Home improvement: Make the most of your space
- Credit: Archant
Space - the final frontier when it comes to making your home work. But sadly the architect who designed your property was unlikely to have had your precise needs in mind when they put pencil to paper.
Here Ellen Widdup fits square pegs into round holes.
Picture your dream home … the manicured garden, freshly painted front door and a postcode you have longed to adorn your mail.
Let your mind wander inside.
I suspect you are picturing lots of space – a special place for every item of furniture and knick-knack you possess.
But there is a reason why this perfect pad is just a figment of your imagination.
The truth is most houses have something inconvenient about their shape or structure.
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A long living room not conducive to a corner sofa. A poky bedroom not suitable for your king size. A radiator on the wrong wall.
So how do you make the compromises to make your property work for you? Well don’t fear. Any space can be special with a bit of skillful interior design.
One L of a challenge
The L-shaped room is not that common these days but in older properties the challenge remains.
The obvious difficulty with this kind of room is that one end can easily become barren and even ignored because it is away from the door and usually the window too.
You need to create flow and interest in each corner of the room. Do not surrender space just because it poses a tricky test.
Interior designer Charlotte Ford, of Saxmundham-based The Cotton Tree, has wrestled with many problematic room shapes.She said: “With the L-shaped problem you should create an unexpected feature around the corner. That far wall could take a feature paper, a mural or a piece of art. Recently we have designed a ‘dressing nook’ for a client, whereby just a panel of wallpaper created a space within a space, to complement a dressing table and comfy chair. This was otherwise was the tricky part of the L-shaped bedroom.”
If you are brave enough an L-shaped sofa could work by drawing people around the corner which is initially not visible.
And illuminate the hidden areas with fulsome, natural light to express a cosy, warm atmosphere.
Tackling the long room
Be it bedroom or living space, the long, thin room is a real headache.
In the bedroom the biggest hurdle is where to put the bed and marry it with the window. And for the living room how do you cluster enough seating for people to socialise?
“Down lights in a bedroom would spread the light across the room. You can then have a softer secondary lighting plan with a combination of bedside lamps, reading lamps and table lamps.
“When the fireplace is off centre in a room don’t make it a feature, instead try and make the space next to it more of a statement, with a beautiful intricate wallpaper (try Elitis or Pierre Frey), or use it to house a console table with a beautiful lamp to one side.
“Look at the size of your furniture, most sofa manufacturers offer a service to change their dimensions. So, if it solves a big problem, you could have your sofa made narrower in order to fit more seating in to a space.”
The long room is an issue only because of the spaces we traditionally inhabit. So if you can break the length up into easier-to-manage spaces the problem is usually solved. Charlotte added: “Break the long room into sections by cleverly placing pieces of furniture. Console tables are really useful to go along the back of a sofa and if you are able get some floor mounted sockets you can bring in bring in subtle lighting and a soft divide.
“Use neutral window treatments because drawing attention to the boundaries of the room will only emphasise its shape. You could also work with your builder to create subtle room divides. For example full-length narrow columns.”
Love your sloping ceilings
Often at the very top of the house, the room with the sloping ceiling is difficult to love.
Usually it becomes a room for storage or where the kids can play – they are not tall enough yet to smash their head on the ceiling.
But it is a shame to waste the space – and there are some clever ways around the problem.
Often people place beds in the middle of the room where the most vertical space is – and yet we all lie down to sleep.
Put the head of the bed at the lowest point and work outwards. It will free up much more floor space.
Charlotte believes the light you get and how you use it in a room of this type will determine if it a success or not. And therefore how you dress any window is vital.
She said: “For little windows, cottage style curtains can look pretty or a well-made roman blind.
“For bigger windows, especially on some more architecturally designed houses, use a subtle pole or track system that is quite stylish and allows a wave-headed system to be used. This means the curtains can sit on the window but with minimum stack.
“I would suggest avoiding lighting from the ceiling - instead go for wall lights. And paint walls and ceilings the same colour to avoid emphasising junctions.”
Bump up your storage space
The box room has caused problems across generations.
The new builds so many of us love for their convenience and comfort almost always cram in another bedroom and in older houses they are just as prevalent.
The answer is simple – storage. Modern bedrooms, especially those designed for children, have many solutions to this whether it is under bed space or incorporating a desk into the bed itself.
Beyond where to put things the other struggle is whether or not the room even has focal point – if it doesn’t, don’t force it.
And be creative - Charlotte added: “Go overboard with wallpaper – paper all the walls, and even have the same design on the curtain fabric. Small spaces make great areas to be more creative.”