House Beautiful Small Spacesby Christine Pittel
By using color, light, and pattern in ingenious ways, even the smallest space can appear larger. Here are some big ideas--all wonderfully shown in photographs--for using every nook and cranny efficiently and effectively. Make the most of tiny apartments, merge rooms, widen doorways, and turn cramped quarters into cozy nooks. Play tricks on the eye with mirrors, take some hints on cutting down the clutter, and lots more!
The 176 pages are filled with color photos, each of a room -- a small room -- that is somebody's haven. Space -- making small spaces feel larger through the use of furniture, wallpaper, colors and accessories -- is the focus of the book, but don't let that deter you from using it as a guide for comfortable decor.
The tricks used to expand rooms in Small Spaces often are the same ones that make a home a haven:
- "If the walls are too close, the ceiling too low, the furniture too crowded - make them vanish," according to the book. "One basic strategy, which comes in a hundred variations, is to dissolve the walls in strong pattern, bold color, or sheer gloss - stripes, florals, solids, enamels - so that edges cede to surface."
- Find a pattern or color that you like and use it as the focal point or accent in a room. You'll feel comfortable when you're in that space.
- Find some new place and create a retreat.
Put a comfortable chair nearby. It can be dragged to the table, or you can take books from the table to peruse while relaxing.
- Edit your possessions so each piece of furniture and accessory has a chance to breathe. An interior designer, quoted in Small Spaces, remarks that given that real estate agents always say "location, location, location" is the motto when buying a home, then "edit, edit, edit" are the key words in design.
In essence, less clutter often makes a room more comfortable.
This edition concentrates on the imaginative use of space, showing how to get the most out of a neglected corner, an undersized living room, or a tiny apartment. A few of the suggestions seem obvious: "Edit your possessions." Others inventive: "Give in to reality and play up the small."
Read an Excerpt
Let there be space. Open, generous, high-ceilinged space is the exception rather than the rule these days. Such material comforts as fine silk or polished mahogany are not half so rare as ample beautifully proportioned rooms. But those of us confined to more compact quarters should keep in mind one heartening fact. As every designer worth his tape measure knows the size of a room is as much a matter of perception as square footage.
In the eye of the beholder space can expand or contract. In this elasticity lies the possibility of invention. Some space-swelling strategies are borrowed from design history, others are born out of sheer wit and desperation at the drafting table, and many are poured straight from a paint can.
The first decision for anyone facing a small room is fundamental: Do you want to make a tight space appear larger, or should you acquiesce to the snug dimensions and cultivate coziness? If creating an illusion of roominess is the answer, then sleights of pattern or color can work magic. So can editing -- tame the anarchy of possessions. Brandish mirrors. Widen a room with strong horizontal lines, heighten it with verticals, stretch it with diagonals. Or choose the opposite approach -- give in to reality and divide and conquer, packing everything you own into a crowded jumble that proves the counterintuitive Chinese principle that space expands when subdivided. Search for infinity in the infinitesimal.
The most audacious designers might just forget the measurements altogether and change the subject, whisking the eye into -- a fantasy world with shocks of color or an operatic piece of furniture. The bigger the lie, the larger the space.
Don't be cowed by meager dimensions. Be clever. No beautiful windows in your apartment? Try cove lighting instead. Light is the medium of mystery and revelation in space, and controlling it conjures magic and sets the tone of a room. As Italian painters who mastered chiaroscuro have long known, shadow is light's handmaiden. No wonder so many people like to panel a study and isolate themselves in a pool of lamplight, where a spirit of contemplation reigns and space dissolves in thought.
Architecture history books are full of classic solutions to spatial squeeze. Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House outside of Chicago, a rectangle of glass that hovers above the flood plain, is bounded primarily by reflections. No one pays much attention to square footage when the rooms inside this small masterpiece merge into trees and sky. Then there is that great prestidigitator of space, Frank Lloyd Wright, who made ordinary-size rooms grand by creating narrow, low-ceilinged antechambers to pass through before the release into more generous spaces that flow out of sight. Space is relative: Small is smaller, and big becomes bigger when each is juxtaposed to the other. But you don't need an architectural degree to make the most of your measurements. The strategies illustrated on the following pages offer a head start on how to take space into your own hands.
Copyright (c) 1998 by The Hearst Corporation
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