Small is beautiful: How to make the most of a compact property

PUBLISHED: 12:09 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:25 18 April 2017

Small but perfectly formed

Small but perfectly formed

in4mal

Ever since a dilapidated shoebox of a house in Chelsea sparked a bidding war which saw its price rocket to over £700,000 – a massive £2,461 for each of its 290 sq ft – the property world has been buzzing with ideas on what to do with the tiniest spaces.

Tracey AndrewsTracey Andrews

The buyer, pharmaceuticals executive Robin Swailes, won’t be moving in any time soon as he bought the one-up, one-down as an investment to supplement his pension, cannily getting in on the rising mini-market as prices at the top end were slipping.

But for many others, including growing families looking for homes in the most sought-after areas of Hertfordshire, space can be a real issue.

Developers know that and have long found ways of cramming more rooms into less space on ever-shrinking plots, often by incorporating attic rooms or basements into the plan. Or, more inventively, jig-sawing rooms together to create subtle spaces for additions such as en-suite bathrooms or presenting large box rooms as studies by adding small desks to show homes.

And tricks of the eye are something interiors experts know all about.

Frontline Bathrooms have produced this Softcube Mirror Radiator which not only gives out heat but gives and impression of space while providing a place to shave. Available in matt white or anthracite. www.frontlinebathrooms.co.uk  £1,350Frontline Bathrooms have produced this Softcube Mirror Radiator which not only gives out heat but gives and impression of space while providing a place to shave. Available in matt white or anthracite. www.frontlinebathrooms.co.uk £1,350

I once told one I met at one of the homes shows at Olympia my problem was that I amassed clutter. “We all do,” she said. “Just make sure you keep it in one place.”

Quite so.

Ever since we started placing our otherwise sizeable TVs flat against walls rather than on heavy units, putting blinds in windows rather than thick curtains and home-working from slim laptops rather than TV-size PCs, we’ve been unwittingly saving space anyway.

Many experts promote the “floating furniture” concept of moving chairs and tables and the like away from walls and into the room to give the impression of space beyond. And others will talk of making less do more – an office desk, for example, doubling as a dining table for entertaining.

This pigeonhole mirror includes a mango wood surround with a delicate brass inlay. The boxes can house anything from books to ornaments to beauty products, depending on the room. www.atkinandthyme.co.uk £299This pigeonhole mirror includes a mango wood surround with a delicate brass inlay. The boxes can house anything from books to ornaments to beauty products, depending on the room. www.atkinandthyme.co.uk £299

One of the best space-savers I’ve seen for a while involved turning the risers of a wooden staircase into drawers. Just stairs on the face of it, but beneath every tread was storage space equivalent to a decent-sized wardrobe.

Mirrors are something of a staple as space creators; either placed in a central position to create a focal point or just to reflect light. But positioned opposite a window, it will not only reflect the view but give the illusion of a second window, usefully drawing the eye elsewhere.

Many of us remember our parents’ trestle tables coming out when the neighbours came round and being tucked discreetly away again. Well, what about those glass-fronted bookcases? There are those who say that putting anything behind glass immediately de-clutters it.

But working with smaller spaces can in itself be an excuse to declutter. Ask anyone who’s been forced to downsize. The important thing is to have a plan.

This four-person sofa bed from Darlings of Chelsea incorporates its own storage chaise, giving it an additional combination. The west London-based company have a showroom in St Albans. www.darlingsofchelsea.co.uk, £2,799This four-person sofa bed from Darlings of Chelsea incorporates its own storage chaise, giving it an additional combination. The west London-based company have a showroom in St Albans. www.darlingsofchelsea.co.uk, £2,799

Hertford-based interior designer Tracey Andrews agrees: “Floor plans are a must - and drawn to scale. You can position the furniture, decide flow and see if the proportions are correct. This is the first course of action I take when designing a room; way, way before I actually put thought to fabric of furniture or flooring.”

Tracey, who has designed rooms for many houses throughout Hertfordshire, says home owners tend to panic a little when faced with small-room challenges. “They can be a challenge but also a delight,” she says. “The trick is to keep it simple, light and consider every detail in the room carefully, particularly in terms of proportion and scale.

“Small rooms command extra attention because one needs to think extra carefully to grapple for space. They often say to me, ‘come on feed me, just what can you do? I am small and dark but full of giving under this unloved and misunderstood space!’

Tracey adds: “When trying to fit furniture into a small space it is always clever to keep it to a smaller scale than you would normally choose. And being able to see through and under always helps. No heavy colours, keep it light and neutral and one brilliant tip - place big blocky furniture behind the door so it cannot be seen until you enter the room and turn round.

By bringing an industrial take to a traditional design, the Finnick brings nesting tables up to date. Made from mango wood with iron frames, the tables are hand made in India and distributed to high-end retailers across Europe and the US. www.swooneditions.com, £169By bringing an industrial take to a traditional design, the Finnick brings nesting tables up to date. Made from mango wood with iron frames, the tables are hand made in India and distributed to high-end retailers across Europe and the US. www.swooneditions.com, £169

“To get it right you have to be prepared to think out of the box a little, be sensitive to the proportion, and acutely aware of the focal points you are creating. You only get one chance as the eye has to focus then quickly dart to four small corners in a split second and then land back at the focal point. The entire vision is registered in an instant.”

And what impresses her most? “One of the best space saving applications I see a lot is under-stairs storage which can range from shaker-styled openings to shelves that roll out as if in the kitchen on runners,” she said.

“The second I love is the desk-under-stairs. Done stylishly, this can provide a nifty area to work on a day out of the office or a grabbed space to finish that last piece of homework.

“If you are really stuck and you can’t see a way forward, the best action to take is to paint the walls and ceilings white or off-white to create a blank canvas. This helps because there are no distractions, highlight the space you have and opening up dark corners, and you never know you just may leave it white!”

Italian brand Ozzio's Smart Living project includes this ingenious unit that combines a TV and wall unit with storage for a multi-functional table and folding chairs. www.ozzio.com/uk/£3,290Italian brand Ozzio's Smart Living project includes this ingenious unit that combines a TV and wall unit with storage for a multi-functional table and folding chairs. www.ozzio.com/uk/£3,290

Seven to ponder

All interior designers have their favourite techniques for dealing with space issues. Here are seven of Tracey’s

*Keep colours neutral

*Use vertical stripes to give height to a room, or horizontal ones to add depth

*Place shelves near the ceiling so the eye is drawn upwards.

*Pull furniture away from walls to give a feeling of more space.

*Create storage out of items not usually used as such, ie: coffee tables

*Use minimal window dressings such as blinds to reduce bulk into the room.

*Choose open leg furniture so that you can see through and under rather than bulky items that block the space.

Latest South Hertfordshire Property News

Friday, September 22, 2017

With its excellent transport links, fine properties and fantastic schools, it’s no surprise that Radlett is currently one of the most prosperous places in Britain.

Read more
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trainee journalist Amy Gibbons is back living with her parents in St Albans after completing her degree.

Read more
Thursday, September 21, 2017

For landowners, getting your site allocated for a particular use or type of development is vital, and the best way to do this is by promoting your land through the Local Plan process.

Read more
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

While the temperature may be dropping as autumn arrives, there’s no need to feel the chill indoors.

Read more
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Craig Rennie from the Residential Property department at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors in Hitchin and Welwyn Garden City answers some frequently asked questions about residential extensions.

Read more
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An ugly, dated or barely functioning bathroom or shower room can make home life miserable - so how can you improve yours?

Read more
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The White House is a an outstanding five-bed, five-bath property, nestled between a private lake and a golf course on a gated estate.

Read more
Monday, September 18, 2017

The sun is long gone, and our columnist is getting her garden ready for the colder months...

Read more
Monday, September 18, 2017

Planning approval has been granted for a new residential development in Radlett.

Read more
Friday, September 15, 2017

This immaculate four-bed family home in Chiswell Green comes complete with its own outdoor pool.

Read more
Friday, September 15, 2017

The Bank of Mum and Dad is propping up the rental market in the UK, new research has confirmed.

Read more
Friday, September 15, 2017

Loft conversions and extensions can add thousands to a property’s value - but smaller changes can also have a big impact on your asking price.

Read more
Thursday, September 14, 2017

Millions of Britons are putting marriage and babies on the backburner to focus on buying a home.

Read more
Thursday, September 14, 2017

Stevenage and Luton have experienced some of the highest house price growth in England and Wales over the past 10 years, new data has revealed.

Read more
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The village of Colney Heath lies between St Albans and Hatfield, just off the A414.

Read more
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sick of the sight of ugly bins cluttering up your outside space?

Read more
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

St Albans has come 24th on a list of the UK’s top places to live.

Read more
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How far would you go to sell your home?

Read more
Monday, September 11, 2017

Multigenerational households are on the increase in the UK due to a rise in young adults still living with their parents.

Read more
Monday, September 11, 2017

Bank House is an exceptional Grade II listed family home, which is beautifully presented and boasts many features indicative of its 18th century architecture and craftsmanship.

Read more
Friday, September 8, 2017

Hertfordshire homeowners are being advised to forget about the miserable weather and inject some summery show home chic into their properties.

Read more
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Popular with London commuters, Harpenden has the feel of a village with the amenities of a busy, well-connected town.

Read more
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer’s well and truly over and it’s time to get autumn-ready on the home front.

Read more
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

St Albans has many marvellous claims to fame, not all of them related to Romans.

Read more
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Boundary Cottage is a delightful semi-detached, three bedroom period character cottage, located in an enviable spot with commanding views over Redbourn’s historic East Common.

Read more
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The best time of year to buy and sell property is the subject of much debate - but one national estate agency chain is convinced that September is the ideal time to make a move.

Read more
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A modern property auctioneer can market properties from Wales to Watford from the comfort of his office, as Toby Limbrick, Director at Network Auctions, reveals...

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

Buying an average property in the AL1 area of St Albans requires an hourly income of £40.24, according to a new web tool.

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

Savvy landlords could make a mint from student accommodation, with yields of up to 12 per cent on offer.

Read more
Friday, September 1, 2017

Keeping your woodwork looking wonderful can be time-consuming and tedious - but it’s worth putting the effort in.

Read more

HERTS AD PROPERTY E-EDITION

Image
Read the Herts Ad Property e-edition E-edition

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP

Get the latest St Albans and Harpenden property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

MOST READ

search


e.g. Oxford or NW3
Powered by Zoopla

Local business directory

Hertfordshire's trusted business finder