When I walk into a small space, it takes my eyes about 15 seconds to take in the entire room and form an opinion. Granted, I am trained to observe in a critical manner and have a quicker ability to note balance, proportion and tone. But you can try it for yourself in your own home. What is your first impression, and can you verbalize how you feel upon entering a particular space?
There are often a few extremely subtle conditions that if remedied would enhance and expand a room. What exactly do I mean? Let's talk about floors, windows and walls to start, as they are the elements dominating a space. For instance, do you have one continuous type of flooring throughout your home? This is the desired approach for floors in a modestly sized house. Choose the material for durability first and aesthetics second, and try to avoid using more than two. You want to avoid breaking up space; the result is visually uncomfortable.
If wood is your preferred medium, consider any pets and children. A shiny finish is popular in extremely modern homes because it is reflective and tends to expand space. However, the more highly polished and glossy a surface, the more scratches and blemishes will show. Fortunately, most engineered wood floors, including bamboo and hardwoods, come with textured finish choices that are more forgiving. If your place will be used as a vacation rental or a permanent rental, you will want to select for ultimate endurance above all else.
If you prefer a tile floor, consider a large format porcelain tile that expands space. Look for extremely large sizes like 24 inches by 48 inches, or the more common dimensions of 24 inches by 24 inches and 20 inches by 20 inches. We are lucky that small format floor tile, like 8-by-8-inch or 10-by-10-inch, is no longer in vogue. The greater the size, the more expansive the look. Porcelain is nearly indestructible, because the raw material is denser and less porous than ceramic clay tile and fired at an extremely high temperature. True porcelain tile is a solid body, and unlike ceramic tile, it does not have a topical finish that could chip, scratch or otherwise be marred; therefore, it is impervious to most household damage.
Window treatments are somewhat more challenging. Because windows are placed first due to architectural requirements and the desire to capture good views, they are not always regular and uniform. The sometimes-haphazard nature of window placement can lead many toward spotty window treatment solutions. One good rule of thumb is this: Keep the window treatment and the wall a light tone! For example, if you wish to install wood blinds, select white or off-white, and paint the trim white, too. The wall with windows should only be slightly darker. This example offers a sleek ripple-fold-style drape that elegantly ties the floor to the ceiling. Notice that both of the adjoining walls are covered entirely. This achieves a subtle expansion. If just the windows themselves were filled with pleated shades or blinds, the impact would be very different.
Finally, consider the color of your walls as part of your toolkit for expanding space. When a house is tiny, you may not be able to use the deep colors that you love. Instead, try one or two accent walls only, and keep the bulk of your walls on the lighter side. For instance, you could paint your TV wall a rich color. Try balancing that intensity in the rest of the room with a single piece of bulky furniture, a large piece of art or an area rug. It's not so much that you must avoid color and bulk as it is important to know how to use both judiciously. Tread carefully for good results!
Photo Credit: Hunter Douglas
Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.