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Home Decor Ideas To Maximize Space - Small Space Living Solutions

Updated on March 13, 2016

More often than not we are used to our surroundings and we are unable to see the potential for a change, for an improvement. And more often than not we find ourselves in need of more space, as if we have grown out of our home, as if we are expanding within a tin can and we are going to burst .

How many times do we walk into a room in our house and either we don't see it for what it could be or we only see what it is wrong with it? We translate our disappointment as a recipe for disaster; the much dreaded DIY, which only produces mess, dust and inevitable loss of money.

There are, nevertheless, very simple and straightforward ways to solve many of the problems I mentioned above.

First but not least the need to change our perception of space, and more precisely, the capability of understanding space, what can be done with it and how to allocate it.

Hallway before re-decor
Hallway before re-decor

Hallway, Stairs And Under-stairs

The hallway is the first area we see and everybody else sees when they come in our house.

Yet it is the least area we spend any time thinking of decorating, especially if it's long and narrow.

Most of the time, as far as the hallway is concerned, we perceive it as a corridor, a path to the rest of the house, an irrelevant and forgotten area.

The most common thing to do is to hang a few pictures, to lay a rug...

This, on the right, is my hallway before it struck me that it really was a space I never saw, an area I never thought much about.


Being long and narrow, with a radiator in the middle, I always totally ignored it, passing by with neither attention or interest.

I always wanted a nice cosy feeling to my home. But while I tried and often achieved that in other areas in the house, the hallway never seemed relevant or somehow important.

Until the day of my hallway Epiphany, when I came back home on a very gloomy day and I thought: "I really don't like this".

Hallway

Hallway after re-decor
Hallway after re-decor

I realized that not only I didn't like it because it was boring and cold but also because it wasn't providing any useful purpose to our family life.

Like any family of four with 2 teenagers, storage is always a struggle. Why couldn't the hallway help with that?

That's when I realized that I could use some of the items I made for work to embellish my hallway as well as partially contribute to a solution to the storage problem.

The vintage bookshelf ladder on the wall not only functions as a good size shelf to house our many books and comics but also, with a few rusted hooks here and there, as a handy coat hanger for when we entertain.

Of course the upcycled ladder is also a good item to be decorated with pictures, small plants and original vintage accessories to complete the shabby chic ensemble.

Bookshelves made with reclaimed ladder
Bookshelves made with reclaimed ladder

At this point I was left dealing with the ugly radiator.

I never particularly liked radiator covers. Made with MDF, they all always looked a bit tacky and unoriginal to me. I also wanted to keep in tone with the rustic look I achieved with the ladder together with creating a bit of warm atmosphere adding a small lamp.

That's when, in my workshop, I had the idea of a narrow table.

Based on the idea of a console table but with very little space to accommodate one, I realized that I needed something, which I could fix on the wall. A 2 legged narrow table seemed to be the solution.

Hallway narrow table made with reclaimed timber
Hallway narrow table made with reclaimed timber

I made sure I used reclaimed timber and while I stained the top with a walnut handmade stain I painted the rest of the table an antique white and lightly sanded it down to give it a shabby chic look.

The lamp and a few accessories (including a vintage tin where I keep my car keys, never to lose them again!) finish off the combo.

Painted stairs
Painted stairs

Stairs

The stairs, as seen in the first picture, were carpeted.


I never liked carpet and made sure that the first thing I did when I moved in, was to eliminate it from anywhere. I consequently undertook the painful but highly satisfactory task of stripping every single floor back to the beautiful and characterful original Victorian floorboards, which I then dressed with outstanding Persian rugs (one at the time, due to their considerable price).

The stairs, on the other hand, were left carpeted in fear that the stamping of my gentile teenage boys could cause friction with the next door neighbors and affect our sanity.

But once I committed to the hallway face lift, the carpet had to go.

After extensive internet research I decided that the best option for my new hallway's look was to paint the stairs, white gloss for the risers and dark walnut varnish for the goings, accompanied by the immediate purchase of a nice pair of Afghani (in tone with the rugs) slipper socks for each member of the family.

The result was impressive and I must admit I often stop and look at my new hallway with a smirk of satisfaction!


Under-stairs cloakroom
Under-stairs cloakroom

Under-stairs - Ground floor

Often on the ground floor (in Victorian/Edwardian houses commonly in the dining room) there is an empty space, which people exploit in many different ways.

In fact to start with, we decided to use this handy spot as a cupboard for coats, hoover and other bits and bobs we wanted to hide from view.

More recently though, in my mission to maximize space, I recognized that while the various bits and bobs could find residence somewhere else, one thing we desperately needed and we were lacking of was a cloakroom.

After I engaged again in extensive research and talked to various experts in the building trade I was surprised to acknowledge that I needed very little space and a macerator for the toilet to accomplish this necessary renovation.

Amazingly the space I had to work with to materialize this indispensable house improvement was very little, measuring: L1.60m x W0.74m x H1.89m at the highest point, sloping down to 0.87m. Considering my eldest son is 2.00m tall I understandably had a few reservations about the practicality of the project.

Though I considered that if I positioned the toilet in the lowest end and the sink on the highest end opposite the toilet, the outcome shouldn't have been too bad.

Under-stairs cloakroom
Under-stairs cloakroom

To my surprise the result was better than I expected. In fact the space, somehow, looked bigger than when it functioned as a cupboard and my biggest surprise of all was that my eldest son seems to be perfectly comfortable in using the cloakroom.

Under-stairs first floor

Many people nowadays consider extending to the loft to achieve a larger house rather than selling and searching for a bigger one.

I myself opted for this option and while a loft conversion is definitely the king of house renovations and space maximization I will not cover it here.

Instead I will concentrate on a very small space, which is created under the stairs that lead to the loft room.

I simply used this space adding 2 small shelves and a few old books to give it a country look.

Shelves under stairs
Shelves under stairs
Shelves under stairs
Shelves under stairs

But I actually regret not having researched this space accurately when we had the loft conversion because I recently found an idea that to an avid reader like me, is greatly appealing.

The idea of using the risers and the goings at the back of the staircase to create shelf space, like in the picture on the right, is very ingenious.

Of course one must make sure that the stairs are made of timber and not MDF to make it look a bit smarter.

But not only this solution could provide you with useful bookshelves, it could also make you save a few pennies you would spend plaster boarding and plastering it.

The photo on the right shows this solution in a downstairs staircase but I suppose that if you were to use an upstairs staircase no more then 3 or 4 shelves could be achieved to be comfortably reachable. Still, something is better then nothing.

Hallway, Stairs And Under-stairs

Hallway
Stairs
Under-stairs
Bookshelves
Carpeted
Cloackroom
Narrow table
Painted
Cupboard
Lamp
 
Shelves

Bay Windows

I love bay windows.

Their shape makes any room look bigger and creates an intricate frame to the outside. They constitute the focal point of the room and as such they must be respected.

Unfortunately very often people tend to place a sofa right under these gorgeous windows, a bulky square shape, which annihilates the interesting geometry of the bay.

The other obstacle, which contributes to the difficulty to turn this space into a decor gem, is that nearly always it houses the room's radiator.

I faced this dilemma when searching for more useful space.


Vertical designer radiator
Vertical designer radiator

Like in all Victorian/Edwardian houses I have 2 bay windows. One in the lounge and one in the master bedroom.

Considering I have a dining/lounge open plan I first decided to place the second sofa in between the 2 rooms, creating in this way not only a visual separation between the 2 areas but also releasing the windows from the sofa's duty.

At this point to be able to free my bay window from all obstacles to my decor creativity, I had to get rid of the radiator. I easily solved this problem moving it to the strip of wall on the right of the window and substituting it with a designer radiator.

Designer radiators can be quite expensive but with a little bit of research in the holy land that is Ebay I found one that was both efficient for the size of the room as well as stylish for only £70.00.

Finally I had my bay window exposed and open to any design fitting our needs.

I decided to add an extra seat, positioning an armchair at a slight angle, following the curve of the window. At the same time a vintage school desk restored and cut to size provided some handy storage (in the lifting top) as well as a good platform for a Tiffany target lamp.

Lounge Bay Window
Lounge Bay Window

The bay window in the bedroom, as far as I was concerned, had to accommodate my many books as well as offer a comfy reading nook.

Once I got rid of the radiator (again substituting it with a vertical designer radiator) I made 3 free standing bookcases cut to fit the window's design.

A nice leather tub armchair, a shabby chic small round table and a target lamp completed my layout easily, satisfying decor and necessity.

Bedroom bay window
Bedroom bay window
Alcove fitted wardrobe
Alcove fitted wardrobe
Alcove coat hanger and trunk
Alcove coat hanger and trunk

Alcoves

Never underestimate the power of alcoves.

We think of them as a restraint to room furnishing. An obstacle to a clean and straight forward layout.

Yet, if we try not to think square and accept movement and irregularity, alcoves can provide us with a world of possibilities.

Many people opt to get rid of them. But as much as the idea of regular walls is appealing, the economic effort and the mess that comes with such an undertaking, is not worth the extra 50cm approx. of depth one gains at completion.

Using alcoves to their maximum potential can substitute the need for such a massive scale renovation.

An alcove can easily become a good sized wardrobe, for example.

It already provides us with 3 of the 4 sides needed plus the top and bottom.

A few shelves on the inside and the job is done.

Or it could also be used as a space to hang our coats and jackets while at the same time, with the use of a fitted trunk, hide all those hats, scarfs and gloves, which are usually lost all over the house.

Or more simply but still very effective, they can house bookshelves and chest of drawers as in the picture below.

Alcove Bookshelves
Alcove Bookshelves
Computer desk with storage and shelf made with pallet wood
Computer desk with storage and shelf made with pallet wood

Last but not least an alcove can be utilized as the perfect office space; not only freeing more straightforward walls that can be used in a more convenient way, but also offering a comfortable and intimate zone for all our admin duties.

A small size desk would fit perfectly in an alcove, providing us with both a computer platform as well as handy storage, which could be increased with a few shelves on top of the desk.

Log storage in fireplace
Log storage in fireplace

Fireplaces

Plaster boarded and plastered, fireplaces are often forgotten and considered unnecessary, unless we decide to re-open them to have open fires or to house wood burners.

Yet again they can still fulfill a purpose other than housing a fire.

Most properties up to the late 1940s have some sort of chimney; either because they were needed for open fires (as in Victorian/Edwardian times and earlier of course) or because they housed the back burner for hot water.

Whichever reason, they are there and they are there to be exploited.

If you decided to have an open fire in the lounge for example, why not to use the fireplace in the dining room to store your logs?

You can still dress it with a nice cast iron surround, accessories, candles and finish off a wall in a quirky rustic way.

If instead you want to re-open one in the bedroom but want it for something different than log storage, why not to put a shelf or two and fill it up with your child's books and toys?



Shelves in fireplace
Shelves in fireplace

You could also put a small door in front of it and use it as a small cupboard.

The possibilities are many. What it is important is that we remember they exist and they can fulfill a purpose, like all the niches in your home.

Don't adjust to the space you have. Explore, invent and exploit any niche in your home and make the space you have adjust to you!

Finding new ideas for small spaces is always a challenge I genuinely enjoy to embark on.

If you have a small space I didn't mention here or you live in a tiny apartment and are dry for ideas and would welcome some suggestions please let me know...it's like a hobby for me and I would honestly enjoy giving you a hand!

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© 2016 Emanuela Suraci-Neve

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 19 months ago from the short journey

      Your renovations are quite nice. Thank you for explaining them and adding helpful pictures. The hallway is a dramatic change and great improvement. It is really good example of what can be done if we will stop and think about the potential in our homes.