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  • Writer's pictureArcht. Ilmi Dissanayake

The 7 Secrets of Small House Design

What is a small house? There is no definition. But when looking at the current trends, a small house has an internal floor area between 100 – 200 square meters in size.

If it is correctly designed, an Architect can make a small house look more spacious. On the other hand, a poorly designed large house can equally feel small.

In this article we are looking at some design facts that can help your small house look and feel more spacious.

1. Brief

Decide everything you need to have and depending on the size of your home, you might have to let go of some “wants” that you expect from your house. For example, a bathroom could be given access to the bedroom and the hall, eliminating the need for two bathrooms. Depending on the budget, only settle for the spaces that you can construct. In a small house, you cannot build everything that you may want.

2. Space planning

It’s better to design a few larger spaces than having a large number of smaller spaces. For example, designing the living, dining and pantry within one big hall makes the house look bigger, than designing separate spaces for each of them.

Figure: Open plan feel spacious

Figure: Separated Spaces Feel small

The goal in space planning is to take maximum use of the available space. It is important to carefully decide the location of each room within the house to minimize the circulation.

3. Multi-functional spaces and Flexible Furniture

You can create a multifunctional space by merging two activities that happen during different times of the day, together. Flexible furniture can also help when using a multifunctional space.

For example, a bedroom with a fold-up bed can be used for any other activity during the day time like a kid’s play area or a workout space.

Instead of separating a space by building a wall, you can use a partition to separate the space. If you have a home office and need a separation from the house, a partition wall can be used to provide the separation while you’re working.

An outdoor terrace/ patio can be used as an extension for the living room or dining area, when you have visitors.

Instead of a room, you can use a niche or a corner that’s away from high traffic as a home office.

Furniture can also help you reduce the footprint of the house. For example, you can use a laundry cupboard instead of a laundry room.

4. Visual Connections

When walking through the house, it’s important that you visually connect the common areas. When you can see throughout the spaces, rather than seeing only a small room, it gives the impression of a large house.

Common areas like living, dining, pantry, kitchen can be visually connected.

If your house is two story, include double height spaces to visually connect the upper floor with the ground floor. Ideally, the living area of the upper floor can be connected with the living and the dining of the ground floor.

The interior spaces can also be visually connected with the outdoor garden. This also helps the space to extend to the exterior and opens up the space.

5. Maximize daylight

A small house can largely benefit from daylight. Using a lot of windows to fully light up the interior spaces with natural light can make the spaces look bright, airy, and bigger.

When designing windows, instead of using small windows, use large sliding door-windows. Make them span a full height to help make the space look bigger.

6. Light colour interior

Colour is important throughout the house design. Remember that the dark colours absorb more light while lighter colours reflect more light. Keep in mind that you want a lot of light to bounce off of the surfaces of the interior. Even if you let a lot of daylight in by using large windows, it’s not useful if the interior colours are dark.

Figure: Dark colours absorb more light

Figure: Light colours reflect more light

Select a light colour palette for your interior. Specially if you can make the walls and ceiling white, it can have a great impact on making the space look bigger. Use light colours for flooring, furniture, rugs, pillows, curtains and everything possible within the house.

7. Storage

Lack of storage can make a house look crammed and small. When designing a small house, if you don’t have a separate room or a big room for storage, there are ways you can utilize space for storage.

You might not realize how abundant the vertical spaces are within your house. Avoid trying to expand on the horizontal space for storage because it can result in a crammed house. Instead, you can use the vertical space for it’s full potential. The space above the bed, the wash basin and WC can be used for extra shelves.

In the kitchen, top pantries can be extended upto the ceiling for storing rarely used kitchen items.

Furniture can also be designed to hold extra storage such as beds, sofas and ottomans with storage space underneath them.

You can be creative with using shelves to separate internal spaces instead of walls. Then they will act both as a partition wall and as a rack for storage.

Underneath the staircase is also a good place for extra storage.


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