Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Watch This Space

In the most elaborate and wildest of dreams, dream houses are almost never small. Real houses however, often are. As in most things we draw up in our minds, they tend to be bigger up there, until we execute them and find it not so easy, and so we modify and cut things down to size. In real life, most of us dream big so we can grow into them, but often we eventually find the grace and serenity to find contentment with what we end up with.

Putting up with less than originally planned however, is not always easy. In urban areas, where more and more of us live today, space is the greatest luxury. Unfortunately, space is most expensive in places where the need for it is most acute. Urban life is a crowded affair where we spend lots of time in spaces with a shortage of mental and physical elbow room, such as being stuck in traffic in a car and a small office cubicle. While a cozy cabin is a welcome retreat after a hike on a windswept plain, a cramped, pinched space is hardly the haven we want after crawling through the rush hour.

Smaller spaces though, are the reality of our time. Practically speaking, they are more cost-effective to run and maintain in terms of heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning and furnishing. They are more ecologically and economically sound. Rather than a compromise, it can be a choice. 

In urban areas, where more and more of us live today, space is the greatest luxury.

There is a saying that goes, "Nature abhors a vacuum." Even a large house, if not laid out well and filled with unnecessary junk, can feel cramped. There is a sort of unwritten domestic law whereby clutter will tend to expand to fill the space available. Therefore, in a good way, small spaces challenge us to avoid mindless accumulation and decorating in a piecemeal fashion. Every little object that comes into a small space has a magnified effect, and so we need to give more thought into what we buy. The instant approach to decorating (often seen on television makeovers) obscure the advantages of selecting better materials that will not only last longer but matter to us longer.

Small spaces need not cramp your style. They just require a greater degree of decorative uniformity throughout to keep visual distractions to a minimum. For instance, painting small spaces in light, mostly monochromatic hues is a tried and tested approach. When choosing color, one or two surfaces in an accent color is enough to add just enough punch to a mostly neutral interior which can be otherwise bland. Using it as an accent is the simplest way to add color to a small space. Another technique is to repeat a color in small doses from area to area. The blue in the kitchen can appear in the bathroom tiles, or on some pillows thrown on the couch. This connection will link areas together in a subtle fashion that creates an innate sense of harmony.

Every little object that comes into a small space has a magnified effect, and so we need to give more thought into what we buy.

Above, right and below: Neutral colors, minimal punches of lively colors and well-edited decor work in a small room.

 If you can see a little bit of the floor, the room will look larger. "Visual weight" is just as important as actual weight. Armless chairs, glass tables, and sofas that show their legs take up less "visual space' than large overstuffed pieces and heavy wooden furniture. 

Left and Below: Abundant light coming from an undressed window, light walls and "open" furniture open up the room and make it look larger.

Our experience of space is not static.

Having a few good-size to large key pieces in a room is better than a having a lot of tiny small pieces that end up looking cluttered. A well-edited selection of only the most essential pieces of furniture, touched up with the most tasteful of accents can make even a room look larger and more dignified. Floating furniture arrangements in the middle of the room creates a sense of space around it.

Our experience of space is not static. This means that our perception of a room as large or small does not develop while merely staying put. As we move through a space, our experience of walking through it can either enhance or diminish its size in our minds. If there is a lot of obstruction, we may view the space as cramped. On the other hand, a loft-like open atmosphere, heightens our sense of space. If we can move easily through a room, it will seem bigger. Assess how you move through your spaces. Are there tight corners where you feel you have to squeeze past? Improving circulation by simply removing extra furnishings does wonders for a small space.

Photo credits: www.elledecor.com, www.bhg.com

No comments: