Without meaning to brag, I’ve seen a flat or two. Between helping friends to get set up in new cities, being a student in Bournemouth for 4 years, living in zone 1,2,3 in London and being exceptionally picky when it comes to finding my own homes, I’d estimate that I’ve seen close to a hundred flats across the UK.
With only a few exceptions, I’ve found that all of these homes have had one thing in common. No, not a monthly rental of something close to extortion (although, that too) but rather a consistent trend of barely-existent kitchens. Flats advertised as having a separate kitchen seldom had space bigger than my favourite lasagne dish, and in most cases listings shamelessly plug the exciting opportunity for “modern, open plan living”.
Now, according to the font of all knowledge (aka Wikipedia), the concept of open plan is: “any floor plan which makes use of large, open spaces”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any “open plan” 1 or 2-bed apartments which could be described as a large, open space. One of my friends’ current flat in Brighton is possibly the smallest large, open space I could have possibly imagined. Well, except for this guy’s house.
As much as I can traipse around fancy showhomes, admiring their double ovens and induction hobs (I’ve even been on a few trips to TBKC; it’s sickening), I now spend most of my time scheming about how to make my home seem bigger than it is. These ideas come from personal experience, friends and the internet, and I think I’ve got it down to an art.
If, like most of us, you are living in a teeny tiny large open space, here are my top tips for making it feel a little bit closer to exciting, modern, open plan living.
1. Get rid of all your stuff.
Not even joking. Showhomes look so good because they only contain the bare minimum required to make a house a home. You, on the other hand, are probably carting around enough stuff to fill four showhomes.
Be realistic about how much you need in your kitchen / diner / living room / study. Things which once had a purpose might no longer be needed, and everyone is guilty of harbouring a few duplicates. Brush up on your KonMari method and start creating some breathing room.
2. Divide and conquer
Defining certain areas of your room for particular purposes will help you mentally manage the space, making it seem bigger by simply being more organised. For example, try using different flooring and wallpaper between your kitchen and living area, or bathroom and kitchen for example to create a divide between them, without adding a bulky barrier.
If new flooring isn’t an option, you can use area rugs instead. Confining your “living area” to the bits covered by a rug will free up the rest of the room for other activities. Alternative solutions are to use curtain rails or folding screens to create a temporary boundary between two “zones”, all without eating up your floorspace.
3. Embrace the awkward
Instead of cursing ridiculous nooks and alcoves, celebrate the extra inches. Deeper nooks are crying out for a purpose-built desk and shelving, while shallower ones can still be used for to make a statement.
4. Look to the skies
Okay, so “skies” might be an exaggeration, but I’m not kidding about looking up. If your flat would be bigger on its side (as in, your ceiling height makes your room taller than it is long), then you better be taking advantage of every inch.
If your cupboards don’t quite meet the ceiling, stump up the cash to replace them with shelves that do, or at least start storing cookware or appliances up top.
5. It’s both what you do, and the way that you do it.
When space is at a premium, you don’t have time for “pretty” furniture. If it doesn’t stack, fold away or turn into a storage solution, you should be questioning what place it currently has in your life.
Start with obvious pieces, like your coffee table – does it have a lid? Drawers? A hidden shelf? If not, consider replacing it with an ottoman footstool. You can use it as a footstool, a seat for guests, storage and as a table if you use a tray. Boom.
Next, move on to less obvious features. Can you switch hinged cupboard doors for ones that slide upwards or sideways? That way, even if you leave them open, the room won’t feel too crowded.
While I would still give anything for a few extra feet in my flat, these five tips have made a difference.
Have you got any tips that I’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!