DDH Decorating Ideas

Making the Most of Space by decordreamhome

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Getting the proper framework of a home is essential to any decorative scheme. It is only logical that the first thing to consider is the use, and if necessary, the visual expansion of the space at your disposal. This should be thought out before altering or installing any lighting or essential services such as heating and air conditioning, and certainly before you begin to think of styles and color schemes because all of these things will be dependant on how you decide to use and enhance your rooms.

Sensible apportioning of space clearly depends upon lifestyle. Conventional wisdom has it that open-plan or multi-functional space has much to recommend it for the single or those without kids. But a family has to balance the need for as much elbow room as possible with the equally pressing need for occasional privacy and quiet, which means different spaces for work and play, for adults and children.

This presupposes a proportion of general areas for everyone’s use with private spaces for individuals; a ration of formal space and a ration of informal. All the same it may be easier, for example, to organize so-called reception room space into one large kitchen-dining-living-working-play space with bedrooms and bathrooms off it to which people can retire to sit and read, or talk or work whenever they need to be alone.

Assuming that major structural work is out of the question, the consideration must be how to make the space work to its best advantage and seem more expansive. Careful exploration of all the possibilities within an existing building can make all the difference to its feeling of spaciousness, if not to its square footage. At a very simple level, a home that is owned as opposed to being rented, might well be improved by the elementary expedient of changing the function of various rooms, or by changing the layout. It is taken for granted in many houses, that bedrooms are upstairs and living rooms downstairs, but if the view and the light are better higher up, why not live up there and sleep below?

Again, landings and hallways and under staircase areas should be used to their maximum advantage. It is surprising how often you can fit the odd desk or table for eating, a mural, or even a piano.

Expanding Space By Furniture Arrangement

The least expensive and most obvious way to gain apparent extra space is to be rigorous about the amount and type of furniture that is used and its arrangement. Pare down as much as possible, but not to the extent that all individuality is lost in the process.

As a guide:

  • Two small sofas look neater than four club chairs.
  • Two small seating units pushed together take up less room than two individual chairs spaced apart.
  • Storage all down one wall that includes desks, cabinets for TV, DVD player, stereo equipment and space for books, CD’s, drinks etc. will be better than a hole lot of separate items.
  • Corners can be used more for cupboards, desks and shelves.
  • Built-in corner units, window seats or seats with storage under them can be tucked in wherever possible to avoid clutter.
  • Tables, occasional tables and desks made of Plexiglas or glass or surfaced in mirror look much lighter and more insubstantial than the same pieces made in wood or topped in marble.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Expanding Space with Mirrors

Mirrors will always give depth and added length and width to a room.

If it can be afforded, a mirror may be used on one whole wall, in a dark corner, or used generously from floor to ceiling and right up to a corner if the space could do with visual doubling. If you have two tall windows, you can fill the space in between with a mirror extending from the floor (or top of a baseboard) to the top of the window height. This will make an enormous difference in brightness and the illusion of space.

If you do not like the look of a plain mirror, you can always edge large pieces with lengths of picture framing proportioned to suit the size. This will not give so much of an illusion of doubled space as floor to ceiling slabs, but it will still add substantially to the feeling of generous space and light.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Expanding Space Cosmetically

There are various simple rules for exaggerating or diminishing a given area:

  • The same floor covering running through a whole apartment or small house maximizes floor space.
  • If walls and ceilings are kept the same color as well, the space will appear to flow uninterruptedly. Even variations on the same color scheme from room to room (i.e., putty color walls and white trim in one room; white walls and putty colored trim in another and so on) will give an illusion of more space because of the continuity.
  • The lighter the floor and wall color, the bigger the room will seem. Pale colors recede; strong, intense or dark colors tend to come towards you. If a ceiling is too high for the proportions of a room, a strong color will appear to bring it down. If it is too low, a light shade or white will appear to heighten it.
  • A continuous border or band or stripe of a contrast color, or a subtly contrasted cornice or picture moulding around a room, will make a room look “finished” but spacious.
  • Shine and reflection will increase a sense of space. A matte surface will slightly diminish it.
  • An over-scale piece of furniture, large painting or mirror in a small room, contrary to convention, will actually make a small room look larger, mostly because one would not imagine a piece of this scale would fit into a small space. Equally, small living rooms can take in more furniture than you could imagine if you treat them like comfortable studies or dens.
  • Patterns with a strong directional or geometric feel appear to push out and therefore extend floors and walls. Patterned carpets or floor and wall coverings with a light ground give a feeling of depth. Patterns on a dark ground are more enclosing. If you choose an all-over motif on walls, try the same motif in a much smaller scale for curtains or shades, slipcovers and cushions. This will appear to push the walls out.
  • Take advantage of any long view to be had from a window. Window treatments or furniture should not be allowed to impede the view in any way that would prevent the eye from being drawn into the distance.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Think consciously of creating a foreground, middle ground and background to create a sense of perspective. A mirror on a table or mantelshelf with a plant or object reflected in it; a hinged screen with a table and lamp in front of it; a window with permanently tied-back panels and a window shade used as the covering; diagonal stripes on floor. All draw the eye out or through to create the illusion of more space.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

What tips do you adhere to to make the most of your space? I’d love to hear from you!


International Designer Mary Gilliatt


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