INTERIORS As prices rise and flats get smaller, it’s time to start thinking smart, says T. Krithika ReddY. Here’s how to do it without compromising on style or comfort

Homes are shrinking. Living rooms are now the size of bedrooms, bedrooms the size of balconies, and kitchens smaller than pantries. With space at a premium, compact homes are the choice of the majority. But there’s a lot you can do with little.

You can transform a cramped two-bedroom apartment into a stylish and seemingly spacious space by addressing a few design dilemmas — how to cut back on clutter? What furniture will free the floor? How to use colour and lighting to create an illusion of space? We spoke to architects/interior designers Vivek & Associates and Arvind Varuna Associates and put together a primer.

1. First function, then form

Determine your needs before thinking design. Function precedes form. The key to living large with less is to get involved with design from the first stage. So, if the builder lets you alter design at the construction stage, plan seamless spaces and do away with too many dense inside walls. Go for slim walls or replace them with glass to create an illusion of space. Tap natural light and air. Use niches in walls and windowsills for storage. Extend window ledges and create storage spaces or little work pads. Opt for large windows that psychologically extend space by bringing in landscape views. Borrow space from the balcony and integrate it with the bedroom.

2. Do the division right

In compact dwellings, the living room becomes the family room, the home office and the dining room too. Look at defining these divisions without making the space look cramped. Partitions are outdated, as are cupboards.

An unobtrusive floor plan will open up the room visually. Go for pared-down furniture that can be placed imaginatively to define areas and ensure hassle-free flow of activity. When it comes to styling versatile spaces, make sure the different elements work together. Don’t use an art-deco settee on one side and a Chettinad style table on the other. Good design is about harmony.

3. Cool kitchens

Whether you use the kitchen to microwave oats or whip up banquets, don’t ignore detail. Pull-out bins, a little table that can be opened out from the wall (it fuses functions as a work table and a breakfast table), swing-out shelves that optimise space, open shelves and rails to place frequently used items like coffee cups or spice jars, and cabinets that go right up to the ceiling are some options.

Appliances (choose multi-functional, compact ones) can be tucked away using sliding doors. If counter space is limited, a cutting board can be fit over the sink. A pull-out multi-purpose board included in the cabinet is a great space saver, as is a rolling kitchen cart.

4. Illusion of space

If you are looking at seamless integration of bed and bath, pick glass walls that expand space visually. The bed is the focal point. Low beds and futons on a slightly raised platform give a feeling of space. Instead of dressers, opt for wall mirrors and compact floating cabinets. Maximise vertical spaces with flooring-to-ceiling cabinets.

Make window ledges double up as work stations. Bunk beds, Murphy beds, sofa-beds and storage beds are other space-saving solutions for tiny rooms. Slim, glass-walled shower stations are best for small bathrooms.

5. Light and colour

Colour, texture, lighting and scale play a stellar role. Light tones open up space while clean, crisp walls break the monotony of spartan spaces. Use reflective surfaces on cabinets and room dividers. The concept of privacy for dining areas is fading but if needed use sliding doors or glass-and-blind partitions that open out when the dining area is not in use. Avoid wall panels, huge artefacts, and dense paintings that overpower the space. Large, plain tiles in light shades with few joints open up floor space. Patterns are better for larger rooms. Skip ornate, chunky light fittings and put in recessed lamps in the ceiling or below floating cabinets.

Remember, spare is synonymous with roominess, and proportions play an important role. Match furniture with the scale of your room, don’t just pick a sofa that looks great in the showroom. Streamlined sofas, glass-top tables, large mirrors, convertible tables (think console table by day and dining table by night), stacking and foldable furniture, and nesting tables save space without sacrificing style. All it takes is a little imagination to create a home that’s warm and welcoming, never mind the size!


  • Use plenty of glass and reflective spaces to create an illusion of space

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  • Avoid huge artefacts and overpowering paintings

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  • Balance utility and chic with bunk beds, nesting tables and sofa-beds

  • Think convertible

    A small decorative table can work as console during the day and small buffet table at night. Use window ledges productively. They can be a work space or a cheerful reading nook with cushions. Install a pull-out board in the kitchen that works as cutting and kneading board or extra work space when needed. It can be tucked away when not in use. Use wall spaces as much as possible, with strong hooks for cups, pans and ladles in the kitchen or multiple shelves in the living room for books or curios.