Small is beautiful too

Big isn’t necessarily better. When it comes to house layouts, resourceful design can mean small and perfectly formed too. Space is at a premium. Land prices are consistently high and designers and architects seek to get the most for their square footage. Whatever your floorspace and height, there are a variety of aspects of design that be used to make the most of the space available.

Space is fundamental

Space is one of the fundamental elements of design in architecture. The way space is used inside and outside defines a building’s functionality, appearance and success. One of the great aspects of house design is the way an architect can create effects that disorientate spatial perception. Rooms can appear elongated through the use of windows, oblongs and space. Openings and reveals can create a sense of depth and space, through glass-panelled interiors doors or temporary, extendable screens.

Open-plan design

Sometimes an entirely open-plan design, a multi-function space, can make a room seem much larger than it actually is.  Using an underfloor heating system, for example, can make interiors feel much more spacious. The need for wall-mounted radiators is eradicated and the interior floor and wall area are maximised. This creates the impression of space. In a multi-function room, zoning your open living spaces can create a sense of size too. The subdivisions use spatial trickery to make areas appear bigger. Lighting can be used imaginatively too. 

Interesting ways to use small spaces

There are many inspired ways to use space in interesting and inventive ways. Simple designs include the use of open or spiral staircases, so that the stair area does not need to be enclosed and become a divisive aspect of a room. Decorative aspects can make an impact too. In terms of interior decoration, wrong choices such as dark colour schemes or busy floor patterns can cramp spaces and make them appear smaller. It’s what you put into your home too that makes it feel smaller. Maximise the use of wall space and use shelves and especially built-in wardrobes, and other storage such as under-eave storage, or attic spaces to their full potential.   

Make every bit of space count

Whatever the size of your property, you want to make every bit of space count. Incorporating ceiling rooflights can capture natural light, while the use of glass wall panels or patio doors – rather than windows – can blur the lines between indoors and outdoors. This is particularly effective in rural or coastal locations, where views are everything, or in urban areas where living spaces open out into gardens. Whatever space you have available, either as an architect, a designer or a self-builder, make the most of it with imaginative solutions. 

Hitting the deck. Your garden as outdoor living space.

Anyone who has a garden, however small or large, knows what a difference outdoor living makes to your wellbeing when you can use it. During the winter months, the garden is simply a view through the window, but come spring, it can become an extra and ever-changing room, a part of your living space.    

Creative use of outdoor space

Making the most use out of outdoor living and landscaping has long been the subject of debate (and hours of cheap TV programming). But it’s important to look at what you’ve got in the way of external space and how you can use it positive ways. It doesn’t matter what size your garden is, you should always have an area – either a flagged patio or wooden decking – that is a place for you to sit and relax. Dwarf walls or low hedges can also be used imaginatively, to break up spaces and create perspective, as can pathways, lattices and planting beds. Borders can be used for bedding plants, or as plain edges, filled with bark or gravel. Think creatively about the use of space. Make the most out of planting trees for shade, for example, but not at the expense of taking up all your seating area, and keep them to a manageable height.

Whatever the weather

Country, suburban and urban spaces can become really great places to spend time – providing we get the weather. If sometimes spring opens with promise, the Great British Summer often fails to deliver. Once summer has passed, we can get decent spells into October – so-called Indian Summers – and it’s only the shortening days and cooler evenings that drive us back indoors. Even if the weather isn’t up to much, there’s a range of permanent or semi-permanent pergolas, gazebos, summer houses and other structures that can enhance the enjoyment of your outside space and provide shelter. The addition of water features or a pond can attract a range of wildlife and birds, while plants can tempt an array of insects – even in urban and suburban areas, which can be surprisingly rich in wildlife.

Your garden is an important part of your property that is often the most ignored and taken for granted in a ‘just-passing-through’ sort of way. Create a place that you’re comfortable spending time in, a secluded haven where you can leave the world behind. Approach it in exactly the same way you’d think about how you’d decorate and furnish a room in your house. The more thought you put into it, the more pleasure and relaxation you’ll get out of it.

Top of the crops – becoming self-sufficient

An ideal for many people is to become self-sufficient. Living ‘the good life’, with an environmentally-friendly ‘grow-your-own’ food mentality, is now perhaps more relevant today than ever before. The idea that people can use their outdoor space to sustain their own produce is appealing, as many of us have gardens or other external areas that can be put to good use in interesting, cost-efficient and productive ways.

Self-sufficient – growing your own fruit and veg

Perhaps the most enjoyable and rewarding garden activity – aside from reclining on a sun lounger – is growing your own food. As we approach autumn, traditionally associated with gathering the crops and harvesting, it’s a good time to think about how next year you could be growing something yourself in your own garden. We’re not a Mediterranean country and our climate may be a bit too northern for many of the more exotic fruit and veg we’ve become used to seeing all year around on supermarket shelves, but there’s still an extensive range of options when it comes to UK growers who want to be a little self-sufficient.

Big ideas for small spaces

The extent to which you can embark on being self-sufficient by growing in your garden is obviously dependent on available space. Some new-build properties maximise the use of land on interiors and keep the outdoor areas to the minimum for low maintenance purposes. However, even in a relatively confined enclosure, just about anything can be grown on some scale – for example, in pots, tubs or in borders – as long as it gets some sunshine. Some plants obviously need more room to grow than others. Potatoes, with their bushy leaves and clusters of underground spuds, require space for each plant, while runner beans may not require much in land area, but can grow up canes vertically over six feet high.

Good candidates for borders or fences are bushy fruits, such as blackberries or gooseberries, while there are many smaller veg plants – peas, carrots or sprouts – that can be used to fill-out border areas, or sunny corners. Salad vegetables such as lettuce, onions, shallots, radish and tomatoes are ideal accompaniments to mealtimes and relatively easy to grow in your garden. And a greenhouse can offer improved growing conditions and a better climate, if you’ve got enough room to put one up.    

Another option is orchard crops. Apple, pear and plum trees are all easily cultivated in the UK and depending on their size (and the weather next year) can bear quite a crop of fruit. Gone are the days of a herb garden or cress being the limit to which urban gardeners can aspire, with a range of imaginative planters available at garden centres or DIY shops.

Plant your garden imaginatively, to make it a space that you can still enjoy, while watching parts of it flourish into your next salad.  Country or urban, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have space of some kind and the patience that it takes to grow your own and enjoy your own ‘good life’.