrance 74 Passageways 78 Corners and alcoves 79 Staircases 81 Looking up 83

Mood boards 15 Colour 18

3.

Storage

7.

8.

Lighting up your living room

84

Accent lighting Task lighting Ambient lighting Lighting tips and tricks

87 87 88 89

How to make your space feel bigger

91

Reducing visual clutter 94 Mirrors 96 Materials and colour 99 Paint 101 Flooring 102 Sliding and folding doors 104

Contributors

Mariah Burton

Nicholas Gurney

Jack Chen and Hidy Wong

FOLK STUDIO

NICHOLAS GURNEY

TSAI DESIGN

Mariah is a Sydney based interior designer who first entered our orbit in 2020 when we featured her CHIPPENDALE HOME (Ep 43) on NTS. She is co-director of Folk Studio, a boutique interior design and styling studio focused on residential spaces and beautiful interiors.

Nicholas specialises in transforming and enhancing small spaces, with eight of his projects featured on NTS since 2018 (and many more to come - we hope!). These include one of our most popular episodes to date - THE WARREN (Ep 23).

Jack leads a small team of designers and architects at Tsai Design out of Geelong and is the architect behind one of our most viewed projects - TYPE ST (Ep 10). Jack and his team are drawn to challenging projects and driven by a desire to realise the full potential of these spaces, from small-footprint apartments to houses in tight, narrow blocks. Integrated and multifunctional furniture is often a resulting feature and their award-winning DROP LEAF TABLE - a beautiful and flexible table designed for confined living - is one of their latest projects. We are delighted to have worked with both Jack and Hidy from Tsai Design to craft this guide.

We love that Mariah and her team sight people as their principal source of inspiration - “not Pinterest”. Their end goal is to design spaces that make people feel a sense of tranquillity, purpose and joy and a confidence that their space reflects who they are. TIP  Look out for Orange text throughout this guide as they are clickable links to our videos, websites and other resources. 

Nicholas’s approach is heavily influenced by his background in Industrial Design but informed first and foremost by the needs of his clients. The results are highly functional and innovative, with a focus on the clever organisation of space. Nicholas, like us, is a passionate advocate for small-footprint living and through his designs, seeks to challenge notions that it is characterised by constraint and compromise.

3

IMAGE CREDIT  Barton Taylor Photography



4

Hello and welcome to our guide to living better in your living room.



Perhaps the most delightful thing about doing what we do at NTS is all the inspiring and generous people we get to meet. Within the pages of this guide, we feel privileged to share with you the insights, expertise and trade secrets from some of our most valued collaborators. This is gold dust to us and we hope it will be of great value to you too. We combine this gold dust with all we’ve learnt (and believe you will find useful) about living rooms from researching and publishing more than 100 episodes of NTS. It’s worth noting that this guide is more about styling and organising rather than renovating. It’s centred on lowintervention improvements that will deliver high impact. In this way, we trust it will contain value for homeowners and renters alike. So, whether you’re embarking on a complete redesign, looking to make a few small tweaks or starting from scratch, we’re very happy to be part of your journey. Our intention with this guide is to give you the help you need to transform your space into one you love to spend time in. You might have a small space to work with but know this: it’s full of potential. The design that most inspires us at NTS meets constraints with creativity. We want to inspire you to do the same. Consider rearranging existing furniture, refinishing, upcycling, repairing, thrifting… DIY. This exercise does not need to come at a great cost (to you or the environment). So if your constraints include budget as well as space, then rest assured, this guide is very much for you too. Finally, there is no right or wrong here. This is about your own style and what makes you and the people you share your space with happy. Forget about the latest trend, it will only be replaced by another tomorrow! Your space should reflect you and be comfortable and joyful for you. This philosophy guides all the decisions I make in my living space and I hope it will serve you as well as it does me.

LOVE, COLIN AND THE NTS TEAM X

5

1.

First

steps

IMAGE CREDIT  Form practice

First steps

7

Be frank

Interior designers will often start their consultation by asking you to honestly consider how you use a space because it helps to plan the layout and choose the right furniture and accessories to suit your lifestyle. It’s easy to get carried away creating collages and mood boards of beautiful designs, furniture pieces and colour palettes, but understanding how you truly use your living room will help create a clear design direction. For instance, if you’re someone who often does yoga in the living room, incorporating a coffee table with wheels means you can easily move it out of the way for activities. At the end of the day, a living room that is comfortable and functional to you is more likely to be a space that you enjoy spending time in.

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Here are some examples of honest questions to get you started

ARE YOU SOMEONE WHO WATCHES A LOT OF TELEVISION?

If not, a small projector could be a good alternative to a TV. You can store it away and bring it out when you need it, freeing up space in your living room for other items or activities. This will also give you more freedom when it comes to the orientation of furniture and how your wall space is used. WHERE DO YOU SPEND MOST OF YOUR TIME EATING MEALS?

If it’s in front of the TV (no judgement), consider a coffee table that rises to a suitable seating level instead of opting for a dedicated dining table.

First steps

Layout

DO YOU HAVE YOUNG CHILDREN OR PETS?

If so, seek out easy-to-clean and hard-wearing fabrics and finishes. You might consider options such as a washable rug or a sofa with removable covers. IS THIS YOUR FOREVER HOME OR YOUR HOME FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

Knowing how long you’ll live in a space can influence your layout and what furniture you choose. You might be more inclined to use built-in furniture in a forever home or wish to spend less on furniture items specific to your space if you plan to move again in a few years’ time.

Once you’ve settled on how you will (honestly) use the living room, you can start planning your layout. This can be as simple as a rough sketch of your living room with a basic idea of where you want items to be. Observing how natural light enters and moves within your living space throughout the day and seasons can be a helpful place to start. Consider whether you want to face towards or away from daylight when sitting on the couch or where to place your TV to avoid direct sunlight and glare. From there, you can identify where larger items, such as your sofa, coffee table or an armchair, should be placed. Another key tip is to consider how you and your guests enter, leave and move around the living room. The placement of furniture can often dictate how people navigate the space. Does the space feel cramped when multiple people are sitting in the room? If so, could you resolve this with a different layout? Use this planning stage to really consider the dimensions of your space and how your existing or desired furniture and its orientation will affect how you and others will use the room.

9

Budget

Be open minded

Having an idea of how much you are willing to spend on your design from the beginning will save you time, energy and, let’s face it, heartache. Redesigning or improving a living room doesn’t have to come with a high price tag, but having a figure in mind for your project will keep you on track and help you decide what you should prioritise and what might need to wait.

To get you started, here is a list of items to consider in your budget so you can add/delete

TWO/THREE-SEATER SOFA FLOOR RUG COFFEE TABLE ARMCHAIR SIDE TABLE

PRIORITISE

BREAK IT DOWN

To help you prioritise your must-have items, we recommend putting a price value against each item you want to add or change in your living space. Everyone values items differently, depending on how they use them. For instance, someone who spends a lot of time reading, relaxing or watching television might be more inclined to spend $2,000 on a sofa and yet much less on a floor rug. Or, if your living room needs to be your storage workhorse, you might be inclined to spend more than others on a coffee table or ottoman to include integrated storage. Try to plan out which pieces or touches have greater value to you and your lifestyle before grabbing your wallet. And remember to include the cost of freight, accessories, installation and even tools or cleaning costs (if necessary) – it all adds up!

Once you’ve made a list of everything you want to acquire or change in your space, spend some time splitting it into two stages to narrow your focus. ‘Stage one’ would be the items that you feel you need immediately for the space to function as you need it to. This might include key furniture pieces and lighting. ‘Stage two’, however, would include items that you want but don’t necessarily need right away, such as artwork, mirrors or some new plants.

First steps

Dividing your design needs into two stages will keep your budget under control and create a clear wish list of items or tasks that you can work towards in the future. Remember, you don’t have to finish your living room project all at once (it’s not a renovation challenge TV show!). In fact, you’re more likely to be delighted with the outcome if you don’t rush your decisions.

ENTERTAINMENT UNIT LAMPS AND LIGHTING CURTAINS AND/OR BLINDS CUSHIONS TV/ PROJECTOR PLANTS

At NTS, we’re big fans of DIY (more on this later) and upcycling — our studio and our homes feature a mix of DIY, second hand and locally designed and made pieces. Are there items you already have that could be repaired, repurposed or refinished? Or have you considered buying second hand or vintage? If getting creative with DIY or purchasing second hand are not natural instincts for you, these routes are well worth considering. On top of being kinder to the environment, they can also have the added benefit of making your budget stretch a little further too. Either way, it’s definitely worth shopping around in vintage and charity shops or keeping an eye on platforms like eBay, Gumtree, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace and Instagram for specific pieces. There are often ways to find that special something at a price that you can afford, especially with some patience and effort.

STORAGE SHELVES ARTWORK + HOOKS SMART HOME SYSTEM COOLING+HEATING SYSTEM

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ABOVE  NTS Creator Colin Chee’s apartment featuring treasured second-hand furntiure and DIY touches.

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2.

Finding

your style

IMAGE CREDIT  Guy Wilkinson Photography

Finding your style

13

Finding your style

Style is a visual way of telling your story and expressing your personality. Often, when we think about our design style, we tend to pigeonhole ourselves into one particular look — such as Scandinavian, mid-century or vintage. While those design styles can be very helpful in informing decisions around things like furniture and finishes, individual style comes from a much deeper place. It reflects who you are by providing a window into your values, your past and what brings you joy. And just as you change and evolve, so can your style. Styling is often perceived as something polished — carefully curated colour palettes, perfectly placed furniture and decorative objects. But it can be more natural and eclectic than this. You may be surprised to see that if you group together the furniture or decorative objects that you love best, somehow, they just work together. And what could be better than being surrounded by objects that make you happy? You might have your grandmother’s old armchair beside your modern sofa or your child’s drawing framed next to an original painting — wonderful! Not every element needs to be cohesive or match the overarching style of your home. It’s these sometimes accidental curations that tell your story and make a space that’s truly unique to you. So how do you bring it all together?

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Mood boards

BELOW  A mood board for Chippendale Home featuring textures, tones and materials to guide the design outcome.

D B O D A R

M OO

D B O D A R

M OO

IMAGE CREDIT  Folk Studio

CHIPPENDALE CHIPPENDALE PROJECT PROJECT

A mood board is a great way to pull all your style inspiration into one place and can set the tone for your living room design. If you’re looking to get the creative juices flowing, start by creating two separate mood boards. Think of ‘Mood Board A’ as your ultimate design outcome and ‘Mood Board B’ as a cheaper alternative or the board that changes and evolves as you do throughout the process. Having two mood boards will allow you to pick and pair different items and materials together from each depending on your budget, style and look and feel. For instance, you might have an armchair and sofa on ‘Mood board A’ that you love but together, are beyond your budget. ‘Mood Board B’, on the other hand, might feature more affordable alternatives. Ultimately, you might decide to prioritise the armchair from ‘Mood board A’ and as a result, purchase the sofa from ‘Mood Board B’. The result being an overall look that still works and importantly, stays within your budget. There are a plethora of online tools that can help you with putting together your mood board. Our favourite is Milanote but Pinterest and Canva are also popular options. Use your mood board to collect textures, colours or specific living room furniture pieces. The more specific and detailed you can be, the better. This approach will help you build towards your desired outcome more naturally and will prove more successful than gathering images of living room spaces you like.

Finding your style

DESIGNED BY:

DESIGNED BY:

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ABOVE  The resulting design for Chippendale Home.

Finding your style

16

Here are three tips to keep in mind

There are some great resources and design templates to be found on platforms like Milanote if you’re in need of some additional tips and inspiration. We especially love their nifty web clipper extension that lets you quickly and easily save text, images, links and video to your moodboard without having to screen grab them. You can check out the Milanote moodboard Colin put together for his recent apartment renovation HERE .

AVOID PRECONCEPTIONS

Start by collating colour schemes, furniture pieces and accessories that you like without worrying about any preconceived concepts or ideas you may have had or notions of ‘what goes with what’. Try to find images of these items on a plain white background to avoid visual clutter on your mood board. This will help you curate different pieces and see how they interact with one another against your space. LAY IT ALL DOWN

While it is easy to bring together all the items and objects your heart desires, it’s also important to see how these new pieces will complement existing elements in your home, such as treasured furniture, flooring, window placements, pre-existing artworks and the colour of your living room walls. Consider taking photos of these key elements to add to your mood board as well. Including these elements in your mood board will bring the old and new together and help you visualise what does and doesn’t work together in your space. Most importantly, it will prevent you from making mistakes you may later regret! GIVE IT SOME TIME

Once you’ve pulled together the overall feel and mood of your ideal living room, put your mood boards down and give yourself some time to mull over your choices. You can revisit the mood boards and make any edits or adjustments if certain aspects aren’t sitting right. Trust your gut. If you are half-hearted about a design element, revisit it and question why you feel that way and what you can do to change it. On page 15 you’ll find an example of a simple moodboard Mariah and the team at Folk Studio put together for CHIPPENDALE HOME along with an image of the final apartment.

TIP  Look out for Orange text throughout this guide as they are clickable links that can bring you directly to the referenced page or chapter. IMAGE CREDIT  Milanote

Finding your style

17

Colour

Colour is such a personal and subjective thing. You may want to keep things neutral as Desmond Wong did in his Hong Kong Apartment CITY VEIL or instead let colour rip as gon architects did in central Madrid Home SOLA HOUSE pictured on the left. If you lean towards a more flamboyant, or eccentric kind of design style, you may be tempted to resist the idea of a planned colour scheme. However, anchoring your space with a base tone can make a big difference, and looking at your space and what’s already there can be a great place to start. If you have concrete floors and white walls for instance, your base colours would be grey and white and these colours might determine the colour of your sofa. Selecting a grey or white sofa, given it’s such a large piece in your space, would then allow you to have fun with colour across other pieces like an armchair, your coffee table, cushions or a rug.

IMAGE CREDIT  Michael Wee

Once you have decided on your base tone then you might move on to deciding on what accent tones you want to bring in. Typically, two or three accent tones work nicely, or if you really want a loud or bold room, you might have up to 10 accent colours. Either way, defining what these will be from an early stage can create some helpful parameters.

OPPOSITE  Warm tones of peach, gold and brown feature throughout The Warren along with vivid pops of red, blue and rich greens from the owner’s extensive house plant collection.

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IMAGE CREDIT  Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán + Rocío Romero)

Finding your style

19

Some tips and ideas…

CONSIDER MOOD AND EMOTION

Think about how you want (and want others) to feel in your space…Cosy? Energised? Calm and peaceful? Work with the colours that evoke this mood or emotion for you. BE PLAYFUL

Unexpected pops of colour can surprise and delight and create a sense of playfulness.

IMAGE CREDIT  Archetypal Limited www.archetypal.hk

ABOVE  A neutral and calming colour scheme as seen in City Veil.

CREATE COHESION

Use colour to connect your spaces and create a sense of harmony and visual calm. SET THE SCENE

If you have some special artwork or some strong patterns in your decor or furnishings, you might decide to keep colour muted and neutral elsewhere to allow these pieces to shine.

Finding your style

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ABOVE  Pastel colours have a soothing and unifying effect in Villa Montserrat.

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RIGHT  An earthy tonal colour palette in Ilioupoli with accents of reds and blues.

IMAGE CREDIT  Yiannis Hadjiaslanis

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3.

Defining

zones

Defining zones

Defining zones

Now that you’ve thought about defining your sense of style, it’s time to think more deeply about how your living space functions. We touched on this earlier, but let’s start talking about zones. The reality is that when it comes to small-footprint homes, a living space will likely need to perform several different functions. Defining zones in a living room changes the entire perception of a space. With many people opting for open-plan, multi-purpose room designs and with the increase of workfrom-home lifestyles, creating zones can help transition between tasks and modes like, relaxing, working or entertaining. Having assigned spaces for dining or storage (if these functions take place in your living room) can make a room feel larger, more spacious and much more organised. When we think about zoning, it’s not uncommon to picture different rooms or physical partitions that separate the living space from the rest of the home. But creating zones can be done in a myriad of ways. It is all about creating a defined design flow that is aesthetically appealing, highly functional and unique to you.

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Furniture

Incorporating movable furniture can allow for greater flexibility in a living room as you and your lifestyle change. WATERLOO STREET (pictured below) is a perfect example of how a small living space was optimised to suit tenants who didn’t want to be locked into specific configurations.

BELOW  Custom made white cabinets on wheels in Waterloo Street can be arranged in different configurations depending on how the owner wants to use the space.

To accommodate their needs, designer Desh Chew from Three-D Conceptwerke included custom-made white cabinets on wheels that the clients could shift around to create space as needed. Chew also selected two tables on wheels that could be pushed together to create a large table for dining with friends or separated into two individual work spaces, and an adjustable wall mounted swing arm lamp that could be directed over the tables as they move around the space.

Bulky furniture, such as sofas, television cabinets, armchairs and dining tables, can act as subtle barriers or dividers for zones. How you arrange your furniture is key to distinguishing different areas in a living room. When designing their small mid-century home in Paris, CRUSSOL (pictured below), architects Ophélie Doria and Edouard Roullé-Mafféïs of Space Factory arranged their sofa against the dining room seating to create two separate spaces, one for eating and one for relaxing.

LEFT  Placing a sofa and dining seating back-to-back divides the living space and dining space in Crussol. IMAGE CREDIT  Herve Goluza

Defining zones

IMAGE CREDIT  Justin Loh, Wong Weiliang

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IMAGE CREDIT  Justin Loh, Wong Weiliang

ABOVE  Two tables on wheels in Waterloo Street can be pushed together to create one large dining table or separated into two individual work spaces.

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Curtains and sliding doors are, perhaps, the more obvious ways to divide a space. In many NTS episodes, we’ve seen curtains and screens used to successfully maximise the function of a living room space, accentuate different areas and hide storage and clutter. With many small homes designed to be multifunctional, curtains can play a great role in dividing living room zones as life transitions from day to night and night to day, concealing storage or establishing a sense of privacy.

Defining zones

IMAGE CREDIT  Peter Clarke

Doors and curtains

LEFT  A multipurpose curtain is used in Karoot to establish privacy between the living zone and adjacent office nook and can also be drawn across the nearby kitchen to soften the overall space both visually and acoustically.

The beauty of curtains is that you can easily change the style, material and fabric, and they take up little to no space (which is a major tick for small homes!). Lauren and Nicholas Russo employed a multipurpose curtain in KAROOT , originally designed for their own young family. The curtain was conceived to establish privacy between the living zone and adjacent office nook (as pictured on the right) but could also be drawn across the nearby kitchen to soften the overall space both visually and acoustically.

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ABOVE  A simple sliding door panel in Roseneath apartment enables interplay or immediate privacy between the living, sleeping and office zones of the apartment.

Defining zones

Similarly, a door or screen can physically section off and open an area to help create functional and dedicated spaces in the living room. A simple sliding door panel is used in the ROSENEATH APARTMENT in Melbourne, designed by Fieldwork architects. The sliding door enables interplay or immediate privacy between the living, sleeping and office zones of the apartment.

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If flexibility is the priority and total privacy is less of a concern, screens and other freestanding or built-in furniture such as bookshelves can be used to establish zones. Co-founder of Studiomama, Nina Tolstrup, designed the METAMORPHIC WARDROBE COME SPACE DIVIDER, a flexible wardrobe that contains storage and can be opened into different formations to provide privacy and flexibility without building walls or permanently dividing a space. Similarly, bookshelves or other freestanding cabinets and shelving units are a simple (and sometimes, a lighter-touch way) to create zones, as seen in EL CAMARÍN (pictured below) in Buenos Aires designed by IR architecture. Incidentally, this particular bookcase was the original inspiration for the living room belonging to NTS Creator Colin and remains one of our all-time favourites. Consider styling up shelves or cabinets with small and sentimental ornaments that leave enough space for the area to still feel open.

IMAGE CREDIT  Dennis Pedersen, Elsa Young

IMAGE CREDIT  Fernando Schapochnik

LEFT  Studiomama’s Metamorphic Wardrobe come space divider can be opened into different formations to provide privacy and flexibility without building walls or permanently dividing a space.

BELOW  Bookshelves separating the living zone from the sleeping zone as seen in El Camarín

LEFT  In Project 26 a dramatic shift from a dark green painted entrance area to a stark white living zone acts as a “visual cue” to slow down and unwind. RIGHT  A burgundy-rose painted feature wall in Villa Saint-Michel clearly defines the living zone.

Using contrasting paint colours is a quick, budget-friendly way to visually separate areas without committing to major physical changes. In Project 26 (not yet featured on NTS at the time of publishing this guide!) designed by Singapore-based interior design firm Resistance (and pictured below), a dramatic shift from a dark green painted entrance area to a stark white living room was employed to create “visual cues to slow down and unwind”. A more subtle execution can be seen in the Paris apartment, VILLA SAINT-MICHEL , where Nicolas Bossard uses pops of colour throughout the apartment to highlight modes and zones, including a burgundy-rose feature wall in the seating area of the living room.

IMAGE CREDIT  Form practice

Defining zones

IMAGE CREDIT  BCDF studio

Colour

LEFT  Floor to ceiling oak cladding used in Type Street to create a clear delineation between the entry, kitchen and living room. The oak cladding contrasts with a white painted wall to create two visually defined spaces.

Materials and finishes Another way to create a zone is to break the continuity of the floor pattern by using different materials. Contrasting flooring can have the effect of signalling different functions and also create the sense of more distinct areas within a single space. Rugs are often a simple and highly effective way to achieve this aim. Those who are a little braver might experiment with materials on walls and the ceiling. In his infamous TYPE STREET apartment (pictured above), architect Jack Chen from Tsai Design created a clear delineation between the entry, kitchen and living room space by inserting oak cladding that ran from the floor of the apartment up the wall and across the ceiling. The oak cladding contrasted with a white painted wall to create two visually defined spaces.

Defining zones

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Lighting

LEFT  Hanging a pendant light above a dining zone, as seen in Monolocale Effe, can subtly highlight a defined area. BELOW  A wall-mounted swing arm lamp as seen in 7MCH can easily be moved around to help define a particular zone in your living space.

IMAGE CREDIT  Giuseppe Gradella

IMAGE CREDIT  Bertrand Noël

The living room is a space that has multiple functions and activities — whether that is relaxing and watching TV, tackling work emails, exercising or entertaining children. Creative lighting can create unique zones within your living space, delineating spaces to suit your lifestyle, no matter the occasion. Particularly in open-plan designs, hanging a statement pendant above a dining table (if it’s part of your living space) will provide great overall ambient lighting for day-to-day activities while subtly highlighting a defined area in your living space. A floor lamp nestled behind a sofa or armchair can create a small nook, providing task lighting for reading, writing or arts and crafts, and can easily be moved around to define other zones. Wall mounted swing arm lamps (as seen right in 7MCH by studiobravo) can also perform a similar role without taking up valuable floor space. You’ll find more tips and tricks when it comes to lighting in Chapter 7: Lighting Up Your Living Room.

Defining zones

Creating levels

Different furniture heights can also work to define and separate spaces. For SMALL GRAND APARTMENT in Melbourne’s CBD, Jack Chen designed a TV unit featuring different heights across its length to create a living and dining zone. Chen wanted to create an apartment that was liveable for his client and her cat, balancing minimalism with functionality by using custom-made furniture to create different livable spaces in the 50 sq m/538 sq ft home.

Making it work

BELOW  A custom-made TV unit in Small Grand Apartment features different heights across its length to establish a living and dining zone.

When space is at a premium, having a study or dedicated home office space can be extremely difficult and yet working from home is a regular reality for many of us. Creating a work zone in your small space is a helpful way to ensure the rest of your living room functions as it should, while minimising visual clutter. The best solution for your home may be a fold-away desk (we’ve included a tutorial for a DIY version in the next chapter!), or a set of floating shelves with the lowest at the ideal height for you to work from. If your need for a workspace is greater than your need for bulk storage, you might consider transforming an existing closet or cupboard space by reconfiguring or removing some shelving. The cupboard door could be removed or could remain to keep your workspace ‘hidden’ outside of working hours. In MARK II (pictured overleaf) Nicholas Gurney included a niche with a foldable work-from-home station in the overall apartment design. When not in use it is cleverly concealed behind a sliding panel that also contains the TV. A multifunctional floor-to-ceiling cabinet in the living room features a pull-out work station with ingenious design elements in TYPE STREET. To transition to work mode, a mounted TV is hidden away and instead an arm-mounted computer monitor and desk can be pulled out from the cabinet. The sliding door separating the living room from the bedroom can also be used as a whiteboard. IMAGE CREDIT  Bertrand Noël

Defining zones

Since balancing working and relaxing in a small home can be so challenging, you’ll find a range of ideas on how to incorporate working or studying into your living room in chapters to come.

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IMAGE CREDIT  Kat Lu

ABOVE  An integrated work-from-home set-up as designed by Nicholas Gurney in Mark II

IMAGE CREDIT  Kat Lu

ABOVE  A home office can be revealed from or retracted into a full height cabinet as seen in Type St.

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4.

Furniture

and

furnishings

Furniture and furnishings

Furniture and furnishings

If you’re starting from scratch, consider choosing your largest pieces of furniture first, such as your sofa. A sofa is often the centrepiece in a small space and typically the biggest investment when furnishing a living room. Starting with the bigger and more essential items will help keep your budget under control and will ensure subsequent furniture and styling decisions build from this base. Once you’ve picked your sofa, you can move onto other big-ticket items and begin to add essential items that suit your lifestyle, whether it be a coffee table, sideboard or armchair.

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Choosing a sofa

LEFT  Two separate chaise lounges in Projekt Własny fit perfectly together in the space and can be rearranged to create a comfortable bed for guests.

Tips and considerations for choosing a sofa for a small living room

One of the most common mistakes for new sofa owners is not measuring the sofa and its intended new home. Imagine buying your dream sofa only to realise it doesn’t fit within your living room! Try not to rely on how big the sofa looks in-store or online. Instead, spend a few minutes measuring your space and determining the exact size that will allow you (and others you intend to share your sofa with!) to sit in comfort. While you can’t always try before you buy, where possible, test run your sofa so you can be confident that everything from the arm height to the firmness of the cushions is optimal for your comfort. Fabric colours and textures can also look very different online and instore so it’s worth getting up close and observing how the fabric has behaved in a shop where lots of people have already sat on it! Pay particular attention to whether it shows up or collects lint or dust and whether it shows any signs of marking or pulls.

RAISE IT UP

SOFA BED

A sofa that is lifted off the ground with legs will show more floor space and naturally make your living room feel more spacious.

A sofa bed is a good alternative if you are someone who often has guests coming to stay.

GO LOW

A WALL BED/SOFA COMBINATION

Similarly, a low-back sofa as seen in Strutt Studio’s COMPARTMENT NO.3 can also create the visual illusion of more space.

A wall bed/sofa combination allows for greater flexibility in your living room but can be more costly than other alternatives. We share some examples overleaf.

THINK MODULAR

A modular sofa like the chaise lounge combo used in PROJEKT WŁASNY (pictured left) gives you greater flexibility and allows you to configure the sofa and easily rearrange your living room. IMAGE CREDIT  Kinga Mądro Photography

Furniture and furnishings

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IMAGE CREDIT  Roomie & @tsubottle

ABOVE  A pair of custom covered Muji bean bags in place of a traditional sofa in HIGE & ME’s Toyko Apartment

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Non-traditional sofas and sofa alternatives

IMAGE CREDIT  Get Hands Dirty

Defining your needs will determine your sofa’s importance. For instance, the central seating in your living space will be your sofa if you choose not to have an armchair. If you choose to have two armchairs, you may settle on a smaller sofa or none at all. For some, giving up a permanent patch of floorspace in a tiny living room to such a large piece of furniture might not be practical or even be an option. If this is the case for you, lightweight and inexpensive furniture like bean bags (or a similar product) may be an ideal solution that offers comfort but a great deal of flexibility. In HIGE & ME’s RENTED TOKYO APARTMENT , they customised a pair of Muji bean bags by making their own covers. At the other end of the spectrum a wall bed/sofa combination like the CLEI WALL BED WITH A SOFA as seen overleaf in SEASIDE ATTIC , will help recover floor space within your living room when a sofa (and/or bed!) is not required. We also love the one Nicholas Gurney designed for this BAYSIDE project but for those who don’t mind a bit of DIY, this SOFA WALL BED SYSTEM designed by Cristiana Felgueiras from GET HANDS DIRTY could be an ideal option. It comes with a youtube video tutorial and detailed instructions.

Furniture and furnishings

ABOVE  A DIY Sofa wall bed with afollow-along video turotial and plans from Get Hands Dirty.

IMAGE CREDIT  Studio Roy

ABOVE  A comfortable sofa can easily transform into a double bed with designs likethe Clei wall bed with a sofa as seen in Seaside Attic.

Buy once, buy right

Choosing other furniture

This principle ideally applies to any furniture investment you make but is especially important for a sofa given it’s typically such a high-use and pivotal piece of furniture. If possible, try to invest in a well designed and well made sofa, as a good quality sofa is more likely to withstand the test of time.

Choosing the right furniture for your living room will once again come back to those soul searching questions about how you truly use your space. Those insights and your individual needs will determine whether options like multifunctional furniture (more on that ahead!) or modular furniture, furniture with hidden or integrated storage or movable or foldable furniture will be best suited to your needs.

If you don’t have the budget for your forever sofa, instead of purchasing a cheaper alternative, consider opting for an interim, second hand piece (more on that soon…) or if you have the tools and the confidence, try making a sofa from scratch. There are plenty of great online guides, including THIS STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE BY HOME WITH MELODY who used plywood, a hand saw and cushions to create a DIY sofa. Think of the pleasure it will give you to make and have made your own furniture!

Furniture and furnishings

For living rooms on the smaller side, furniture that is visually light can work wonders in making a space feel and appear larger, so prioritising these qualities in your furniture selections is important. This approach can be particularly helpful if you live in a studio style space so your living room furniture doesn’t dominate your entire home.

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Some of our tips for selecting furniture for small spaces

THINK SLIM

BE TRANSPARENT

Cabinets, tables and chairs with skinny legs have the benefit of maximising your visible floor space and therefore making it seem more open and airy.

Like the Ghost chair, consider transparent furniture as a way to limit visual interruptions in your space and lend it greater lightness. A glass-topped coffee or side table may be an ideal addition to your space.

RAISE IT UP

Raising furniture from the floor has a similar effect and you might achieve this with some slim legs on a piece of furniture or by selecting a wall mounted piece of furniture. Either way, allowing the eye to take in more floor space from wall to wall can create the illusion of a larger living space

ROUND IT OUT

Another trade tip for creating a visual ‘flow’ is to avoid or limit hard edges and corners by preferencing rounded and curved shapes in your furniture choices

MAKE IT LIGHT

This may seem silly but furniture that is physically light and easily moved around can also create a sense of visual lightness. Think versatile pieces like a plywood stool cum side table, a bentwood chair or a piece like the Phillipe Starck Ghost Chair.

IMAGE CREDIT  Alina Lefa

IMAGE CREDIT  Herve Goluza

LEFT  Raising furniture off the ground creates the illusion of a larger space as seen with this side board in Lycabettus Hill

ABOVE  Transparent furniture, like this glass coffee table in Crussol can make a space feel bigger by limiting visual interruptions.

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LEFT  Choosing furniture with slim legs, as seen in Kolonaki, maximises visible floor space, making your space feel more open.

IMAGE CREDIT  Nikos Vavdinoudis and Christos Dimitriou

PUT IT ON WHEELS

MAKE IT MULTIFUNCTIONAL

MAKE IT MODULAR

FOLD IT AWAY

As referenced in Chapter 3: Defining Zones, moveable furniture can provide life-changing flexibility and a set of castors can easily be retrofitted to many pieces of furniture with minimum expense, tools and DIY experience.

Furniture that performs multiple functions is a fantastic way to conserve space in a small living room and we encourage you to explore practical options that offer integrated storage or the ability to adapt to changing needs within your space. Read on below for more detail on multifunctional furniture.

Any well designed modular furniture, whether it’s a sofa or a set of shelves will bring an added level of flexibility, not only to your living space, but to your entire home. Again, more on this below!

Folding chairs, tables and even beds are a fantastic way to save space. They are often lighter than traditional furniture which means they can be moved around and stored away easily, allowing you to reclaim precious floor space when not in use. We have a few great examples below.

Furniture and furnishings

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Choosing multifunctional

Our relationship with the living room has changed dramatically in recent years. More than a place to relax and socialise, the living room is a place where we truly do all kinds of living. For smaller spaces and homes, the living room might need to pivot seamlessly between a home office, home gym, a playroom for children, a dining and entertaining space, a key source of storage and a hub for hobbies. Experimenting with multifunctional furniture can be a fun and innovative way to create a more flexible space,

Furniture and furnishings

particularly for studio apartments where sleeping and living spaces are often combined. A multifunctional piece of furniture can make your space much more efficient, covering off multiple uses or functions that might ordinarily require two or three pieces of furniture. A great example we see pop up in our episodes time and time again are bench seats that double as storage like the one pictured on the right in LA SUITE DOLCE VITA in Paris, designed by Space Factory, where built-in bench seating integrates the bulk of the living room’s storage.

ABOVE  A bench seat with built-in storage as seen in La Suite Dolce Vita.

IMAGE CREDIT  Herve Goluza

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IMAGE CREDIT  Softer Design Studio

LEFT  Softer Design Studio’s Pop Up Table transitions from coffee table to dining table with a slight twist of the table top. BOTTOM  The Hybrid Chair by Studio Lorier can quickly transform from a desk chair into a lounge chair or vice versa.

Some of our favourite designs in the modular furniture space that offer great flexibility include the MOCRATE SYSTEM — a set of flat packed, stackable cubes that can seamlessly pivot from side table to coffee table to media unit to entry seating and to bedside cabinet and all the while offering integrated storage. We also love shelving systems like KITTAPARTS from our friends at LIKEBUTTER for the way they can grow and adapt to changing needs and lifestyles. While these options may not be available locally to you, they may give you ideas for the kind of piece you are hunting for.

BELOW  The flexible, stackable and modular MoCrate system as seen in Colin’s apartment.

Take, for example, the clever POP UP TABLE from Melbourne’s Softer Design Studio that can be used as a coffee table or dining table, if a separate dining space is not a possibility, or the HYBRID CHAIR by Studio Lorier that can easily transforms from an office or dining chair and a gently reclined armchair (as seen in TYPE STREET ).

PHOTO CREDIT  Studio Lorier

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THIS PAGE  KittaParts is a durable plywood modular shelving system that can be easily assembled and reconfigured thanks to the clever timber threaded design.

Furniture and furnishings

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If built-in cabinetry is an option you’re considering, you will find a wealth of inspiration in VILLA MONTSERRAT (pictured below), designed by furniture designer Max Enrich, including a custom built low storage unit (that can double as seating) that spans the entire length of the living room wall and is painted in the same yellow as the wall. Max also created a four-in-one sofa (facing this storage unit) that included a side coffee table at one end, a fold-out table at the back for extra kitchen bench space, and a dining table on the other end.

Furniture and furnishings

LEFT  A four-in-one sofa that includes a side coffee table, a fold-out table and a dining table as seen in Villa Monsterrat

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IMAGE CREDIT  www.guywphoto.com

BEÂCHÂLET (pictured above) in Sydney, designed and hand crafted

by architect, artist and furniture designer Matt Reynolds, offers another masterclass in hardworking custom-built multifunctional furniture. Matt’s twin low-back and modular sofas are also extremely multifunctional — this pair of sofas can be easily reconfigured into a queen bed, two single beds or a bench seat for Matt’s dining table when he is entertaining large groups.

Furniture and furnishings

ABOVE  Custom built cabinetry wraps a modular sofa that functions as a queen bed, two single beds or a bench seat for the dining table in BEÂCHÂLET.

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In-built cabinetry can also be an excellent way to save on floor space while incorporating a huge amount of functionality into a single space or even along a single wall. This can be an especially savvy way to bring a home-office set-up into your living space in a way that avoids cluttering your space just as architect Alexander Symes and owner/builder Adam Souter did in PEPPER TREE PASSIVE HOUSE’s home/office.

IMAGE CREDIT  Barton Taylor

One of the simplest ways to reduce visual clutter is to hide or fold away furniture when it’s not in use. In doing so, you automatically create more usable floor space and make any room feel more open and spacious. It’s all about getting things out of the way so that you can use that space for other furniture, activities, or to move through it more freely. Some of our favourite examples include wall-mounted desks or foldable chairs that can be tucked away when they are not in use. We’ve got a nifty DIY wall-mounted foldable desk coming up.

THIS PAGE  Built-in cabinetry featuring a savvy home-office set-up in Pepper Tree Passive House

A particularly ingenious fold-up dining table or ‘Murphy table’ in UPPER WEST SIDE STUDIO (pictured below) designed by the team at NYC design studio, Duro Deco, comfortably seats four. The cleverness of this custom designed piece of furniture is that when it is folded away and not in use it appears like an artwork on the wall. One of the most common items we see hanging in small living room spaces is bikes. There are a variety of bike storage solutions online, including fully-mounted racks, simple metal hooks and DIY wooden shelves. Each provides a safe place for you to hang your bike when it’s not in use while also exhibiting it as a part of your story in your home as seen in TYPE STREET (pictured on the right, yet again!)

IMAGE CREDIT  Nicholas Venezia

IMAGE CREDIT  Tess Kelly

LEFT  A custom designed fold-up dining table in Upper West Side Studio appears like an artwork on the wall when not in use. Furniture and furnishings

TOP RIGHT  Jack Chen’s bike exhibited like a piece of art on the wall in Type Street.

Upcycling and second hand

When we think about sustainability, we often think about plastic usage or fast fashion, but we don’t often consider furniture trends a real problem for our environment. We encourage you to be thoughtful and creative when it comes to sourcing your furniture. Beyond having the potential to save you money, it’s also a great way to save furniture from going into landfill. Sometimes second hand furniture may look a little tired or might not be the exact colour, finish or pattern that you want, but furniture can easily be repaired, painted, restored, reupholstered or made into something else entirely. Nina Tolstrup of London design studio Studiomama furnished SMALL TOWNHOUSE with several chairs (pictured left) and a dining table she found either discarded on a nearby street or in a ‘junk’ shop. She stripped these pieces down to their frames and then reupholstered or refinished them. IMAGE CREDIT  Ben Anders

ABOVE  Salvaged furniture that has been stripped back and reupholstered by Nina Tolstrup of Studiomama to give it bold new beginnings in Small Townhouse.

YouTube and social media sources in general are an encyclopaedia of fun and innovative ways to give second-hand furniture a new life. And searching for unique pieces — whether online (a simple search for something like ‘best second hand furniture online’ will reveal a plethora of options in your location) or by exploring your local neighbourhood — is all part of the fun. There is so much potential! Mixing old and new in a small living room is also a great way to show off your personality, add depth to the sense of style in your home, and tell a unique story. We’ve seen this in several small apartments like architect Matthieu Torres’s JOURDAIN (pictured overleaf) where Matthieu paired furniture from his local second-hand store with artworks that reflected his creative and eccentric personality.

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The trick is to have patience. Finding the perfect furniture that suits your budget might take some time, but once you have it, you’ll keep it forever. Trust us.

LEFT  A combination of second hand and salvaged furniture in Michelet.

Try visiting online and in-person auctions at inconvenient times. If it is pouring rain outside, people might be less inclined to make the trip, and you’ll have a better chance of picking up some hidden gems. Additionally, try to avoid riding the wave of the latest furniture trends. Choosing vintage items that are in vogue will be pricey. Instead, look for unique pieces that have longevity — regardless of whether they are top of the furniture trends list.

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DIY

THIS PAGE  A DIY storage cabinet in Scheeps constructed from Ikea cabinets includes generous storage space, a hidden desk and a hiding place and scratching surface for their cat.

Living in a small space does come with some challenges. Sometimes, it can be difficult to fit a favoured furniture item into a tight space — and not just in the living room. And while custom-built furniture is a great workaround, it may not be the most affordable option. That’s when DIY options can be handy. Often when we look at designs we love in books, magazines or online DIY tutorials, we write them off as expensive, unattainable and difficult to replicate. Next time you spot something you like, think of it instead as a source of inspiration and consider how you can make it achievable and within your budget. Koen Fraijaman and his girlfriend, Fadime, did a huge amount of DIY in their waterfront loft SCHEEPS in Amsterdam (pictured right). Central to the couple’s living room is a pink timber storage cabinet that was made by painting and combining three Ivar Ikea cabinets. It features generous storage space, a hidden desk and hiding place and scratching surface for their cat, Sok.

Furniture and furnishings

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LEFT  Squeezebox is a simple hybrid stool/coffee table that can be easily and inexpensively made with no carpentry experience and only basic tools. RIGHT  A simple DIY Murphy desk in Jungle Loft can be made using this step by step tutorial.

If a cabinet is a little too ambitious, the SQUEEZEBOX HYBRID STOOL/ COFFEE TABLE designed by Studio Edwards (pictured above) for our 2022 Melbourne Design Week Exhibition, A CHAIR FOR COLIN , is one of our favourite examples of a simple DIY project you could take on to create a multifunctional piece of furniture for your small space. We love that it’s inexpensive and simple to make with no carpentry experience and only basic tools. Similarly, if you’re starting out with little to no experience in DIY, there is plenty of inspiration to be gained from YouTubes HIGE AND ME’S BEAUTIFUL DIY-FILLED HOME with details such as their upcycled wooden apple boxes that form their bookcases in their living space. Design duo Mish and Ryan of Tangerine Living also show off their DIY skills in their JUNGLE LOFT in Taipei, including a nifty Murphy desk (pictured right). You can find their tutorial on how to make it HERE . Social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Etsy are great places for DIY inspiration. You’ll often find DIYers use creative and affordable IKEA hacks to build furniture and storage for their homes. There are a plethora of ideas and even tutorials to be found online. IMAGE CREDIT  Tangerine Living

Furniture and furnishings

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Rugs

Pick the purpose What role do you want your rug to play in your design?

MAKE THE SPACE FEEL BIGGER

CONCEAL

Consider opting for something with minimal to no pattern and in neutral tones.

If it’s a patch of damaged flooring you’re seeking to cover up, just ensure your measurements have it covered with your chosen rug. If you wish the flooring were entirely different but are unable to change it immediately, you might consider a larger rug featuring a pop of colour.

BE THE DESIGN ‘ANCHOR

Return to your moodboard to determine what colour or colours it needs to feature to bring everything together.

SET THE MOOD BE THE FOCAL POINT

You should be looking for a rug that will define the space and add visual interest and a sense of your personality. ZONE OR DIVIDE THE SPACE

Living room rugs can serve a number of different purposes: they can help with zoning, add style, colour and texture, protect flooring, or even conceal flooring that is damaged or simply not to your taste. Rugs can also help to soften the acoustics of a space.

Furniture and furnishings

Pay close attention to the shape and size (more on this below) that will best achieve this while still maximising the sense of space in your living room.

Neutral colours typically inspire a sense of calm, more intense, darker colours can create a sense of intimacy, and bold and bright colours and patterns can bring a sense of energy and playfulness to a space. High pile or shag rugs can also be used to add a sense of warmth and a signal that this is a space for lounging and relaxing.

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IMAGE CREDIT  Nicholas Venezia

Furniture and furnishings

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Size and shape Now that you have an idea of what role you want your rug to play, you can use these factors, along with the dimensions and layout of your space to determine the rug shape and size you need. Once you have that figured out, you’ll have a much easier time narrowing down your options. The correct rug size can enhance the overall aesthetic of any living room and really help to anchor the space. Setting yourself some boundaries to work within will help eliminate a lot of distracting options and ensure you pick the right rug for your space.  There are plenty of resources online about various rug sizes and placement, but when it comes to choosing the size of your rug and furniture placement, there are two general guiding principles (as illustrated below):

FRONT LEGS ONLY ON THE RUG ALL LEGS ON THE RUG

You can also opt to have only the front legs of the furniture sitting on the rug, with the back legs on the surrounding floor and the rug roughly halfway under the sofa itself. This works especially well if a sofa is up against a wall or your rug is on the smaller side.

All furniture legs, including the sofas and chairs, are sitting on the rug. The rug should extend at least 150mm past each piece of furniture.

LEFT  A rug placement with all furniture legs (including sofas and chairs) on the rug with at least 150 mm of overhang beyond each piece of furniture.

LEFT  A rug placement roughly halfway under the sofa itself with only the front legs of the furniture on the rug.

IMAGE CREDIT  Kinga Mądro Photography

ABOVE  A rug placement where only the front legs of the furniture are sitting on the rug in PROJEKT WŁASNY

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Some thoughts on style and texture

LEFT  A colourful rug with rough woven texture has been selected to add contrast to the neutral Basement Apartment. RIGHT  A rug with similar tones to existing furnishings, but with a different material or texture, can help to add warmth and comfort while creating a sense of harmony across a zone as seen again in Project Własny.

Look at the furniture and decor pieces you have already chosen and evaluate what is missing. For example, if your room has several small prints or patterns at play, to avoid it all looking too busy, consider a more muted or solid-coloured rug. Or alternatively, contrast any small repeating patterns with a large geometric pattern or bold stripe. If most of your furnishings and finishes are fairly uniform in texture, consider something like a jute rug or even something with fringing or tassels. In BASEMENT APARTMENT in Sydney designed by Brad Swartz (pictured below), a colourful rug with rough woven texture has been selected for contrast.

IMAGE CREDIT  Katherine Lu

To help create a harmonious space, go back to your mood boards and reflect on the colour palette you’re working with. Choosing a rug with similar tones to existing furnishings, but with a different material or texture, can help to add warmth and comfort while creating a sense of harmony across a zone as seen in PROJEKT WŁASNY.

IMAGE CREDIT  Kinga Mądro Photography

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Curtains

Curtains can be both practical and add great visual interest to a space. The fluid folds of a fabric curtain can add a sense of luxury and bring softness and warmth to a space otherwise dominated by hard and sleek surfaces as seen in Nelson Chow’s futuristic CANDY CUBE. They don’t need to be restricted to windows either, as mentioned earlier in Chapter 3: Defining Zones, they are dramatic and attractive options for dividing a space or concealing storage. Height, colour, length and texture are all important aspects to consider when selecting curtains for your space. Adding a sheer layer of a beautiful fabric like linen, for instance, is a quick and easy way to make your space that little bit more magical. Sheer curtains diffuse the natural daylight within a living room and can enhance the overall ambience of the space. When the windows are open and a gentle breeze is blowing through, the movement of the sheer curtain can provide a nice touch too, adding to the feeling of an airy and relaxing space as seen in CITY VEIL. If your living space also doubles as a sleeping space and you want to block out light completely, you can still have the best of both worlds and use a combination of sheer and block-out curtains as executed expertly in MARK II (pictured on the next page).

Furniture and furnishings

IMAGE CREDIT  Archetypal Limited

LEFT  Sheer curtains diffuse the natural daylight within a living room and can enhance the overall ambience of the space as seen in the calm and neutral City Veil.

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BELOW  The clever use of a combination of sheer and block-out curtains in Mark II

IMAGE CREDIT  Kat Lu

Furniture and furnishings

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IMAGE CREDIT  HDP Photography

ABOVE  A curtain in a bold colour can become an eye-catching feature in the living room and even add a sense of luxury like this one in CANDY CUBE.

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5.

Storage

IMAGE CREDIT  Pigalopus

Storage

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Storage

When planning your living room design, storage should be one of the top priorities. Understanding how much storage you need can help determine what furniture you purchase and how you organise and utilise the available space.

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Floor-to-ceiling units

IMAGE CREDIT  Matthieu Torres

If space and budget allow, built-in wall storage units can be an effective way to keep your everyday items organised. Architect Timothy Yee designed the storage wall in ITINERANT APARTMENT in Melbourne (pictured below right) as the workhorse of the small home. Utilising every inch of the available wall space without encroaching unnecessarily on the living space, it combines a range of open and closed storage units, while also concealing a heating/ cooling unit and an integrated washing hamper. If your ceilings are tall enough, consider adding floor-to-ceiling shelving or cabinet units (as seen in JOURDAIN above right) to your living room to stash all kinds of household goods. For Matthieu, it was crucial to include a combination of closed and open storage in order to proudly display his extensive collection of books and records. Whether it’s free-standing or built-in, the unit will be a feature wall in your living space while also providing you with abundant storage space.

Storage

IMAGE CREDIT  Jack Lovel

ABOVE  A floor-to-ceiling shelving unit in Jourdain includes a combination of open and closed storage units. LEFT  A built-in storage wall in Itinerant apartment utilises every inch of the available wall space.

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LEFT  A tall and wide storage solution as seen in Il Cubotto makes most of the double height ceiling. A clever break in the shelving adds a sense of openness that would have been lost had the shelving continued up the entire wall.

IMAGE CREDIT  Caterina Pilar Palumbo

Storage

Having tall and long units can also make the space feel larger as it elevates your eyeline and makes the walls seem higher – even if they are full of books, magazines and other belongings! We love the effect of the shelving in Architect Caterina Pilar Palumbo’s IL CUBOTTO (pictured above). The height of the shelves makes the most of the double height ceilings, and as a result, draws the eye upwards, making the space feel larger. But the true genius lies in the break in the shelving that adds an even greater sense of openness that would have been lost had the shelving continued up the entire wall.

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Wall mounted shelving

LEFT  Floating shelves not only take the clutter off the ground but can make an entire space look more refined and tidier as seen in La Suite Dolce Vita.

For those who want freedom and flexibility with storage, modular shelving systems can be a great option. You can customise the size, width, layout, and whether the unit is open or closed, depending on your space and the items you need to pack away. When it comes to customising your modular storage, there are two tips to consider. Firstly, ensure your shelving is the right size (deep enough and tall enough) to store your belongings without being too bulky that it dominates your space. Secondly, consider a mix of open and closed shelving and cabinets so that you have the option to pack items away that you don’t want on display and feature other precious items that show off your personality and style. Floating shelves are a really easy and affordable storage option. Shelves not only take the clutter off the ground but can make an entire space look more refined and tidier (as seen below in LA SUITE DOLCE VITA ), while also adding some pops of colour by bringing your belongings into focus.

IMAGE CREDIT  Herve Goluza

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Savvier storage

An organised and calm space doesn’t need to rely on (often expensive) built-in joinery or custom-made furniture. Pay a little more attention to your living room, and you’ll find areas that can transform into great storage spaces (even behind or under your sofa!). As we touched on in Chapter 4: Furniture and Furnishings, big furniture items like your sofa often take up the majority of space in your living room. So instead of adding to the number of pieces in your space, consider how you can integrate storage solutions into existing furniture or explore multifunctional furniture options. An ottoman that houses spare blankets and pillows or a coffee table with concealed storage are ideal options for small living rooms. In Chapter 4 we also mentioned one of our favourite multifunctional furniture pieces is the MOCRATE (pictured on the right), a modular storage system that can be configured as a coffee table, side table or storage cabinet with caster wheels – an absolute gamechanger! Similarly, rethinking how you use certain household items that no longer serve their original function or purpose is another great way to combine furniture with practical storage elements. Gone are the days when we store DVDs and videos in a TV console. Instead, try using this storage space for other items like books, toys or shoes.

Storage

RIGHT  The Flexible, stackable and modular MoCrate system as seen in Colin’s apartment.

Storage tips and tricks GO UP

PAINT IT

Consider creating a vertical storage solution to make your space feel taller, rather than stretching your storage across a wall.

Try painting your storage units (either on the outside, inside or both) to elevate your design and add flair and colour

COLOUR MATCH

DIY IT

Try painting your storage the same colour as the walls to create a seamless design where your storage blends into your living room as seen in gon architect’s CASA GIALLA (pictured left).

Consider creating a DIY modular style storage system that can be easily customised to suit changing needs just as Hige and Watashi did in their RENTED TOKYO APARTMENT with a grouping of upcycled wooden apple boxes for their living room bookcases (pictured overleaf).

PUT VOID SPACE TO WORK

Are there any void spaces in your living room that could work harder for you as a storage solution such as behind or under your sofa? ADD GLASS

Try glass-fronted storage, like fluted glass, to hide away clutter without acting as a visual blocker. Choosing glass over a solid cabinet means light can still filter through, creating a softer feel to your storage unit. OPEN AND CLOSED

Opt for a combination of shelves and cupboards to give space for display items while also offering a nook to hide the lesslovely but essential household items.

TRY BASKETS

For those looking for a simpler solution, storage baskets and crates are an easy and affordable way to prevent your space from feeling too cluttered. Try adding them to your shelves, placing them on the ground near plants and books. This will help keep things organised and make your living room feel that little bit calmer. PUT IT ON WHEELS

As referenced in earlier chapters, moveable furniture can provide life-changing flexibility and the same applies to storage. A set of castors can easily be retrofitted to storage options with minimum expense, tools and DIY experience. We love the idea of making a DIY grate that can fit neatly under your sofa.

IMAGE CREDIT  Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán + Rocío Romero)

ABOVE  Painting your storage the same colour as the walls (or even floors in this case) creates a seamless design where your storage blends into your living room as seen in Casa Gialla

RIGHT  A simple DIY crate with wheels is a great storage solution for the void space under your sofa

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IMAGE CREDIT  Roomie & @tsubottle

ABOVE  Upcycled apple boxes can make a great DIY modular style storage system that can be easily customised as seen in Hige & Me’s rented Tokyo apartment

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6.

Maximising

awkward

spaces

Maximising awkward spaces

IMAGE CREDIT  Koji Fujii Nacasa and Partners

ABOVE  A set of simple shelves added to the window in the iconic Love2 House in Tokyo.

Awkward spaces can often become forgotten spaces. While they might demand a little more creative thinking, they can unquestionably be one of the most useful areas of the living room for storage, shelving and interesting design features. This chapter looks at how to embrace even the quirkiest crevices to make the most out of your living space. Just look at how an awkward space tucked behind a sofa in architect Alicja Szmal-Baehr’s home, Projekt Własny (pictured next page) becomes the ideal storage location for her vinyl and plant collections!

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IMAGE CREDIT  Kinga Mądro Photography

THIS PAGE  An awkward space tucked behind a sofa in Projekt Własny becomes the ideal storage location for a vinyl and plant collection.

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Tiny entrance

LEFT  A clever integrated entryway design with a combination of hooks, shelves and even a hole to store umbrellas as seen in Type Street.

In most larger homes, a foyer or hallway is the first thing we see when we open the front door. But in small spaces, we often walk straight into the living room without taking in our surroundings or even kicking off our shoes. Whether you have a tight hallway or a small doorway, creating a highly functional or even an impactful entryway can make an enormous difference to how you experience and live in your home. In RATTAN IN CONCRETE JUNGLE , architects Etain Ho and Chi Chun designed a stylish small entrance for a family of three in Hong Kong (pictured below). The designers incorporated full-height cabinets with rattan covers to accommodate the family’s storage needs, a lower cabinet that also served as a seat for them to put on and take off their shoes, and a mirror for them to check their outfits before heading out.

BELOW  Full-height cabinets, a lower cabinet (that also serves as a bench seat), and a mirror make the most of this tiny entrance in Rattan in Concrete Jungle

IMAGE CREDIT  Tess Kelly

IMAGE CREDIT  Xue Lan Xin

Maximising awkward spaces

The entry design (pictured above) in TYPE STREET includes a series of wooden hooks that serve as a wine rack and a place to hang helmets, hats and keys. The integrated wooden shelves feature a hole to store umbrellas and space for shoes and other household items, making the area both highly functional and visually interesting.

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LEFT  The Cutter Seat is a simple and space-saving solution that can be easily folded down while you tie your shoes, and folded away again when not in use. RIGHT  A custom designed utility brick wall with foldable wall hooks to hang household items in Taipei’s Compact Apartment Conversion.

IMAGE CREDIT  Yu Chen Chao Studio

Creating a brilliant entryway doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive. Some of our favourite tiny entrances have been spaces that have simple yet practical designs. Such as the one in TAIPEI’S COMPACT APARTMENT CONVERSION that features a utility brick wall with foldable wall hooks (pictured on the right) to hang household items, or Nicholas Gurney’s application of the highly practical wall-mounted CUTTER SEAT (designed by Niels Hvass) in both his BAYSIDE and DOWNSIZERS projects that can be folded down while you tie your shoes, and folded away again when not in use.

IMAGE CREDIT  Skagerak

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THIS PAGE  A custom-made wooden cabinet in 7B creates a separate entrance and provides storage for essential items whilst still allowing an immediate view into the apartment.

IMAGE CREDIT  Wonderwonder Limited

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Sometimes just a few small additions can work together to make a dramatic impact, add life-changing functionality or dramatically reduce clutter. Consider adding items like small playful hooks, a mirror, or a floating shelf to make use of an otherwise void space and create a more inviting entryway.

LEFT  A Japanese-inspired ‘genkan’ or entranceway with a low bench seat and open shoe storage in BEÂCHÂLET. RIGHT  A simple execution of wallmounted timber shelving and a practical hanging rail as seen in F-House.

IMAGE CREDIT  YAMADA FOTO TECHNIX

In his home BEÂCHÂLET , Matt Reynolds designed a Japaneseinspired ‘genkan’ or entranceway (pictured below) with a low bench seat with open shoe storage immediately below and additional long term storage at the back of the unit.

IMAGE CREDIT  Guy Wilkinson Photography

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Passageways

RIGHT  A series of niches in passageways can be a playful and functional addition to an otherwise unusable space as seen right in Villa Saint-Michel.

Thresholds between zones can become excellent spaces for additional storage or even points of visual interest. If you have enough depth to play with, a series of niches could be a playful and functional addition as seen below in VILLA SAINT-MICHEL . The end of a hallway is often ignored or pushed down the priority list when it comes to styling and decorating. While they might be narrow or small spaces, styling and adding character through artwork, mirrors, plants, an unexpected furniture placement or even some storage can counteract feelings of narrowness and even elongate the space. If you have children, you might consider adding something fun and useful, like chalkboard paint to create a makeshift art space or floor-to-ceiling shelving to create an unexpected library and reading nook. IMAGE CREDIT  BCDF studio

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Corners and alcoves

LEFT  A mustard painted wall creates a distinct study zone in Villa SaintMichel in an awkward space under the apartment’s staircase. RIGHT  A floor to ceiling storage unit with a hidden door that folds out to become a desk in Apartment with a Shoji is a great solution to incorporate into a corner or even the end of a passageway.

Using awkward corners and alcoves can be a simple and efficient way to incorporate additional storage, shelving and workspaces to your home, as pictured right in APARTMENT WITH SHOJI in Paris, designed by Marlice Alfera and once again in VILLA SAINT-MICHEL in Paris. In Bossard’s design, a neat study space has been built into a tight space under the apartment’s staircase. His design also allows for essential storage space under the staircase as well for coats, shoes and other essentials. Instead of sitting at the dining table to answer your emails, add a desk to an otherwise neglected corner of your home for a more comfortable and dedicated work set-up, or create a chic reading nook with hidden storage to hide away household clutter.

IMAGE CREDIT  BCDF studio

Maximising awkward spaces

IMAGE CREDIT  Marion Péhée

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For those in need of more storage space, a corner can be the perfect place to add shelving (as pictured below) and add visual interest and colour with decorative objects, plants, artwork or books. It’s all about getting creative to find fun and innovative ways to use your space in a way that suits you and adds utility, and ideally, some personality.

LEFT  A set of simple wooden shelves like the ones seen in Jungle Loft are a way to add visual interest and additional storage to an awkward corner.

IMAGE CREDIT  Tangerine Living

LEFT  A simple plywood desk is a great and practical addition to a neglected corner.

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Staircases

Under-stair space can be so much more than a storage space for large or unsightly household items. In designing JACKIE WINTERS WATERS , a simple beach shack south-east of Melbourne (pictured overleaf), architect Imogen Puller used the under-stair space to create a daybed with shelves and cupboards for extra storage. She made the most of every centimetre of the small living space by considering how to use void spaces, making them adaptable to the living room and the people using it. An open space under stairs like this could just as easily be utilised as a fun and unique play space for children, a home office space, or as a mixture of open and closed storage.

RIGHT  The staircase in Camden Loft features open shelving across the entire structure, lending it a quasi gallery feel.

IMAGE CREDIT  Armando Elias

In CASA CUBO in Buenos Aires, home to architects Matias Michatek and Torunn Vaksvik Skarstad, a pair of closed intersecting staircases conceal generous storage as well as a bathroom and powder room and by contrast, the staircase in CAMDEN LOFT by Craft Design in London (pictured right), features open shelving across the entire structure, lending it a quasi gallery feel. Finally, in FLAT ELEVEN in central Florence, architect/owner Claudio Pierattelli uses his under-stairs space to house his bike and wall-mounted TV — two large items that might otherwise have dominated his living space and upset the balance of his colour scheme.

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IMAGE CREDIT  Marnie Hawson

ABOVE  The under-stair space in Jackie Winters Waters was used to create a daybed with shelves and cupboards for extra storage.

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Looking up

BELOW  A full length shelving unit making clever use of the space above the doorway Rattan in a Concrete Jungle

IMAGE CREDIT  Xue Lan

If you think you’ve used all the possible nooks and crannies and storage spots in your home, think again. Most of us have at least one doorway, and that extra space at the top can be the perfect spot for a mini library, garden or for additional storage needs. A shelf spanning the length of a doorway or an entire wall (as seen right in RATTAN IN A CONCRETE JUNGLE ) might help to reduce floor clutter or even relieve pressure on a bookcase or shelving elsewhere. Adding some colourful books or other decorative items and treasures will also help to add a bit of colour and character to your home. If you are starting from scratch and have the space to customise your doorway, you can sneak in built-in shelves that wrap around the outside of the entire door frame to truly maximise the storage or display space in your living room.

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7.

Lighting up

your living room

Lighting up your living room

The right kind of lighting can lift your mood, help you relax and drive productivity. The key to lighting for compact spaces is to use multiple layers that seamlessly integrate. Whether it is ambient, accent, or task lighting, different lighting sources transform a space – not only by brightening the room but by accommodating the different needs and functions of the space and our emotions. Most designers will agree that you need more than one source of light in your living room. This chapter will look at the different types of lighting sources and how best to style your lights depending on how you use your space.

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IMAGE CREDIT  Nikos Vavdinoudis and Christos Dimitriou Studiovd

Lighting up your living room

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Accent lighting

Task lighting

Accent lighting is a great way to draw focus to features of your living room. Whether highlighting artwork, objects of interest, plants, or amplifying architectural features such as fireplaces or ceiling arches, the goal is to create contrast between light and darker spaces in the room to draw the eye and create appeal.

Task lighting is used to create functional lighting for everyday activities. Desk and floor lamps are great ways to incorporate task lighting in the home – whether it is to aid reading on your sofa, knitting, or playing board games with kids.

We can see accent lighting working to great effect in KOLONAKI in Athens designed by Cluster Architects (pictured on p. 85) with a custom bronze light fitting adding interest to a structural column.

LEFT  Accent lighting can be a great way to highlight features or areas of interest in your living room. TIP  Running LED light strips on the bottom of your cabinets or benches is an easy way to highlight a part of your living room or bring light to a void space as also seen in the Kolonaki apartment (pictured p. 85)

LEFT  Task lighting at play for reading, knitting or other pursuits. TIP  Choose a dimmable option to adjust the brightness of the light depending on your mood or task. Having a gentle light on in between tasks can make for a more comfortable and enjoyable setting overall.

Ambient lighting

LEFT  Playing with different levels and heights of ambient light can amplify different angles of your living room without harsh overhead lights, as seen in Flat Eleven.

Ambient lighting is typically the main lighting source in a room and when done well, can be an easy way to add warmth and a sense of atmosphere to a living space. Beyond the popular down light, there are countless ways to create ambient lighting, such as pendants, track lights or wall-mounted lights. Ideally, you’re aiming for a soft wash (or multiple soft washes) of light rather than bright or intense illumination.

LEFT  Ambient lighting is about creating soft washes of light.

IMAGE CREDIT  Iuri Niccolai

Lighting up your living room

TIP  Opt for warm-toned bulbs over cooler colours to avoid making your living room feel like a visit to the dentist. Play with different levels and heights of ambient light to amplify different angles of your living room without harsh overhead lights (as demonstrated to beautiful effect in Flat Eleven pictured left).

Lighting tips and tricks

AVOID ONLY USING DOWNLIGHTS

BE STRATEGIC

MOUNT IT

MAKE IT DIMMABLE

While practical, downlights can sometimes make it more difficult to switch off after a long day. Consider adding other layers of lighting, such as ambient styles in multiple locations in the space.

Place light fittings strategically in your living room depending on how you use the space. For instance, ensuring you have the right type of lighting for reading on the couch, or where you work from home.

Dimmable lights offer immediate and welcome flexibility and are typically an easy feature for an electrician to retrofit.

TWO’S A CROWD

DUAL PURPOSE

If floor space is at a premium, and you need your lighting to work especially hard for you, consider rail-mounted or wall-mounted lighting as Nicholas Gurney did in TARA (pictured below left). In addition to saving on floor space, this style of lighting provides greater flexibility if you want to change the layout of your room and can double as both task and accent lighting.

Focus on one key hero light, like a pendant or floor lamp, so that key light sources don’t fight one another in your space.

In small rooms, artwork can often get bumped down on the priority list. Try incorporating fittings that feel like features, like gon architects did in SOLA HOUSE (pictured below right) with the PH 5 Pendant designed by Louis Poulsen. We especially love the red ‘Applique A Volet Pivotant’ wall lights in the passage designed by Charlotte Perriand (pictured below left).

LIGHT IT UP

BE SMART

Smart lights can offer even more control and flexibility and particularly if you like the idea of changing the hues of your lighting with your moods and activities.

Lighting in or underneath storage or shelving can add visual interest and a subtle glow to an otherwise potentially dim patch of your room.

LEFT  Rail mounted and wall mounted lighting saves valuable floor space and creates flexibility if you want to change the layout later as seen in Tara. RIGHT  Try incorporating fittings that feel like features like this red ‘Applique A Volet Pivotant’ wall lights in Sola House. IMAGE CREDIT  Terence Chin

Lighting up your living room

IMAGE CREDIT  Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán + Rocío Romero)

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LEFT  The popular PH 5 Pendant designed by Louis Poulsen takes centre stage in Sola House.

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8.

How to make your

small space feel bigger

How to make your small space feel bigger

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How to make your small space feel bigger

It is our hope that you will have already gathered plenty of ideas and inspiration for how to make your small living space feel bigger from this guide. As detailed in previous chapters, your furniture choices and how you approach storage in your space will make a significant difference to how your space feels and certainly how big it feels. Below you will find a few more great ideas that we’ve seen successfully applied across a vast number of homes featured on NTS and many of which our contributing experts consider to be ‘must-dos’ in small spaces. The bottom line is: a room doesn’t need to be enormous to feel spacious. Put to work one or two of these concepts in your space and you will notice a difference.

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Reducing visual clutter

Some tips on reducing visual clutter

GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING

BASKETS, TRAYS AND HOOKS

Any work you’ve already done reflecting on how you use your space, which items within your space are used regularly, and which items in your living space give you pleasure to see daily, should serve up some quick wins. These might include ideas for what you could easily store out of sight and an idea of any new storage solutions you might need to find for things you want to keep in easy reach.

These are all simple and inexpensive ways to help keep you feeling more organised and your space calmer. FOR BOOK WORMS

If you have a lot of books jammed into a shelf, a little effort spent on grouping them by height or size may make a big and immediate difference to how you feel about your living room.

SCAN YOUR SPACE

It doesn’t matter if you are a keen collector with many treasures or a committed minimalist, ensuring that everything has its place will help immeasurably without demanding a dramatic purge of your belongings or the need to banish them all from sight! Having a ‘home’ for everything will also have the benefit of making your space feel more generous and well organised and calm. Curtains can be an extremely elegant and effective way to minimise visual clutter. One of our favourite examples is architect Michael Roper’s CAIRO MICRO APARTMENT in Melbourne (pictured on page 92). Using a handsome full-height curtain that spans the length of the apartment , the designer could quickly bring visual calm to his living room by concealing his full height storage wall that contained all of his books, belongings and clothing.

How to make your small space feel bigger

Try visually scanning your entire living area in a slow 360 degree turn while paying close attention to your emotional responses. Notice which details and elements please you and which provoke a niggle of irritation (I must deal with that stack of mail!) or even regret (why did I buy that?!) as these responses will show up the areas that need your early attention.

DO YOU NEED A TV?

If you don’t watch a lot of TV, ditch it. Removing a TV from your space (along with an AV or media unit if you have one) will immediately reduce visual clutter. Consider investing in a small projector instead for more occasional viewing that could be stored in a cupboard or drawer. If having a TV is important to you, consider whether you need an AV/ media unit or not. Is it possible to wall mount your TV instead? Unsightly cables can either be concealed inside walls or via a range of sleeves or cable covers available online.

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THIS PAGE  A custom cut round mirror in Paris Duplex Extension reflects the graphic cantilever birch plywood staircases opposite and functions like a work of art on the wall.

IMAGE CREDIT  Archibien.com

How to make your small space feel bigger

Mirrors

Mirrors are a small footprint space’s best friend. Many of us, by instinct, will hang a mirror near our entrance and while this is an extremely practical location for a mirror, there are so many other use cases to explore. Designers will often incorporate mirrors into small living rooms to create the illusion of a larger area, bouncing light about the space and highlighting different perspectives or the view from a window.

IMAGE CREDIT  Alexander Nino

One of our favourite tricks is using mirrors at the bottom of a cabinet near the skirting board to give the floor a sense of extension as seen in BAYSIDE. By capturing the eye, the mirror tricks the brain into calculating the space as being much more open and larger than it is. Similarly, mirrored cabinets are a clever way to expand a room without adding visual clutter, as seen in TYPE STREET (pictured below) or Thomas Fournier’s APPARTEMENT HAUT MARAIS in Paris, with his mirrored panels (also pictured left)

LEFT  Mirrored panels in Appartement Haut Marais give the illusion of a much larger space, whilst also cleverly concealing what is behind them. RIGHT  Mirrored cabinets are a great way to expand a room without adding visual clutter, as seen in Type Street.

IMAGE CREDIT  Tess Kelly

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IMAGE CREDIT  Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán + Rocío Romero)

LEFT  The considered placement of a mirror on the bedroom door visually expands the sense of space in Sola House

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We also love the dramatic usage of mirrors in an audience and NTS team favourite THE WARREN in Sydney, designed by Nicholas Gurney. Nicholas clad a central storage pod in the apartment in gold mirrored panels that reflect light and amplify the visual impact of the client’s extensive collection of plants and artwork.

THIS PAGE  A central storage pod clad in gold mirrored panels in The Warren reflects light and amplifies the visual impact of the client’s extensive collection of plants and artwork.

When it comes to small spaces, as far as mirrors are concerned, it’s fairly hard to go wrong and they can go just about anywhere — on cabinetry, on the backs of doors, at the end of a hallway or passage, or at the back of shelving. Furthermore, an artfully placed or particularly striking mirror can become a standalone feature or even artwork in its own right.

IMAGE CREDIT  Michael Wee

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Materials and colour Continuity in materials is a technique we see designers and architects use regularly in projects featured on NTS. At its most successful, exercising restraint when it comes to materials and colour can amplify the sense of space in a living room by creating a sense of seamlessness.

MATERIALS

COLOUR

Repetition in materials is a way to reduce visual clutter and has a similar effect in making a space feel calmer and larger. If you have a warm toned timber floor in your living room, you might consider echoing these warm timber tones elsewhere with shelving cabinetry or a side or coffee table to achieve this aim. In Brad Swartz’s BONECA we see this principle applied with the blackbutt timber used in his sliding screen and timber floorboards. In a more exaggerated example, broad oak floorboards blend into walls and a ceiling clad in closely matched birch plywood in Timothy’ Yee’s Japanese and Scandinavian inspired ITINERANT (pictured right).

A similar effect can be achieved with repetitions in colour or closely matched hues and tones. In some of our favourite examples, cleverly selected furniture can almost seem to disappear against a colour matched wall. In HOME IN AKATSUTSUMI (pictured overleaf), designed by Small Design Studio’s Kumiko Ouchi, a prominent and generous window does much to enhance the sense of space in the living room, but it’s the unified colour palette of pearl grey across different materials that amplifies the glow of natural light from the window making it feel open and generous. The natural and calming colour palette employed in CITY VEIL allows a cream sofa to recede gently against a cream painted wall rather than dominating the compact living room.

How to make your small space feel bigger

RIGHT  The clever use of wooden floorboards and cabinetry in a similar colour and texture throughout Itinerant visually expands the space.

IMAGE CREDIT  Jack Lovel

ABOVE  The repetition of the colour grey throughout Home in Akatsutsumi’s living room creates a seamless and cohesive space.

How to make your small space feel bigger

IMAGE CREDIT  Yumi Saito

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Paint

To maximise the light in a room, try using lighter colours that will reflect the light, like whites, beiges or pastel colours such as yellow or peach. A paint that is higher in gloss is also more reflective. So, consider painting your ceiling in a higher-gloss or semigloss finish paint to bounce light about your space. Finally, many people assume that dark colours are best avoided in small spaces as they close them in but painting a wall a cool colour, like dark blue or green, can give the illusion

How to make your small space feel bigger

of that surface being further away, thus making your room feel larger (as illustrated with a dramatic black ceiling in LUINI in Turin, Italy, designed by Davide Minervini and pictured on the right). The beauty of paint, of course, is that you can paint over it! So it can be a fun way to experiment with colour in your space and a relatively inexpensive exercise, especially if you’re able to do it yourself.

IMAGE CREDIT  Alessandro Santi

ABOVE  A dramatic black ceiling in Luini makes the ceiling feel like it is much higher than it is.

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Just like paint, different flooring materials can determine whether a room feels compact or open. Choosing lighter-coloured flooring can open the space up. Cream carpets, neutral-toned tiles or whitewashed floorboards are just some examples of light-coloured options that can make a room feel airy and appear larger. Another trick (that is not for everyone) is to opt for a reflective floor surface, such as a highly polished concrete or terrazzo (as pictured below in MONOLOCALE EFFE in Mantua, Italy, designed by Archiplan Studio). Sticking to one flooring type throughout your space can also create a seamless effect and flow from room to room, expanding the sense of volume in the room. While it may not be possible to stick to one flooring material throughout your entire apartment, limiting the number of materials will prevent the space from feeling too divided.

How to make your small space feel bigger

RIGHT  a highly polished concrete floor in Monolocale EFFE reflects the light from the large windows making the room appear larger than it is.

IMAGE CREDIT  Giuseppe Gradella

Flooring

IMAGE CREDIT  Iuri Niccolai

ABOVE  French herringbone parquet floors throughout Flat Eleven expand the sense of volume in the space. Their light natural finish and semi reflective surface helps illuminate the whole flat.

How to make your small space feel bigger

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Sliding and folding doors In a small home, traditional hinged doors can dominate precious floor space so space-saving options like bi-fold doors, sliding doors and pocket doors can be a great solution to turn to.

BI-FOLD DOORS

POCKET DOORS

The unique folding action of a bi-fold door means the door in question only requires half the opening space compared with that of a standard door. Consisting of two panels that slide to one side, folding up against each other when opened, a bi-fold door can work particularly well for storage spaces, cupboards or even a hidden home office set up.

While they can be difficult to retrofit to an existing design, pocket doors are a worthy and extremely effective space-saving feature to include in a new design or refurbishment. Pocket doors function like a sliding door but instead slide into a cavity in an adjacent wall. This ‘disappearing’ quality makes them an ideal choice for a minimalist aesthetic or where wall space is at a premium as the wall space around the doorway remains usable for artwork, mirrors and shelving.

SLIDING DOORS

Sliding doors take up even less space as they sit flush against a wall when opened and can add privacy without impacting floor space. Consider a fluted glass door or shoji screen style sliding door to exchange light between rooms, or stick with a solid sliding door for maximum privacy between spaces. In MICHELET , l’atelier nomadic architecture studio refitted the internal doors in the apartment with a series of custom sliding doors to free up valuable floor space and convert a one bedroom apartment into an adaptable home for a family of five.

How to make your small space feel bigger

An additional benefit is that the floor space immediately against the wall housing the pocket door also remains usable, leaving more space for furniture and storage. In fact, choosing a pocket door over a traditional hinged door can save you up to almost one sq m (10 sq ft) of precious floor space, which, in small living spaces, we know, can make all the difference!

IMAGE CREDIT  Tim Van De Velde

ABOVE  Replacing traditional hinge doors with sliding doors can help reclaim valuable floor space as seen through-out Michelet

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IMAGE CREDIT  HDP Photography

ABOVE  Bi-fold doors conceal a TV cabinet and additional storage in Candy Cube.

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Thank you.

We hope you are now feeling inspired or even well on your way to transforming your living room into what you wish it to be. Whether you need a space that is more functional and organised, a space that better reflects you and your style or a space that simply feels bigger, we truly hope this guide has helped to deliver some quick wins, big ideas and more. As you embark on making changes in your space, please share them with us! We always love to hear from our audience and seeing how the inspiration we seek to share via NTS makes a difference in your homes and lives. After all, this is why we do what we do. Thank you for your support in purchasing this guide. As we often say, your support means the world, and it does. P.S. If you enjoyed this guide, be sure to check out our others!

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Published on May 2023 by Never Too Small nevertoosmall.com youtube.com/@nevertoosmall

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers and copyright holders. The moral rights of the author have been asserted. Copyright text © NTS Creator: Colin Chee Publishing Director: James McPherson Editor: Elizabeth Price Editorial Team: Colin Chee, Lindsay-Jane Barnard, Elizabeth Price and Simone Ziaziaris Contributors: Mariah Burton | Folk Studio Nicholas Gurney | Nicholas Gurney Jack Chen & Hidy Wong | Tsai Design Illustration: Sam Kenneally Art Direction: Evi-O.Studio | Evi O. Design: Evi-O.Studio | Susan Le & Matt Crawford