Small Spaces, Big Impression

By Valerie Lemke

June 19, 2009 5 min read


A veteran designer offers her tips for tiny places

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

A galley kitchen, miniscule powder room and tiny bedroom all present monumental challenges when attempting to turn them into inviting, commodious living spaces.

Most of us need some professional help to get it right, either with a personal consultation, a search of the Internet or by checking out how-to programs. But there are ways to get started.

"It's really easy to make a small space look even smaller by having lots of clutter around," said Genevieve Gorder, an interior designer, host of HGTV's "Dear Genevieve" and the new judge of the network's Design Star.

Take the long and narrow galley kitchen, for example. How can you create enough space to not only cook but also store food, dishes, pots and pans and still use your appliances?

"Keep things organized. You don't want the kitchen to ever feel cramped, especially since it always ends up as the social hub of the house," she said.

For starters, Gorder suggested keeping all of your pots and pans similar in style and color and hang them from a simple pot rack mounted to the ceiling.

Beneath the pot rack position, use a salvaged cabinet or other counter-height storage piece that is small enough to allow for walking room around it.

"Then go to the lumber yard and have a piece of butcher block cut to size and affix it to the top of the cabinet." Extra storage and a workspace on top materialize as if by magic.

Any wall space provides room to install extra shelves. "Stock your plates and bowls on them," Gorder said.

Colors in small kitchens should be bright and airy, she said. "I love crisp, pale colors inspired by lettuce and endive with accents of charcoal and walnut."

Keep window coverings light, too. "Don't put heavy drapes in a kitchen. Instead use white Roman shades or caf? curtains in delicate linen to keep the feeling light and airy throughout the year," she added.

The tiny powder room presents different decorating challenges. Since it is often used for guests, Gorder offered some creative fun ways to make the space functional as well as attractive.

One way is to display the towels and soaps. "I roll towels and stash them in a basket tucked in a corner by the sink. Soaps are also fun to display. Stack them in small mesh sacks and hang them by nails next to the sink."

There is probably room for a ledge shelf above the toilet, which can be used for storage.

"Powder rooms are great places to have fun. Install a full-tiled wall, perhaps of marble or glazed Moroccan brick, behind the sink and mirror, or an accent wall of large, patterned wallpaper could be equally as bold," she said. If the room has a window, "whatever you do, don't bulk it up. Keep it simple."

Are there designer tips for making a small bedroom feel larger? You bet.

Gorder has a long list of solutions, beginning with furniture size. It's easy to gravitate toward heavy bedroom sets with a matching bedstead, bureau and bedside tables. But not all furniture has to match. Lighter pieces can be mixed in, too.

"Use a wall mount for your television and find a good spot for a large floor mirror... perhaps in a corner behind a small chair. Mirrors help widen the space. They are functional and can be beautiful," she said.

Make sure you have adequate lighting -- a good ceiling light is important, while bedside lamps set on dimmers add ambiance.

For small windows, always play to the vertical. Gorder suggested hanging curtains or drapes as high up as possible on the wall to create the illusion of a large window behind.

"If there's room, place a storage bench at the end of the bed or along a wall for additional bedding and out-of-season clothing," she said.

If there's space and the closet is inadequate, you might consider an armoire -- but think tall and thin, she said.

If the closet is large, you can put your heavy bureau in it, or better yet, install a complete storage system.

"Call in a consultant or go to a store that specializes in closet organization and find your perfect solution," she said.

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