An architect's advice on getting small spaces right

Architect and founder of Dublin-based practice Small Spaces, Stephen Musiol, has some sterling words of advice for anyone embarking on a restricted project.

Over the last seven years, I have worked on numerous projects that have all had one thing in common - they involved a homeowner trying to get the best from a limited amount of space. The clients and the locations have changed but some fundamental facts never change...

There are three key aspects that you have some control over: the space itself, the stuff in the space, and the people in it. They interconnect: a problem with the space can be solved by focusing on the stuff or the people - and you can repeat that mantra in all the other combinations too.

Portobello Property by Aoibheann N? Mhear?in and John McLaughlinA Portobello property designed by Aoibheann Ní Mhearáin and John McLaughlin

Big personality works perfectly well in small spaces. This is your personal space after all. Forget other people's idea of good taste and create a space that makes you feel like yourself (on a good day).

Avoid the obvious idea of opening up all the space to make one slightly bigger space. A space that unfolds can feel bigger; differentiated areas allow privacy and practical functions can be hidden away.

A Francis Street property by Donaghy +Dimond architects

Try to make your mistakes on paper. Slow down and take time to figure out a range of options. Learn to do bad unartistic sketches. Take each option to its conclusion - it may not work but you have to get it wrong to move past it.

Approach all home improvement projects in a spirit of ingenuity, and make sure the people you work with appreciate this. The result will give you practical solutions with personality, tailored to you.

Exchequer Street by Melted Snow ArchitectsAn Exchequer Street property by Melted Snow Architects

Lastly, be happy about living in a limited space. Philosophers and poets have been extolling its virtues for centuries. Although much of my job involves transforming the physical space people live in, it is the change in their mindset that is the real success. Appreciate what you have and enjoy it.


Featured image: The Francis Street property by Donaghy +Dimond architects

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