Stepping into a room for the first time is like meeting someone for the first time – first impressions matter. Tall, wide, and spacious rooms can give an aura of grandiosity or boldness. But what about small spaces? What about…really small spaces? For some designers, thinking about designing for a compact commercial space might keep them up at night. For others, having less means more, and narrowing down creative options for the space is like a puzzle just waiting to be solved. No matter which one you are, we’ve put together some advice so your small space can make a big first impression.
Engage to Impress
Before we even put pencil to paper, you will without a doubt want to step back and assess the space you’re working with. When you gaze over your business’s interior, more than just “adding an extra shelf” or “raising something off of the floor to make more space” should be going through your head. So let’s take the focus off of ‘decluttering’ and instead pivot toward engagement.
In a small space, it becomes very apparent when elements are not working together, and this can begin even before any furniture is placed through the tones that you pick for a room.
When selecting tones make sure they connect to the business. Don’t pick dark and moody tones for a business that focuses on clean energy. Instead, pick tones that work both with the company and with the space. According to urdesign, taupe, stone, and ivory are often successful color choices that will create balance, engagement, and a contemporary look that is both stunning and relevant. If patterns are more your style, use those that are large-scale and geometric for a long-lasting impression. Utilizing company colors can also assist in tying everything together!
Whimsical Nooks at the SJCPL German Township Branch Library
Photos provided by Arkos Design
This new library, nestled in a tranquil setting, utilizes the importance of colors and tones working together to introduce feeling to the space. Here, natural elements are used to emulate a whimsical cottage in the woods. Each space is created with a purpose. Smaller unique reading nooks are adjacent to large dramatic windows bringing in natural light and capturing beautiful views of the property.
Lighting can also aid in creating engagement by creating a more spacious feeling and natural lighting can even boost productivity and sales according to Dale Office Interiors. Utilizing natural light will also help eliminate the need for table or floor lamps, and helps present a room with a bright and airy look. The placement of lighting can help as well. Single overhead lighting in small spaces tends to draw the walls in, according to Kitchen and Bathroom designer Beth Asaff. If independent lighting must be used, place it in areas that would tend to create shadows otherwise, and consider using LEDs over fluorescents for both aesthetics and cost appeal.
Skylights at Hubbard Hill Healthcare and Rehabilitation
Photo provided by Arkos Design
Here, the new centralized dining room now resides where old nursing stations used to be accompanied by an expansive skylight to create a bright, airy, and non-crowded feeling. Additionally, light neutral colors on the wall add to that spatial feeling by helping to reduce dark shadows and spread the light evenly across the entire room.
Introducing Flexibility to Your Floor Plan
Just because a space is small doesn’t mean it has to be limited in the ways it can be used. When designing for colleges and universities, HMC Architects found that flexible and modular learning spaces not only support different learning styles but allow institutions to offer more courses in a wider range of subjects. Classroom space can be used for lectures, roundtables, hands-on projects, and multimedia presentations, in addition to being used as a space for more than one type of class. By introducing elements such as modular desks and multipurpose workstations a classroom no longer has to sit empty for the majority of the day until its designated use time.
Photo from HMC Architects
Vertical Views at Ruhe152
Photo provided by Arkos Design
When you can’t expand in front of you, consider expanding upwards. In our interior and exterior project with Nappanee Brew Pub, Ruhe152, a balcony level was added to support additional seating. Its open viewpoint down onto the main level not only assists in keeping the space feel and look open but also provides an aesthetically pleasing structure that works with, not against, the existing design.
Furnishing with Purpose
After setting your room up for success with the right tones, lighting, and thoughtful layout, it’s time for the furnishing. Adding adaptable, innovative, and multi-functional furniture can truly be the final capstone to your design if done well. Modular furniture not only creates flexibility within the space but enables the space to be multifunctional and easily transformable. Clutter can also quickly burry an otherwise open room so finding an attractive but functional display is a must. Some ways to do this might include installing built-in shelves, organizing existing closet space, and thinking about what can be tucked inside itself (sliding doors or windows that lift up instead of out are great places to start).
Zoo Digital Goes Modular
Photos provided by Dale Office Interiors
In a renovation with digital media agency, Zoo Digital, Dale Office Interior implements white desks, folding partitions, and stackable furniture. The lighter-colored furniture creates an implied sense of space, while the stackability allows for excess chairs to be easily removed and hidden from sight.
Comfort at Crowe Horwath
Photos provided by Arkos Design
In our renovation with Crowe Horwath, underutilized office space was transformed through the use of furniture, creating more inviting spaces that would encourage more staff interaction. The two small rooms featured were prioritized as impromptu meeting rooms, and the furnishing for these was focused on casual comfort. Soft seating, glass walls, and sliding surfaces contribute to the feeling of openness while inviting conversation.
Small Rooms, Big Ideas
Small rooms may first present themselves as a challenge, but their undiscovered potential is worth the research and time. When big ideas are applied to small spaces, innovation truly begins and brings these otherwise miss-able rooms to the forefront.