As homes get smaller, SuVASINI SRIDHARAN scouts for solutions to make the most of spaces

Space has become the ultimate luxury. Bungalows have given way to apartment blocks, gardens to window boxes. As most of us learn to make do with smaller homes, it's useful to know how to maximise the space available to us. 

“Space saving has begun to be the most important aspect of design these days. Home layouts aren't as elaborate as they use to be, you have shorter ceiling heights and smaller bathrooms, so smart design is necessary to make a smaller home look beautiful and be functional,” says Natasha Bohra, founder of Chromakey Designs in Mumbai.

“Space saving can be of two types. You can either utilise every corner of the house, or use multipurpose furniture.”

The chief challenge of smaller homes is finding storage for books, DVDs, shoes, artefacts and the million knick-knacks we collect. Too many cupboards and cabinets make spaces look cramped and tiny. “Use a chest or a hollow ottoman as a coffee table,” says Honey Jolly, Design Head of Home Ettu in Delhi. “Line a room with a shelf that's high up on the wall for books and knick-knacks.” Box beds and window seats with cabinets beneath are other smart ideas.  Sadhana Srinivasan, an interior designer at Neeras Design Studio in Chennai suggests converting the space under the staircase into a storage area. “I have boxed the area under a staircase, and covered both the empty sides with artistic wooden doors. I managed to get almost 300 sq. ft of extra space.” You could build shelves under the staircase to make a bookcase or even create a small bar unit there.

In tiny homes, every inch of area counts. “Convert balconies into utility areas,” suggests Dimple Kohli of Qboid Design House. “You can keep your washing machine and dryer there and build shelves for cleaning products and equipment.” Open kitchens are advisable in limited spaces. Dimple's idea is to use over-head cabinets for dishes and make the kitchen counter double up as dining table by keeping foldable chairs handy.

When it comes to children's rooms, S. Shriram, Kid Space Interiors and Designs, Chennai suggests a bed suspended from the ceiling. “We have designed a product called the Loft Bed. We mount a jumbo size cot at about head level, suspended from the ceiling and supported by metal brackets,” he says. It saves around 50 sq. ft of floor space and takes loads of up to 700 kg. The space under the steps of the bed has storage for toys and clothes.

Furniture can play a key role in space saving. Sadhana, who uses a lot of multipurpose furniture in the interiors she designs, says. “I designed a 1,300 sq. ft apartment with three small bedrooms for seven occupants. I made use of space savers where the study table got converted into a bed by night and the sofa became a bed for the grandfather.”

Many design houses and furniture stores these days have innovated with functional and stylish furniture that can serve more than one purpose and also not take up too much room. There are sofas whose arms are book shelves, extendable consoles, mobile bars, wall beds, foldable furniture and nested tables. Dimple has designed a unique piece that serves three functions -- seating on one side, one side a study and the other a bar.

While our personal space might be shrinking, it doesn't mean we have to make do with fewer comforts or compromise on aesthetics. Use smart furniture to get that roomy effect.

Look for extendable consoles, mobile bars, suspended beds, and foldable furniture

Use sleek and slim furniture rather than bulky pieces

Add mirrors in rooms to give an illusion of space

Keep the flooring same across a small space for visual continuity

Use fewer pieces of furniture and accessories to reduce visual clutter

Use screens rather than walls as room dividers