When we first came to look at this space, the owners had yet to take possession, but it seemed apparent that we were going to remove at least one wall to have the three defined spaces of the main floor amalgamated into one larger space, to keep these principal rooms feeling larger than they actually were. When we went to visit the very large home they were leaving to move into this space, we realized it was going to be a bit of a challenge. The kids were off to school or work and the large house with all of the upkeep issues didn’t seem so appealing anymore; but there were still lots that had to be brought into this new space.
The wall that separated the small kitchen from the dining room and the living room made for a cramped and cut off kitchen from the rest of the space. It also made the main floor visually smaller than it needed to be. That was further exasperated by the lack of storage the kitchen provided. She liked to be able to cook and while the number of people that could be invited to dinner would have to be reduced, the function of the kitchen was still very important to her. Storage was clearly going to be something to be addressed in this area. They also had a considerable love of books and had many they were not going to part with.
[colored_box color=”blue”]The wonderful thing about discussing “small space” is that everyone has a different sense of what “small” means. I’ve been in some pretty large homes where the occupants seem to be struggling with storage space and I’ve been in extremely small spaces that appear to have all kinds of extra space. I suppose it’s based on what you are accustomed to that makes the difference to the space. [/colored_box]
In any small open concept space, you have to create areas that will act as specific rooms. The back of the sofa in this case creates the illusion of a walkway that allows you to get from the front door to the kitchen and stairs going to the second floor of the house. The central fixture of the dining room indicates the locations of the dining table as does the furniture that sits in that space. The kitchen peninsula separates the dining area from the kitchen, however, each one is open to the next. In planning this kind of space you have to determine first how the rooms will be used and secondly what the traffic patterns are going to be to get around the space. No one is comfortable walking though the middle of a seating area to get to the kitchen so they will search for a way around it. The furniture and carpets are the objects that indicate the rooms and hallways and hence the traffic patterns. If they are placed poorly, the room will always feel “uncomfortable” to move through.
One of the ways to create cohesion in an open concept and smaller space is to repeat elements throughout. In order to create more storage in the kitchen we extended the kitchen cabinets into the dining room using the same finish that was used on the original kitchen cabinets. We didn’t want to create a full wall of cabinets and have the dining room feel even smaller or like it was stuck in the kitchen, so we implied a sideboard in the center of the dining cabinets where we would be able to place a large mirror to reflect the room and give the illusion of something larger. We used a mirror in that opening of the cabinets that was a mirror with a mirror frame. Behind the mirror we painted the wall in the same colour that the fireplace wall is painted. Effectively we have visually pulled the kitchen into the dining room, the dining room into the kitchen, the living into the dining and vice versa. The cohesion between all the rooms creates a visual balance between the rooms.
In the living room, we created a seating or conversation circle that is centered on the fireplace. The fireplace wasn’t perfectly centered on the wall it was placed, so in order to deal with that issue and the need for books and more storage, we flanked the fireplace with cabinets and shelves. The book shelves are of various sizes and different levels to create further visual interest on that wall and to differentiate it from the kitchen cabinets. The size difference also masks the different sizes on either side of the fireplace. The lower sections of the shelves are closed cabinets that have no hardware on the exterior, to maintain a clean look. They provide storage for the kitchen and the dining room as well as a variety of other things required on the main floor. Effectively the books and art objects provide the accessories for that space. The sofa and chairs that flank the fireplace create a living room, and what remains are three distinctive rooms that each over lap slightly into the next. Incorporating the storage into the room decor, and using the height of the walls is the best way to deal with it. The wall space isn’t necessary to get around the room and provides you with far more square footage than the floor does, as there is only one floor surface, but four walls!
Their pared down life now fits very well into their new space, and they are far more free to travel without worrying about the house or the property. To many people in other countries, this “small” space would be considered quite large and they would be daunted by having to clean and care for it. Fortunately for our home owners, it seems like a great thing to have so little to have to worry about!