Everyone has a different sense of what “small” means. I’ve been in some pretty large homes where the occupants seem to be struggling with storage space, and I’ve been in extremely small spaces that appear to have all kinds of extra space. It’s what you are accustomed to that makes the difference to the space.
When we first came to look at this space it seemed apparent that we were going to have to amalgamate three smaller rooms on the main floor into one larger space, to keep these principal rooms feeling larger than they actually were. We realized it was going to be a bit of a challenge when we went to visit the very large home our clients were leaving to move into this smaller space. The kids were off to school or work and the large house wasn’t necessary; however there were lots of elements they wanted to bring with them.
The wall that separated the small kitchen from the dining room and the living room made the space feel cramped, and the kitchen was too isolated. It also made the main floor visually smaller. That was further exasperated by the lack of storage the kitchen provided. Our client loved to cook and the function of the kitchen was very important to her. Storage was clearly needing to be addressed in this area. They also had a book collection they loved and while I suggested the favourites could be electronically accessed, many were going to stay.
In any small open concept space, you have to create areas that will act as specific rooms. The back of the sofa, in this case, creates the illusion of a walkway that leads you from the front door to the kitchen and stairs going to the second floor of the
space. The central fixture of the dining room indicates the
location of the dining table, as does the furniture that sits in
that space. The kitchen peninsula separates the dining area from the kitchen; however, each one is open to the next. In planning this kind of space you have to determine what the traffic patterns are going to be to get around the space. No one is comfortable walking through the middle of a seating area to get to the kitchen, so they will search for a way around it. The furniture and carpets are the objects that indicate the rooms and walkways, and hence the traffic patterns. If they are placed poorly, the room will always feel awkward.
One of the ways to create cohesion in an open-concept and smaller space is to repeat an element from one section of the room in other sections of the room. In order to create more storage in the kitchen, we extended the kitchen cabinets into the dining room using the same finish that was used on the original kitchen cabinets. We implied a sideboard in the centre of the dining cabinets where we placed a large framed mirror to reflect the room and give the illusion of something larger. Behind the mirror we painted the wall in the same colour as the fireplace wall opposite it. Effectively we pulled the kitchen into the dining room, the dining room into the kitchen, the living into the dining and vice versa. The cohesion between all the rooms creates a visual balance and lets each space visually borrow real estate from the
In the living room, we created a seating or conversation circle that is centred on the fireplace. The fireplace wasn’t perfectly centred on the wall, so to deal with that issue as well as create storage for the books and other items, we flanked the fireplace with cabinets and shelves. The bookshelves are of various sizes and different levels to create further visual interest on that wall and to differentiate them from the kitchen cabinets. The size differences also mask the off-side fireplace. The lower sections of the shelves are closed cabinets with no handles, to maintain a clean look. They provide storage for the kitchen and the dining room as well as a variety of other items required on the main floor. Effectively the books and art objects provide the accessories for that space. The sofa and chairs that flank the fireplace create a living room, and what remains are three distinctive rooms that each overlap slightly into the next. Incorporating the storage into the room decor, and making use of the height of the walls, is the best way to deal with it. The wall space provides you with far more square footage than the floor does, and there is only one floor surface, but four walls!
Their pared-down life now fits very well into their new space, and they are far freer to travel without worrying about their home. To many people in other countries, this “small” space would be considered quiet large, and they would be daunted by having to clean and care for it. Fortunately for our homeowners, this move has left them with much less to worry about!
By Glen Peloso, Design Columnist inside the Spring 2014 issue of NICHE