By BRENDA REES
Multi-unit housing complexes are popping up all over the Eastside, with smaller, vertical spaces signaling a radical departure from the conventional floor plans found in the typical Craftsman bungalows, Spanish Colonial cottages or Mid Century Modern homes found across the area. Some of the new homes that have been built are only 15-feet wide. Designing for and living in these smaller units requires not only a scaled-down mind-set for both owner and designer but also opportunities to discover new meanings for what a home is all about.
“Today, less is indeed more,” says Patricia “PJ” Roden, who along with Katerina Gabbo are principals at Matters of Space, an interior design company in Highland Park. The duo recently designed interiors for the narrow townhomes at NELA Union on Eagle Rock Boulevard and learned that smaller rooms mean a less wasteful design – spatially, economically and environmentally.
“Typically these units are multi-storied with a guest bedroom on the bottom level, large family or open space with kitchen on the first level and then bedrooms on the top,” says Roden, who adds that the architectural space design is intended to be as efficient as possible. Designing interior spaces follows that lead.
Roden offers suggestions for designing and living in these compact spaces:
- Go for scale and don’t overstuff a room. No throw pillows! Find the right size furniture pieces for each room. Opt for a queen size rather than king sized bed. This may mean only two or three pieces per room. It’s OK if it feels a little “empty” – it won’t after a while.
- Choose furniture pieces that are multi-functional. Credenzas can double as a book case, TV stand, snack tables for parties and more. The more double-duty, the better.
- Buy furniture like your grandparents did – pay a high price for locally-made quality because this sofa/bed/whatever is meant to last your lifetime, and become, in a way, a member of the family. “People spend thousands of dollars on shoes, why not buy something that will last for generations?” asks Roden. Pieces can be reupholstered to be updated and kept out of the landfills.
- To create an illusion of space in a small room, try these tips: place mirrors at kitty-corner angles to reflect the view from an outside-looking window. Window treatments should fit snugly into cases as roller shades and not dangle haphazardly. Use light, sheer curtains and make sure curtains are hung at the right height.
- Keep the busy-ness down by using the same wall color throughout the home; each room can have one wall in a different color for a nice dramatic effect.
- Above all, embrace the eco-friendly aspects of residing in a small space by living and shopping minimally. When you declutter your life, your space and your mind, the important things of life naturally come better into focus. Smaller spaces require shorter clean-up times, meaning more time can be spent out of the house experiencing the community – or engaged in an indoor project, conversation or…doing nothing at all.
Brenda Rees is a writer and resident of Eagle Rock.