Monday, October 27, 2008

10 Small House Dos

10 Small House DosHomeowner Sheila York knows you don't have to live in a palace-size place to reap the benefits of good design. In fact, smart space-stretching ideas abound in her 1,200-square-foot Michigan home, from room-expanding paint treatments to efficient ways for displaying treasures. Here, she shares her design dos and don'ts for other homeowners who have more style than space.

DO Start at the ceiling. Sheila hung the window treatments in the dining room from the highest possible point on the wall (just under the crown molding). Hanging the curtains high lets the fabric flow freely and tugs the eye upward.

DO Include built-ins. They take up almost no floor space but yield plenty of much-needed storage -- both perfect characteristics for a small house. Sheila assigned double duties to a built-in bookcase in the living room: It not only holds books and display items but also serves as a mini-bar.

DO Reflect on the situation. Mirrors and panes of glass act as room expanders when strategically placed to reflect something pretty. The small mirror next to the built-in bookcase in Sheila's living room doubles the number of pretty glasses in view. And she made the dining room lustrous by adding glaze to yellow paint so the walls reflect the limited light.

DO Open rooms to each other. Though it's important to clearly define separate spaces, some openness between adjoining rooms makes all of them feel bigger. Sheila's cramped kitchen used to be cut off completely from the dining room, but now a large pass-through connects the two spaces. In a similar way, her office joins the living room through a French door, which allows the two rooms to share the same light and views.

DO Define different spaces subtly.
Separate one room from another without choosing completely different wall colors or flooring. A checkerboard pattern in slate blue on the floor of the dining room looks like an area rug without being bulky.

DO Give each room its own treatment. To differentiate it from the living room, Sheila rag-rolled the walls of the dining room; the living room walls are covered in yellow striated wallpaper. Although the tones are similar (and therefore unifying), the texture in each space is unique.

DO Opt for light colors. One law of color is that pale tones advance, thus expanding a room, while dark colors recede and shrink a space. Sheila's kitchen gets a lift from airy white cabinets; her bedroom glows with walls covered in white linen.

DO Draw the eye upward. This creates the illusion of more volume, which makes up for a lack of square footage. Crown molding, painted crisp white, defines the ceiling in Sheila's living room; striped wallpaper also stretches the height of the walls in the kitchen. The dining room walls boast a special treatment: A chair rail, set about two-thirds of the way up the wall, caps pieces of trim that run vertically to the floor.

DO Keep flooring continuous. Maintaining the same flooring material throughout the house imparts a sense of continuity; the eye does not jump from one room to the next but rather wanders easily between the spaces. Sheila's hardwood floors are light-stained to look even more expansive.

DO Invite the sunshine inside. Large windows usher in sunlight to bounce off the walls and brighten even the dreariest room. In an area that requires privacy, such as a bath or bedroom, put up window treatments that can be adjusted easily to let the sun pour in. Light from the windows in Sheila's master bedroom, for instance, is dappled by hinged shutters. Sheila can leave them closed to stave off the sun's hot rays, leave one ajar for a little extra dribble of light, or open all of them for sheets of sunshine.

DO Stretch your space into the outdoors. A patio, deck, or screen porch, such as Sheila's, goes a long way toward increasing usable space -- without the expense of adding on. Sheila's porch provides all the comforts of an interior room, including screens to keep the bugs at bay, an awning to protect against harsh sun, and cozy, welcoming furnishings that invite lounging. "It's my favorite room in the house," she says.

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