Room for Improvement

PUBLISHED: 11:25 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 February 2013

Fine fabrics, small, carefully chosen pieces, a warm palette and careful attention to detailing are the requirements for small rooms

Fine fabrics, small, carefully chosen pieces, a warm palette and careful attention to detailing are the requirements for small rooms

Small spaces shouldn't be given second-best when it comes to furnishing. Choosing the correct pieces, of whatever style, is crucial to the success of a scheme

Furnishing a small room, or an area within a larger room which is tight for space, may seem like a straightforward exercise: less space, fewer pieces, less expense you might think. However, filling a small room (perhaps a snug) with a single armchair, a coffee table and a floor lamp is likely only to make the room feel cramped and unappealing.

In this scenario choosing the correct pieces (of whatever style) is crucial to the success of a scheme. As with rooms and spaces of any size, it is important to consider what use you expect from your space. What do you want for storage, display facilities and, of course, how many people do you wish to seat?

If your room will be used regularly, it warrants a respectable budget. Aim to create a jewel of an interior, which makes a boast of its diminutive area by virtue of the planning that has gone into it.

If this is an enclosed room you are tackling, think about storage and display from the outset; a cabinet slotted in as an afterthought is bound to look out of place and over-clutter the room. If height allows, consider a shelf at high level that may run around the room and be a home to books, pictures or a collection of ceramics. At this stage it's floor area that you are trying to preserve.

Study the construction of the walls and think about the possibility of 'stealing' space from an adjacent room by knocking through and creating adequate depth for a cupboard or a shelving recess. If this is feasible, such a recess could accommodate a small flat-screen TV. Even if this is not an option you may be able to excavate one wall sufficiently to house a modest television within its depth. A collection of small paintings carefully arranged on this elevation could easily include one which conceals the screen when not in use, much more pleasing to the eye, especially in a small space.

If stealing space and depth from elsewhere is out of the question, another solution will be to eat into your floor area on one elevation alone, and create floor-to-ceiling storage, either as display or concealed space. Better this than a random collection of pieces around the room that compromises your seating plan.

Lighting provision is not only essential but also provides an opportunity for ingenuity and the chance to set this room apart. In an alcove that you may have created, the soft glow from concealed LEDs will set the mood, whilst neat 'pockets of light' are the perfect task light where space is limited. With their flexible necks and discreet finish, these adaptable floor-standing fittings sit easily in any style of interior.

With a little more room you can consider a floor lamp that recommends itself for this room owing to its multi-functions. Equipped with an adjustable table (adequate in size for a drink, some snacks and a book) and a swing-arm shaded lamp, this is ideal to serve an armchair and occasional table. The unusual configuration of this fitting will also make a unique contribution to the scheme and provides an opportunity to introduce some colour on the shade.

Like the other lighting described above, this fitting is low on glare. Particularly in an enclosed room (but in all spaces, in my opinion), this is an important element of successful lighting. Combining task lighting with ambient fittings (such as the recess LEDs or picture lights) will illuminate your room beautifully in readiness for the furnishings you add. Incorporating a mirrored lamp will amplify your pleasure and add another feature. Finish off with discreet toggle switches mounted on clear backplates.

My own feeling is that small spaces demand to be furnished with items of high quality and distinction. Such pieces have to be sought out and we are always on the lookout for solutions to the challenges regularly set us by our clients.

Under foot you may install carpet or timber floor or an appealing rug. In a small space you may find that a slightly more costly antique example (of a modest size) comes within budget. This would certainly look the part and could be set upon painted boards if the existing timbers are serviceable but not that presentable. Contemporary alternatives are available, all made-to-measure, if necessary, and still display the subtlety of their older counterparts.

On the walls you may feel that a coat of carefully chosen paint will suffice. If you have paintings to display this is probably the case, but do not rule out the textured papers simulating linen and suede that add cosiness and present an ideal backdrop to artwork.

In a confined space, even if that is in the corner of a larger room, furnishings come under close scrutiny. Only those beautifully finished and of good quality will pass muster. Fortunately there are plenty of options from which to choose.

The armless chair is an exquisite piece, both neat and exceptionally comfortable, belying the notion that being landed with the smallest chair is second-best. A pair of these set either side of a very narrow 'cathedral' table will make a stylish arrangement. A low occasional table reminiscent of a chess piece, turned from solid mahogany with ebony inlay, would complement this setting.

Fine fabrics sometimes prove prohibitively priced but small quantities can be put to excellent use on finely tailored upholstered pieces and decorative scatter cushions. Though calm colours do undoubtedly work in small spaces, a warm palette will create more of a snug feel and should not be avoided out of apprehension. 'Bold' is good in small spaces! Accessorise with paintings and fine antique pieces of small proportions to complete a thoroughly well-planned interior.


For more information on the products illustrated, contact Simon at Ashton House Design, 01364 653563,

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