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Making the most of small spaces

The challenge of managing small spaces is as relevant as ever. Interior designer Clair Strong provides some useful design principles to help you make the most of your space

Our homes are getting smaller. According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, the UK’s new build homes are the smallest in Europe by far. Living rooms and kitchens are smaller by up to a third compared to homes built in the 1970s, and bedroom numbers have decreased. What does this all mean? Well, aside from moving to Denmark where they’re building the biggest homes, it means finding creative solutions to our spatial problems. Here are some suggestions…

Learn to edit

In small spaces, it’s important that you learn to become quite ruthless when it comes to your belongings. Clutter can create a claustrophobic atmosphere, so you want to keep it to a minimum. This means getting rid of anything unnecessary. Don’t store items for the sake of it, or just in case; if you haven’t used it in 12 months, it’s time to sell, donate or throw it away. If you still find yourself swamped in stuff, take a really critical look at everything again. If it doesn’t bring you joy, it goes. When you think you’ve edited your space to perfection, take a step back for a week or two and then look again. You’ll likely find a few more items you don’t need, use or particularly like. Finally, try and stick to a one-in, one-out rule where anything new you bring into the home means that something old gets taken out. This helps keep clutter at bay.

This small space with lots of natural light has been transformed into a sleeping area. Image shows Farrow & Ball Parma Grey No.27

Light it up

Natural light makes any space feel bigger, so make sure your window coverings are pulled back during the day to let in as much light as possible. If you’re short on windows (many small spaces typically are), ensure the room is well-lit with a variety of artificial light sources. Overhead lighting alone won’t be enough. Think about lamps, task lighting and wall sconces to create the effect of a bright and open space. If you don’t know where to start, a designer can help you create a flattering lighting scheme for your home. This oak desk has an extendable work surface, a front push drawer and a cable management feature. Image shows Leonie Compact Desk, oak, PR02 by MADE 

Aim high

When floor space is at a premium, it’s time to look up. Not only can you use the walls to create additional storage space in the shape of open shelves, but you can also use that empty space above your head. In cramped kid’s bedrooms, loft beds allow space underneath for desks, wardrobes or another bed. While in grown-up bedrooms, a bed on a raised platform creates great storage opportunities. Using every nook and cranny is really important in small spaces. Consider floating corner shelves, shelves above door and window frames and extra tall bookcases or wardrobes to maximise every inch.


Furniture is a really important consideration in small spaces. It obviously needs to fit, but it should also be in proportion with the space. For example a large corner sofa can be overbearing in a small living room and make the space feel cramped. When shopping for furniture, consider compact pieces where possible – a smaller desk, fold-out dining tables, small but perfectly formed bedside cabinets. These provide exactly what you need without taking up too much space. A final consideration should be furniture that serves multiple uses: an ottoman with hidden storage, wall mirrors with built-in shelves and hooks, shoe storage with a bench… the list goes on. Multifunctional or modular furniture that looks good is a lifesaver in small homes. It can be more expensive, but it’s definitely worth the investment.The kitchen table and chair are lightweight and can both be folded away when not in use. Image shows Fläpps Kitchen Table from Oostor.com

Create reflections

One of the main drawbacks of small spaces is that they can feel dark and cramped. Fortunately you can create the illusion of a bright and airy room simply by choosing the right paint colours and decorative accents. The trick is to bounce as much light around the room as possible because this will open the space up. You can do this by choosing light but bright paint colours, and decorating with mirrors, glass and metallic objects.Mirrors, in the same way as a window view, extend the perception of a room’s space. Image shows Banyan Mirrors by LOAF

Clair Strong Interior Design is a small, friendly, creative business based in Bath and London, providing services for residential and commercial clients. Visit: clairstrong.co.uk or contact: clair@clairstrong.co.uk

Featured image: Children’s loft bed that allows for a useful study space underneath. Image shows Nidi Camelot soft children’s loft bed.