The best space-saving furniture for small rooms

Small space living
Eleanor Cording-Booth,-Interiors Writer

Is your home more cottage than castle? These compact buys are perfect for small-space living

If you live in a period house with chimney breast walls and boxy rooms to contend with, or a smaller flat or new-build, it can be a bit of a puzzle trying to fit everything in. And that’s especially true right now when we need our homes to be more versatile then ever.

Thankfully, you don’t need to sell all your clothes and live in minimalist harmony. Here are the space-saving furniture buys that will help and why they work so well…  

You can squeeze in a desk as well as a dining table

Does your dining room also now function as a home office? Are your dining table and sofa struggling for space in a living room doing double duty as a school? There are ways to make both work and still keep order in the room.

If there’s a nook to one side of a fireplace or even a narrow section of empty wall that you’re not currently using, a slim leaning or wall-hung desk will give you just enough surface area for a laptop (or school books), plus useful shelving space above. Combine this with a compact desk chair or – if you don’t need to use the desk all day every day – upgrade your dining chairs to a neat style with a cushioned seat and comfortable back shape instead.

If your dining table has to double up as your desk, then go for a compact style with a flat side so that you can push it against a wall when it’s not in use to give you more room. A table that’s extendable will give you even more flexibility, while a drop-leaf style that can open out when you need will really maximise space.

The best beds for shoebox bedrooms

When choosing a bed, there are quite a few things to consider and not wasting valuable floor space is one of them, especially if your bedroom is on the petite side. If you want a bed with a headboard to make the room feel cosier, consider the depth of the headboard and choose something as slim as possible. Also make sure the headboard and base are straight at the back so they can sit flat against the wall. A bed with an angled headboard or legs will eat into the floor space unnecessarily.

If you’re not fussed about a headboard, choose a practical divan base with hidden storage drawers for bedding and towels, or an articulated storage bed for large items such as suitcases. Storage bases are also excellent places to squirrel away your winter/summer clothes when you won’t be wearing them for months. Invest in vacuum bags – you’ll be surprised how little space your clothes take up when all the air is removed. As a bonus, vacuum bags will also keep moths and dust locked out of your precious cashmere collection.

If you want to hide your divan base away, buy a simple valance with pleats at the corners. It’ll not just disguise the base but also add a cosy layer of texture to the room. If a divan just isn’t for you, choose a fuss-free style on legs that’s ideally no bigger than your mattress. Being able to see more of the floor underneath will also help keep a small room looking light and spacious. It’s your choice then if you’d like to add under-bed storage drawers or boxes.

What about wardrobes and drawers?

So, the bed is sorted and it’s hiding a duvet, a suitcase and your summer holiday clothes. Now it’s time to make some space savings in the rest of the room...

Choose a tiny pedestal or side table instead of a classic bedside cabinet (tip: you could also try shopping in living room departments for these). They will take up minimal space and give you more than enough surface area for a glass of water and a page-turner. In the tightest of spaces, you could even do without a bedside lamp if you use wall-mounted lamps or sconces either side of the bed instead.

If you have enough room for a chest of drawers, make sure it has a streamlined shape that gives you maximum edge-to-edge drawer space. As with beds, cabinets on legs give the illusion of space by exposing more of the floor underneath. If you don’t have space for a chest of drawers but you’re still wondering where your socks will sleep, either integrate drawers, shoe racks and hanging rails into your floor-to-ceiling wardrobes or choose bedside drawers instead of open tables and stash your smalls in there.

With wardrobes, make the most of the space. Instead of choosing a beautiful but impractical wooden piece on legs with wasted space at the top and bottom, go for simple, full-height floor-to-ceiling wardrobes from wall to wall if you can. They'll look neater visually and you can utilise every inch of space inside. No space to open the wardrobe door without bashing into other furniture? This is where sliding doors waltz in and save the day. They’re perfect for small bedrooms. Consider mirrored doors too. Not only do they solve the problem of where to put a mirror, they’ll make a small and/or north-facing room appear larger and brighter too.

Furniture solutions for the littlest of living rooms

If you’d struggle to swing the proverbial cat in your living room, you might wonder what exactly is essential. The obvious must-have is a sofa. Go for a smallish footprint (without compromising too much on seat depth) and instead of awkwardly shoehorning a second sofa or matching armchair into the room, complement it with a smaller occasional chair. The versatile size of that style of chair means it will also work well in corners of bedrooms or playrooms if you move to a larger home in the future.

Everyone needs somewhere next to the sofa/chair to put their drink, place a table lamp or arrange an inanimate object or three. Here’s where you go for slimline side or coffee tables with storage compartments or shelves for books and laptops (every piece of furniture in a small home needs to work as hard as possible). Or choose nesting tables that can be pulled out for extra surface space only when you need it. If you’d like to include a big coffee table without it feeling like it dominates the floor space, you could buy a glass style for a light and barely-there appearance.

Shelves, sideboards and other living room storage

When space is at a premium, a large TV bench or sideboard isn’t always an option. How about wall-mounting a flatscreen instead and going for a style such as the Samsung Frame which looks like a piece of art when not in use? You could also go for the Serif TV which stands on slim, discreet legs. Otherwise, invest in a slim and versatile storage solution such as the iconic String shelves, which – depending on the configuration – can hold your books, speaker, TV, potted plants and even a slim desk. 

If you do have space under your stairs or in a narrow alcove, don’t waste it. Choose a slim storage unit or cupboard with drawers or doors and make sure it utilises the space well (why have a 50cm wide cupboard if there's 80cm to play with?), then you can stash toys, paperwork or shoes inside. Even the smallest living rooms can hold more furniture than you expect – just make sure the scale of each piece is right for the room and that, ideally, every item serves more than one purpose.

John Lewis virtual home design

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