Small is beautiful: A good plan can help make the most of space

It isn’t necessary to own a big house to have a stylish interior — you can have a space that works just as efficiently if planned right — meeting all of your needs and desires, writes Carol O’Callaghan

Bijou homes often fall outside the aspirational interior design net in favour of relentlessly open-plan spaces. But consider the advantages: Less maintenance, faster warm-up, and lower fuel bills in winter, and the consequent savings that brings.

The downside, of course, is the challenge of dealing with a smaller amount of space in which to sleep, eat, live and bathe — but with wise shopping for the essentials like beds, table, and chairs, you can maximise your chosen space in style.

If you have downsized recently and have enough furniture to fill three apartments, or received consignments of furniture from well-intentioned friends and relatives keen to help you set up in your first home — are you meandering around it to get from one side of the room to the other?

Or, have you a second bedroom where the occupier has a single bed but really hankers after a double? Try the in-between four-footer which will make a significant difference to the comfort of one user and will also work for a sylph-like couple staying over from time to time.

The Ashby 4ft bed from EZ Living is halfway between a single and double, leaving plenty of room for bedside tables and wardrobe

(€359).

A headboard finishes off the look of a bed, but dispense with a frame design which includes a footboard. Not only does it take up extra room, but its absence means taller individuals will thank you for being able to stretch their legs unimpeded.

Tempting though it may be to indulge in on-trend blowsy florals in textiles to bedeck the boudoir, try to keep things simple and uncluttered by opting for plain colours in drapery.

If you like a more minimal look and can live with just a roller blind, all the better, as it means you won’t have to deal with space encroaching curtains, but you can have fun with an interesting blind pattern as it’s just a small element of the room and will be out of sight for the most part.

Tackle bed linens in similar fashion. If pattern is a must, try to confine it to the duvet trim, pillow cases, or a throw folded across the end of the bed so it doesn’t overwhelm the room. A sofa is definitely the priority piece of furniture in a living room, and ought to have an integrated sofa bed to accommodate an overnight guest, especially in a one-bedroom apartment or cottage. But they can be challenging to site, especially if the only sufficiently long stretch of wall to push it against, already accommodates a radiator — so the sofa encroaches on the centre of the floor leaving precious little space for much else.

An upholstered armless easy chair offers the comfort of an armchair without its space hogging framework (€250 from Next Interiors).

Compact versions are the obvious solution, allowing space for two to sit comfortably, but a really lovely development is the aptly named cuddler. It’s no more than an extra wide armchair allowing two to cuddle up together, if so inclined. For the lone sitter, it offers more room than a regular armchair would provide to wend legs into a cosy feline curl. And it works really well in a smaller space.

Entertaining more than one or two guests becomes infinitely achievable in your new, smaller home, and the dinner party you thought you couldn’t accommodate is now a reality. If space allows, opt for a table for four, with chairs that slot nicely underneath, ideally low backed models. Anything higher than the table top might give that hemmed in feeling. Or go for a simple bench style that folds under the table when not in use. Another option is the drop-leaf table which frees up kitchen space and an excellent design modification now makes them slightly wider than before when the leaves are dropped, giving a useable table top for two diners, one at each short end. It’s a big improvement on earlier models which were rendered unusable when folded.

The Egeton Pinstripe snuggler from Casey’s Furniture offers the comfort of a sofa without space-hogging dimensions. (€1,915).

Raise the two leaves and up to six can be accommodated, but it does leave the problem of where to site the six dining chairs when they’re not needed. The answer: Multifunction.

Opt for upholstered models, not too bulky and with lower backs, and deploy them in other areas of the home. Keep two in the kitchen, one either end of your folded drop-leaf table; two in the living area to augment the seating provided by your snuggler; and one in each bedroom.

Think carefully, though, about the choices you make in chair upholstery. Patterns need to be kept small, and if they’re to be scattered throughout the home, colour needs to err on the side of neutral.



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