Sometimes by cleverly dividing a room you may be able to give it an extra function, or even two. A largish bedroom can have one end divided off to give you a roomy wardrobe next to a tiny L-shaped bathroom. If the space is very small you may have to install a shower rather than a bath, but an oval bath can be angled to fit a remarkably small space.
Another successful division can be bedroom and office. A sturdy shelving unit will make a good solid ‘wall’, providing office storage on one side and leaving space for a small guest bedroom on the other. The division need not reach the ceiling, which might create too claustrophobic an atmosphere in a small space.
If built-in furniture already exists and you cannot very well get rid of it, you may be able to move it or use it differently. In most kitchens, the space given to storage and worktop can be reduced if the room is carefully planned to function at its most efficient. A good kitchen table can be a worktop as well as an eating space. A tabletop can be attached to the wall by a hinged leg.
Once again, the interiors of cupboards can be fitted with wire pull-out baskets and trays; hooks can hold cups and jugs, and stacking equipment is a great space-saver. This means that the working part of a kitchen can take up a comparatively small space, leaving room for entertaining as well as humanizing elements such as pictures and prints.
Less is best
There is a tendency to overfill kitchens with storage cabinets which are not really necessary. In small kitchens these can be claustrophobic, and it may be better to keep cupboards at a low level and to install narrow shelves where they are needed at a higher level. Instead of a large refrigerator and freezer, it may be more space-saving to have two refrigerators or small, separate fridge and freezer units than one monstrous appliance which dominates the whole room. Small appliances also provide more worktop space. The upper wall space can then be used for storing narrow objects such as spice jars, salt and pepper mills, sauce bottles and so on, or for hanging shallow shelving units, knife-racks, storage for kitchen implements and other decorative, hang able items to cheer up the working environment.
Attics and sloping roofs
Attics make good play areas for older children, who enjoy the secretiveness of enclosed spaces which would be claustrophobic for adults. When converting an attic, remember to insulate it adequately; it may be possible to get a grant for this. Make sure there is a means of escape in case of fire and that any ladder required for getting up to the room is sturdy and solid. If you install low seating round the walls, people will not bump their heads.
Arches and alcoves
If you are converting two rooms into one, you can make the connecting arch a very deep one, perhaps as much as 55cm (22in). This will not only provide alcove space for a number of uses, the top will provide a good platform for displaying objects such as sculptures and even plants if there is enough light. In the alcove you can perhaps fit a refrigerator, an extra cupboard, wine-racks or other bulky items which you may have difficulty finding room for elsewhere.
Those areas at the top of flights of stairs are simply asking to be converted into something useful. Unfortunately, they often open onto a main staircase and are thus drafty and public. All the same, there is no need to waste their tremendous storage potential. Shelving is one obvious answer and books always give a warm, comfortable feeling. If the space is square and very small, make the shelves just wide enough to hold paperbacks. If you don’t have that many books, magazine collections can be housed there or jars, tins, shoebox files, and so on.
If you don’t need extra shelves, then the space could be used as hanging storage—something which is often neglected. You can hang folding chairs, tools, sports equipment or even cleaning equipment. Objects which seem uncouth when they are flung higgledy-piggledy in the bottom of a cupboard can take on an almost sculptural look when hung in a disciplined way on me wall.