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Making the most of your space

Melanie Whitehouse / 22 July 2015

Downsizing? Once you’ve done the hard bit and decided what to keep, you’ll want to know how to display what’s left.

Contemporary living room
Make the most of your space with smart storage solutions


Your new rooms may be smaller than you’re used to but don’t think that means you have to invest in small furniture.

Big items used sparingly – a large sofa, a comfy armchair or two – will look neater than lots of little bits and pieces.

To get the layout right, map out your room on graph paper and cut out shapes to scale to represent your furniture, then move around until you have a good fit. Don’t forget to mark in your fireplace, television and any other focal points.

Find out how to make the most of a small dining room

Use your walls

Think vertically – by using your walls to display art, or books or treasured possessions on a set of shelves, it draws the eye upwards and makes a space feel bigger than it actually is.

If your ceiling is low, hang pictures quite high – it’ll make the room seem loftier. Shelves need not be horizontal slats of wood: box shelving is a great alternative (check out Ikea’s affordable Kallax system) and take shelving and cabinets right the way to the ceiling.

Clever lighting

Lighting is the key to making a small space feel grander than it is. Picture or spotlights will focus attention on a favourite piece or art or ornament; floor lamps will light a dark corner; wall lights will create an ambient glow.

Create reflections by framing pictures in mirror or glass, and put mirrors in dark corners.

Find out how to make a dark room look lighter

Storage is key

If you haven’t got it, have it built in or buy items that include it. Clever storage solutions hide away life’s necessities that you don’t want on show.

Look for coffee tables with built-in drawers for magazines, matches and coasters; under-bed storage for out-of-season duvets and bed linen; and ottoman or bench seating with storage underneath – useful for throws and extra cushions.

If there’s a gap for tea towels in your kitchen units, swop it for a slide-out storage unit.

Store out-of-season clothes in vacuum packs that take up little room and protect them from moths.

Find out how to maximise your storage space

Curtains and blinds

To make the most of every scrap of sun, extend curtain rods beyond the window frames and go for dramatic, floor-to-ceiling drapes. Mount Roman blinds above the window so they don’t obscure any light. Both these solutions have the added bonus of making the room feel bigger than it really is – covering up windows will make the room feel smaller.

Choosing colour

In a small space, keep things calm: lots of conflicting patterns, ornaments everywhere or teetering piles of books will confuse the eye. Pale walls with an even paler ceiling will maximise light. If your room gets lots of sun, pick cool shades; choose warmer colours if it’s east or north facing. A dark, gloomy space will always be dark, so work with the shadows and create impact by using a strong colour on at least one wall.

Find out about the different paint types and their uses

Play with pattern

A print wallpaper doesn’t need a big space to work in and you can use some clever tricks: horizontal stripes will widen a narrow area and vertical stripes give the illusion of height.

Work space

No room for a study? Can you fit a small desk under the stairs? Drop-down desks or tabletops are ideal for laptops and can be tidied away when not in use.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.