Clever Ideas for Compact Spaces
By Sara Emslie
Every once in a while I come across a book that feels as if it was written for me; the cover, the concept, the style and set up, all perfect. They’re the books that invoke home-envy of the most rapturous kind. Beautifully Small: Clever Ideas for Compact Spaces is just that kind of book.
Written by a fellow small homeowner, author Sara Emslie took her inspiration for the interiors book from her very own little home, a workman’s cottage in a leafy London suburb. Wanting to make the most of her home’s limited proportions, Sara launches into the fundamentals of living in a small space and making it feel ‘full-sized’ rather than diminutive.
Sara breaks down the key elements of tiny spaces in order to make small living lifestyles feel manageable and even luxurious. She begins by discussing the design elements of limited square footage and gives clear and creative ideas for working with what little space you might have. Carefully considered, this book goes beyond the styling of rooms and delves into the lifestyle you can create in a limited area. Every square inch of your home has potential, and Beautifully Small is chock full of ideas to get you excited about down-sized living and making the most out of every room.
Throughout the book, Sara showcases other small homes whose owners have adapted them effectively and stunningly. Loft conversions are a favourite, and demonstrate the potential of a property when reconfigured. These examples of attics that have been turned into cosy loft bedrooms are both practical and creative additions to family life.
What was once redundant loft space has been used by the architect to create a roomy mezzanine above the hallway with sleeping platforms at both ends. A variety of striped textiles chosen by Pauline has been scattered throughout the apartment to enhance its decorative cohesion.
The exposed structural wooden beams are superb architectural features that form ready-made partitions between the two mezzanine spaces. Tiny alcoves in the far corner, positioned next to the staircase down to the kitchen, provide useful storage space.
With architectural concepts discussed as well as stylistic hints, Beautifully Small covers everything you need to know to consider your small space and work with it to make the most of every corner. With theme and personality being key ingredients to styling a room, I fell in love with the design aspects of the Swedish apartment showcased in the book. With limited floor space and an abundance of character, owners Sam and Grant have designed a rich and luxurious space full of texture and vibrancy that complements the small apartment beautifully. The styling of this property demonstrates that not all small homes must be minimalist; they simply have to be carefully considered in order to form fulfilling and effortless living spaces.
A collection of old boxes and large tins rests on a freestanding wardrobe in the couple’s bedroom. This form of storage is both practical and aesthetically appealing.
Finding storage solutions is an evolutionary process that owes much to the couple’s love of collecting vintage pieces. A rescued rack of drawers in the bedroom alcove now houses Grant’s office paperwork.The remodelling was quite extensive: walls were knocked down, a chimney breast removed and a large section of the roof was torn down and built up and out to increase the floor space and ceiling height of the apartment. The floor was levelled, skylights were added and the windows suitably positioned to maximize light – this is Sweden, after all, and small attic apartments need to have as much light as possible to make the space feel capacious, especially in the winter. The ceilings were removed and the beams in the roof were exposed to give the apartment some much-needed height and a sense of space. It also, somewhat unintentionally, provided a clever and quirky storage solution, as the framework of the beams created ‘shelving’ for industrial-style aluminium crates that are stuffed with all sorts of bits and pieces.This is a cleverly constructed interior that has been allowed to maintain a strong sense of history despite its relatively compact size and the extent of the remodelling of the space. The successful results are entirely due to the couple’s considered and intelligent design planning and their sympathetic approach to renovation.
The off-white shade chosen for the walls in the bedroom, and throughout the apartment, complements the honey tones of the vintage wooden pieces and the exposed beams. The polished-steel radiators are both functional and beautiful, as well as adding atmosphere to the apartment.
I have spent endless evenings pouring over this title, and it has been a great source of inspiration for developing my own diminutive home into something that feels more than just livable. A house warming present, my copy has become a go-to for architectural inspiration and colour ideas to styling and texture tips from day one of owning a small home. Not only does this interiors book offer incredibly sumptuous photography but also ingenious hacks for small spaces that leave each room feeling entirely intentional and welcoming. Sara’s careful styling and thoughtful design of her own home, as well as the descriptions of similarly creative homes featured in the book, feel gorgeously natural and I will continue to use it as inspiration for each of my small rooms.
Lovingly articulated and packed full of inspiration as well as practical tips, Beautifully Small is an invaluable title for any small homeowner.
Extracts taken from Beautifully Small by Sara Emslie, photography by Rachel Whiting, published by Ryland Peters & Small rrp £19.99 www.rylandpeters.com
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