Designing for Small Space Condos

Barnboard Used At The ACE Hotel In Portland

Whatever the style of your new condo/loft or your own personal style – Designing for a smaller space begins with some self knowledge, a critical evaluation of how you live or aspire to live, your new floor plans and an understanding of the importance of flow in small spaces.  Adapting to a smaller condo unit (or a small space in general) means that you need to rethink the volume of your furniture, storage and room sizes – BUT as they say “Big things can come in small packages”. I have been to many truly amazing and inspiring small space homes and condos…  But that is getting ahead of ourselves; First is the difficult process of Downsizing – the design buzz word for editing down your possessions to what is truly important and organizing them in a clear, stylish and efficient manner.

Downsizing is often one of the most difficult processes of moving into a condo, but it is also one of the most freeing, letting us adapt to our new spaces and lifestyles. This means throwing out the boxes of paperwork from 20 years ago…….the boxes of lamps to repair that you put away 5 years ago……..everything that doesn’t have importance and frequent usage. This is also the time to dispose of things that won’t fit or work in your new homes design – such as overstuffed-oversized sofas and chairs. This is the opportunity to live out your dream in your personal style……to create an environment that completely suits you now and who you want to be.

Once you have your floor plan and precise measurements in hand, the fun part can begin – take a pad of graph paper and a bunch of pencils and carefully plot out all the different scenarios for the placement of your furniture – remember to leave breathing room around your furniture and if something doesn’t work or is to large – it has to go. Oversized dark furniture that once looked rich and inviting in your home library or study probably isn’t going to work now. Decide which pieces you are going to sell and which you will give to family…….and those that need to simply go.

Moving into a condo is actually a wonderful time to reevaluate your lifestyle and redesign it to who you are now and how you desire to live, relax and entertain.

What you need to do when shopping for and designing your new condo is to always keep the scale and size of your home in mind. That oversized sofa that looks good in the 5000 sq. ft. furniture showroom is going to look like a car in your condo. It looks to scale in that setting but once you get it home it’s a completely different story.

The reality of Condo dwelling is that most will have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 500 to 1100 sq. ft. of space. This requires you to make the best of every square inch of space and something that I always stress – Making rooms multipurpose and your furniture multifunctional. For example – A dining area can be both a dining room and a library…….a coffee table can have hidden storage……ottomans can have lift top lids for extra storage and seating……the list is endless. As well, think of your furniture in terms of human scale.

I always prefer to scale down the larger pieces of furniture as much as possible so that it is very comfortable BUT there is no waste……………..So if you are going for an eclectic look (and by this I don’t mean anything goes……..this is actually the most difficult style to pull off and requires well thought editing and placement) – you need to make sure that the contemporary pieces you introduce complement the scale and proportion of the antique pieces(which usually have a smaller and lower scale).

When moving into your condo only keep the antique pieces (if you have them) that are the most cherished – your prize possessions…….sell the rest or give them to your family……..by having just a few good pieces you give them breathing room……allow them to be seen more clearly and allow them to function and flow better in your condo space. By mixing some antique and vintage with clean lined modern you will create a dynamic and sexy space in which the characteristics of each piece brings out the best in the others.

Another important process to do before you move in is to make a list of the ways you want to use each room and the number of pieces you want to put into them – using your floor plans and graph paper for reference. Start plotting out the various components – sofa, chairs, art, tables, lamps, ottomans, coffetables, etc. SEE what gives you the best grouping based on your scale. It’s a quick and efficient way to see how many things you can fit in from your priority list.

ALWAYS avoid sofas with giant oversized rolled arms – the DEATH of most condos – they can easily take up 9 inches on either side which means you are dedicating 18 inches to the arms of your sofa – simply bad design. For small spaces a good rule of thumb is for your sofa to be 7 feet long and approx. 36 inches deep

The design of your condo should allow for easy flow of purposes, whether its work….daily living…entertaining. That means every piece needs to be easily moveable and that as many things as possible can work double duty.

Many homeowners find it difficult to understand scale and proportions – if you go oversized on your main pieces – everything else will need to have similar proportions – You can’t have a giant rolled arm sofa with small streamlined teak chairs. BUT you can have sleek scaled down modern furnishings with oversized accessories to create drama and a sense of grandeur – Such as an oversized floor mirror or a massive painting. It is better to have a few larger dramatic pieces then a sea of little collections and knick knacks.

And remember, don’t be afraid of colour! Use it to your advantage by Colour blocking walls and accessories – Add some depth and warmth. Set up your condo to who you are now and who you want to be. It’s time for you to start living your life the way you envision it.

By Robin De Groot