Large spaces are worth their square footage in gold: it’s the mantra that every expat hears when they announce their plans to move to Hong Kong and a simple fact of life that every local accepts with resignation. If it’s convenience and a central location you want, you’re going to have to skimp on space. Though Hong Kong is still an extreme example in this day and age with its sub-200sqft flats, due to myriad reasons from rising rents to an increase in single-person abodes, more and more people across the globe are downsizing their homes.
We spoke to Scott Specht, founder of US architecture firm Specht Architects, and sought his advice on how to make the best use of a small home. There’s definitely more to it than efficient storage and usage of space. Taking one of his projects, an ingenious micro-loft in New York City, as a starting point, Scott reveals his top tips.
1. Maximise every square inch – visually, as well as with unit storage.
2. Keep the kitchen extremely clean, with panels to cover everything so it doesn’t look chopped up with different materials.
3. Wrap certain surfaces from one space to another. For instance, this kitchen countertop turns and becomes a kind of display ledge that wraps into the living room. Having those surfaces flow and wrap from one space to the next also increases the perceived size of the space.
4. Use techniques to make the space look bigger. Instead of handrails, for instance, we used vertical cables that are strung from the ceiling, which allows the space to feel very open even though it provides a barrier.
5. We’re starting to use front-surface mirrors. What you do is either build storage or other types of built-in bookcases up to just above eye-level – six feet or so – and then from there to the ceiling, it’s just mirror. It’s an interesting optical illusion that makes the space look ten times bigger.
6. Make use of wall thickness – for instance, build the TV into the thickness of the wall.
7. Build storage up high in spaces that are between the height of normal reach and the ceiling – areas that you normally don’t use.
8. There are a lot of furniture companies that have started to come out with pieces that specifically suit spaces like this. Some have beds that convert into tables or a couch that converts into a bunk bed. There are new types of Murphy beds that are super-thin. Look at Resource Furniture – they have all kinds of different things, including kitchen modules that open up and look like bookcases. They’re one of the pioneers in producing furniture specifically for these kinds of spaces.