Design & Style
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10 Design Tips for Small Spaces

By Fran Sigurdsson
Published: November 8, 2010
Like this simple yet sophisticated gem of a cabin? Jane Scott, who has 25 years of experience as an interior designer, offers these tips to style your own “not-so-big” retreat:

• Budget. It may not look it, but the Scotts built and decorated their cabin on a budget. How? First, by opting for a small footprint. Second, they prioritized. They upgraded on certain things like flooring, lighting, appliances and hardware, but economized elsewhere. They used cedar accents instead of full wood walls to trim costs, shopped for quality furniture like the great room sofa in consignment stores and installed Formica countertops instead of granite.

• Open Plan. Instead of enclosing rooms with walls, an open plan creates spaces that flow together and makes a modest cabin appear spacious. Interior sliding doors add privacy, are unobtrusive when open, and allow more space for furniture. 
 
• Repetition. Using the same paint color and flooring throughout a small space unifies the area and makes it seem larger. 

• Natural Light.
Let the sunshine in with expanses of glass. Day-lighting not only animates a cabin, it saves on energy costs too.
 
• Go Green. Large overhangs reduce solar heat gain, as do windows with low-E glazing. Xeriscaping (landscaping with native plants) not only preserves the local wildlife habitat, it conserves water and reduces maintenance. (Wouldn’t you rather be rowing on the lake than mowing at the cabin?)

• Accessibility. This layout meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessibility, something to consider for elderly relatives or future retirement.
 
• Heighten Drama. A ceiling treatment, like wood beams or a hanging canoe, creates interest and expands space.
 
• Layer the Lighting. “People have recessed cans, but not enough upward-facing lights,” says Jane. For maximum impact – the best visual effect and practical use – combine ambient, task and accent lighting.

• Flexibility. Make the space multi-task. Instead of oversized furniture, choose sturdy pieces that can be re-arranged to suit your needs.
 
• Edit.
Display only things you love and nix clutter.


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