It’s a story we’re all familiar with. As London house prices continue to soar, we’re paying more than ever for a place to call home. First-time buyers in West London can expect to spend £1,000 per sq ft for a one-bed flat, according to John Horton of estate agents Horton and Garton, while a one-bed rental in Hackney averages £552 a week.
As our homes shrink to shoebox-like proportions, making space and finding storage solutions has never been more of a challenge. Luckily, help is at hand on the high street. Stores are responding with compact furniture collections and designers are inventing ever cleverer products that pop up, unfold or slip neatly into those dead spaces we often overlook. Here are some easy home hacks that prove size doesn’t always matter.
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Make every inch of your new mini-home work hard to earn its expensive keep. Under the stairs and in sloping attic eaves; in tight corners, above doors and under the bed — these are your secret storage spots. Consider Ikea’s open-plan Algot shelving, which adapts to go where other modular systems can’t. Alternatively try the Besta system (above), which can be customised to cover an entire wall with sleek and streamlined units.
Silent nights and tranquil days are the key to home happiness — both for you and your neighbours. If you have people living above or below, think twice before going for stripped floorboards.
In the frame
Swishy, full-length curtains are space-wasters, while radiator skimmers look skimpy. Use roller blinds for bedrooms or Venetian blinds to let in light. Venetians come in multiple colours and widths (note: the wider the slat, the less light comes in). In the bathroom, decorative window film looks like etched glass and is simple to put up, making windows translucent.
‘Direct light towards ceilings and walls to reflect it,’ advises lighting designer Sally Storey, who recommends a mix of ambient, accent and task (desk lamps, etc) lighting to avoid grids of down-lights. Invest in dimmer switches to vary the mood, and avoid pendants if ceilings are low. A single statement light makes a great focal point.
Space & Shape creates masterful multitasking furniture, including the Pill (above), a circular wooden wall cabinet that turns into a desk at the flip of a hinge.
Londoners are much too busy for baths, so forget a floor-and-water-hogging tub and create a walk-in wet room in half the space instead. Opt for a mini wall-hung basin, with a mono mixer rather than taps, while a mirrored backsplash will double the size of a room. Victoria Plumbing and The Bathroom Store are good starting points for inspiration.
Keep colour palettes light without going snow blind. Joa Studholme, Farrow & Ball’s international colour consultant, advises: ‘Use one colour on walls, woodwork and ceiling so you won’t read the boundaries of the room. Colours that are too light can leave a room feeling under-decorated; darker tones will close a space in, while mid-tones like pinky-greys add depth.’ If you’re dead set on the Antarctic look, Dulux’s Light & Space paint range reflects twice as much light as ordinary emulsion. Alternatively, Surface View’s collection of stick-on wallpaper panels include clever effects, from cracked concrete to a wall of flowers.
Original story by Katie Law for Evening Standard