Ten Tricks for Executing Big Ideas in Small Spaces - Design Bureau

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Ten Tricks for Executing Big Ideas in Small Spaces

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Photo by Maggie Morrow

By Patricia Motzkin, Owner of Patricia Motzkin Architecture

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than feeling claustrophobic in a small room or building. Over the course of her professional career, Patricia Motzkin has been tasked with making many small spaces feel as though they expand beyond the confines of their restricted square footage. She shares her tips here on making small spaces feel bigger and look better.

1. Connection to the outdoors: In small spaces, large windows and doors help expand the feeling of the interior space by making a connection to its surroundings.

2. Daylight: Daylight always makes spaces feel brighter and larger, ofteachieved by item #1.

3. Mirrors: Careful placement of a mirror also makes a space feel larger, more expansive, and more light-filled; reflections expand the sense of space as well as reflect light.

4. Careful use of color: Depending on the desired feel and character of a space, the use of color is critical. Light colors can create an expansive, airy feel; darker colors can create a vivid feeling of enlivenment or deep sense of enclosure, depending on the mood sought.

5. Scale: In small spaces, scale matters. It's important to choose furniture and design built-ins to not overpower or dwarf a small space.

6. Judicious use of objects: In small spaces, it’s important to choose all objects carefully and not to use too many.

7. Mix of old and new: I always like to combine sensibilities or have one item that might tell a slightly different story, adding a personal touch to the overall aesthetic

8. Let architecture be the backdrop: I prefer to design strong, simple spaces that don’t compete with furnishings. I like a strong connection to the outside, daylight, scale, and all things mentioned above, but I tend to let my architectural designs be backdrop to the owner’s taste, furnishings, and art.

9. Choose the moment: If I do have a statement element, it's carefully chosen, such as an unusual tile backsplash in a kitchen or a tile pattern in a shower.

10. The unexpected: Something in the space to surprise and delight. Whether it's an unusual or oddly placed window, an antique gilded mirror, or reupholstered cowhide foot stool, an element of surprise scaled to the space always makes it memorable.


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