The Seven Elements of Interior Design: Space

Our new series on the Pooky blog looks at the seven elements of interior design: space, line, form, shape, color, pattern, texture and, of course, light. In the first post we look at how to make space work for you, to create beauty and happiness….

Zaha Hadid believed that architecture was about well-being: ‘I want people to feel good in a space.’ This is as true for interior design as it is for architecture. And whether our home is small, large, or somewhere in between, we want to feel good in the spaces we create for ourselves, our family members, friends, and guests. 

Most of us are not in the position of having much if any input into designing the actual bricks and mortar of our homes but there is plenty that we can do to use the space we have to best effect. That might mean taking a sledgehammer to an inconvenient wall or two; or it might simply be a case of sitting down with a pencil and graph paper to draw a room plan.

In this post, we are looking at using space – even the smallest space – imaginatively, and how the right accessories and lighting can make the most of the space that surrounds you.


Space – positive and negative

It is one of life’s little ironies that while we humans are heavier and taller than our ancestors, our homes, at least in the UK, are getting smaller. According to a 2018 report by Which?, the size of the average UK home rose steadily in the last century, peaking in the 1970s at 83.3 square metres. By contrast, century homes built since 2010, are 18 per cent smaller than they were 40 to 50 years ago. The average UK home now has just 67.8 square metres of living space; that’s not much more than the floor space of a double-decker London bus. All the more reason to think carefully about using space effectively!

Apart from kitchens and bathrooms, which mainly have permanent fixtures, others areas for dining, relaxing, and sleeping, and even hallways offer flexibility in terms of space.

And that space is either positive – where furniture is placed – or negative, the spaces between items. We need to think about both. So, whether you are tackling an entire house or a single room or area, it makes sense to make a plan, which is where the graph paper and a sharp pencil (and an eraser) come in. 


 

Sample plans for a rectangular sitting room, Lauren Gilbertthorpe.

Think about who will use the room, and when and how, and don’t forget to allow for circulation space so that people can move around and also reach electrical points and light switches easily. There’s nothing worse than having to squeeze between cumbersome pieces of furniture just to get to another part of a room, let alone manoeuvre a vacuum cleaner. Even a robot cleaner can be seriously challenged by some interiors.



Changing taste, changing space


A typical Victorian drawing room: no surface left uncluttered.

The Victorians and Edwardians loved their homes…but they also loved their stuff. Every shelf, every nook, cranny and table top became a repository for more stuff, not to mention a plethora of crockery and cutlery for every conceivable type of food. Today’s owners of Victorian and Edwardian homes take a rather different approach, making the most of all the light that floods in from large windows and removing interior walls to create maximum floor space. O tempora, o mores…

In recent decades, even the smallest terraced cottages have been transformed into spacious three floor homes, via loft conversions providing home offices or en suite master bedrooms, for example, and the installation of bifold doors at ground floor level, which not only bring the outdoors indoors but also add an estimated five to 10 per cent to the resale value of a property.

Master bedroom with curved partition en-suite for Cotswold Cottage near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor. Image credit.


Bringing dead spaces to life

Most homes will have at least one ‘dead’ space: under the stairs or alongside a staircase, or a half landing, landing or corridor. With a little imagination, these spaces can be transformed into a dedicated area for reading, studying or relaxing, or simply a focal point to give an air of spaciousness.  

The simple addition of a chair and one or two favourite pieces is an eye-catching and effective way of eliminating dead space.


The modern pantry, bringing a new meaning to 'below stairs'. Image credit.

Clever storage systems are often the key to bringing these spaces to life. Keen cooks often bemoan the lack of an old-fashioned pantry in modern houses but an under stairs space can be converted easily and at very little cost.

Half landings, provided that they are wide enough, can make ideal reading areas. And let’s not forget hallways; just the right spot for an upright piano.


Photo: Victoria von Westenholz


Spacious, gracious dining

 

Today’s preference for open plan living areas means that many smaller homes have no separate dining room but, as the photo above shows, it is possible to create a generous dining space, in this case with a mix of chairs and fixed seating with inbuilt storage.

Adding a large mirror in a small dining room or area also enhances a sense of space. White walls, natural materials and a limited neutral colour palette all help too.



Spaciousness, collections and eclecticism

But what happens to spaciousness if you are up against that perennial problem of lots of stuff, whether eclectic furniture, furnishings, arts and crafts, or a large, cherished collection?  

Shkrub, just outside Kyiv, is the home of Ukrainian architect, Sergey Makhno, and pays tribute to an unusual combination of Japanese and Ukrainian design influences. Purpose-built shelving provides a dramatic and ample display area for part of Makhno’s extensive collection of ceramics, leaving the seating area calm and uncluttered. Take a look here.


Space and colour

While opting for a restricted colour scheme for a small sitting room is usually a good idea, it is still possible to add interest through pattern, texture and mixed colours, without sacrificing a sense of space. A seating area should be relaxing and comfortable: low-level matching sofas, lighting and coffee tables are key in the compact sitting room below, as are plants and cut flowers. The single large painting, patterned carpet and cushions provide pleasing contrast.


Colour, contrast, pattern and texture – and still a feeling of space. Snug by Lonika Chande

Mirror, mirror…

Later in this series, we’ll be turning our attention to lighting as one of the seven elements of interior design. Meanwhile, in this post we showed ways of using lighting to make rooms look more spacious. 

There is, perhaps, no simpler way of making smaller look bigger, by day or night, than with a carefully selected and well positioned mirror. It might be a scaled down mirror to open up a tight space or to create a focal point, or a grand statement mirror opposite a window (or another mirror) to make a room appear larger than it is.

As well as being busy reflecting all that important light, there is no reason why a mirror  should not be a talking point too. In which case, why stop at one, when you could have two or more? Pooky’s rectangular Necklace link mirror works perfectly in a light-reflecting row, just like a diamond necklace...

Pooky's Necklace link mirror

 

Pooky make beautiful lights for beautiful spaces. Browse our full range of affordanle designer lamps, shades, mirrors and more here.