Creating the illusion of space in a small area

October 03, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I want to convert a small bedroom into a sitting room that can also accommodate the occasional overnight guest. The 10-by-12-foot dimensions can be extended 2 feet in length if I remove a double closet. How should I go about redesigning this room?

A: If storage space will remain adequate, there's really no reason not to expand the room's size. But I hope you don't remove the double closet solely because you think the room is currently too small to function as you want.

While designing a multipurpose setting in fairly tight confines can certainly be a challenge, successfully completing such a task will provide a lot of personal satisfaction. And if you observe a few general principles, the problems shouldn't prove all that daunting.

The basic need here is to trick the eye into seeing more square footage than actually exists. Start by selecting a few sizable pieces of furniture, as opposed to several small items. In your case, a sleep sofa and a generous-size chair are essentials. But instead of adding the usual coffee table or end tables -- which will only clutter the room and complicate the opening of the sofa -- I would suggest installing some shelves for books, a lamp and whatever decorative objects you wish to display.

If more storage space is needed, take a cue from well-furnished hotel rooms and add a small armoire. It can hold your guest's clothes as well as audiovisual equipment.

Once the functional issues have been addressed, you should turn your attention to making the room feel comfortable and look interesting.

Mirrors work well for those purposes. Not only do they offer convenience to a visitor, they make a small space seem bigger while also producing some sparkle. One option is to mirror an entire wall. Alternately, you could hang a couple of large-scale, decoratively framed mirrors in strategic locations. Either way, the effect will be to expand the room visually and to endow it with a personality of its own.

In the room shown in the photo, shelves were built into a niche carved out of a protruding duct. The result is a focal point that has been further enhanced by down lighting and by the contrast with the Light Lines II wall covering from Sanitas. The pattern seen here is a contemporary rendition of the popular plaid.

Something like this geometric covering will give the walls a textured appearance which, again, makes for a more interesting and attractive room.

Before you begin the redesign, it might be helpful to think of that small space as though it were a small painting. Both require exacting attention to details, along with some convincing illusions.

And like any good artist, an interior designer will exercise patience as she goes about creating such a composition.

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