Nobody likes to feel cramped and overcrowded when they’re at home. But ordinary UK houses, unlike the stately homes of history and fiction, have always been on the small side, compared, for example, to those in North America, where there simply is more space. The UK is a densely populated island, and it’s also damp and chilly, so it makes sense for houses to huddle together, and to have internal spaces that are not too difficult to heat.
But, although space is at a premium, we like to feel that we have plenty of room in our homes. How can you create that airy atmosphere in a confined space?
Take a good look at your main living room, with a view to eliminating everything that doesn’t earn its keep. The well-known William Morris: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ is something to have in mind.
Don’t let objects of merely sentimental value get past you. Put them all in a box and allow yourself to put one, and only one, memento on display at any time. The rest can live in the box, unless you can find a quiet corner for them in a spare room. Your main living room will look much bigger and actually cosier with fewer small objects strewn around looking untidy.
It may be obvious, but it’s really effective: mirrors will double the space in your room, and they will also reflect any natural light coming in through the windows. A small room will be both larger and lighter in appearance with the addition of a couple of mirrors.
You can get second-hand mirrors very cheaply at junk shops, often with nice frames. Mirror glass is also sold by all good glass shops, and they should be able to cut it to size. You then fix it to the wall with double-sided tape. That’s one way to achieve an instant improvement in a cramped space without spending too much.
This idea is less obvious than de-cluttering or using mirrors. Sometimes a well-chosen item of furniture can create the impression of space even while it is actually occupying space in the room.
For example, well-designed and solidly made 2 seater sofas, such as the ones found at www.made.com with attractive cushions and maybe a colourful throw can be added to many sitting rooms and actually appear to increase the space. That’s because we are used to thinking of sofas as larger items, and a small one can trick the eye, while also making the room into a more inviting space for family and guests to relax in.
Another item which seems to create space rather than using it up is the potted plant.
An attractive fern or weeping fig plant brings a feeling of life and nature into the home. As well as looking good, it will literally make the atmosphere better by producing oxygen.
It doesn’t have to take up much space and will more than justify its inclusion. For a small space, choose a plant which has light foliage rather than a dark green one if possible. And, of course, be careful to follow instructions about care, placement and watering, since a sick-looking plant is just depressing.
Amy Grimshaw is a minimalistic designer. She loves sharing her tips for modern design on interior decorating blogs.