Big Space Saving Ideas for the Small Home

3The average size of a British home has shrunk by 2 square metres in just 10 years. New build houses are considerably smaller than the 96.8m UK average plus there are now a higher proportion of new flats and apartments than 10 years ago (source: Daily Mail).

There was a time when people joked about Japanese homes being ‘rabbit hutches’ but according to the average residential floor space per capita in Japan is currently higher than the UK! The main driving factor behind this trend is the growing population of London combined with a lack of space in the capital. There is now a minimum space standard for London for flats, of just 37 m2 (398 ft2) for one person and 50 m2 (538 ft2) for two people.

Even outside of the main urban centres, room sizes are shrinking, as anyone will know who has visited a new build property in the last few years. The definition of a ‘double’ bedroom is now a room that can squeeze in a double bed and not much else. Any big space saving ideas are clearly at a premium, so we have looked at some of the best ways to save space in the rooms of a typical small property – if you still have no luck, you could always try a cost-effective solution to creating space outside your home.

The Compact and Bijou Bathroom

Most modern bathrooms are usually not much bigger than 6 x 6ft with a bath on one side and toilet and wash basin on the side opposite the door. There is very little standing room and rarely much storage space. Plumbers will often leave a gap between the bath and a wall to make installation and future access to pipes easier or simply because baths come in limited sizes and need to be smaller than the room! This means that there is usually a small gap between the bath and a wall and as you can see with the image below, a narrow pull cabinet can pack in a lot of toiletries.4

Perhaps the most common space saving technique in a bathroom is to combine the wash basin with storage underneath. Even in the most spacious bathrooms you will often see this as vanity units can be made into very stylish items. The example below shows how to maximise corner space whilst incorporating a beautiful curved design.5

Image courtesy: Old Fashioned Bathrooms

Skinny Kitchen Shelves

It is quite difficult to find major space saving in a modern kitchen because they tend to be quite space efficient in terms of cupboards and available worktops. What space saving there is could usually be split into two types, folding and sliding. A table or worktop surface that folds down from a wall, can of course be put back when not in use – the same also applies with some types of seating. What is less common is sliding units – kitchen versions of what we saw with the bathroom. As with the fabulous example below there are often gaps between a free standing fridge and another unit. These are more likely to be ‘open’ units so you can easily see items, as well as allowing a bit of space for air to circulate if it is next to a fridge.6

Image courtesy:

Flat out in the bedroom

Many a London studio flat will have a pull-out or foldaway wall bed, but not many of them will combine it with a secondary piece of furniture. The Furl wall bed can double up as a hot desk/office during the day and then a full size bed at the flick of a switch. You don’t even need to clear the desks or shelves of items before use. This sounds a bit too good to be true but there is even a video to prove it.3

Image courtesy:

Compact living

They are quite a few big space saving ideas for the living or dining a areas of your home. We’ve already mentioned sliding bathroom and kitchen shelving and the sliding principle can also be applied to bookshelves or CD racking which can take up a large amount of space. You can get storage shelving for books/CDs very similar to the system used in large archive libraries where you can slide rows of shelves together but still access everything. Inspiration for this design comes from Japan where many small homes use sliding bookcases like the one shown below.4


Another place you can store books and CD’s is the hollow chair and it’s variation, the hollow sofa. A totally unique use of space to store just about anything and a major talking point when you have guests.3

Hollow Chair from Judson Beaumont Straight Line Designs Inc

Assuming you living area has windows, there is a chic blind designed by Kim Bobin and Ko Kyungeun which also doubles as a handy piece of utility furniture. You can fold the blind down to make a useful rack to dry clothes and fold away again when finished. The picture below illustrates how it works – no need to hang clothes on dusty radiators in future!4

Window blind & laundry rack by Kim Bobin and Ko Kyungeun

Stair crazy

Although most urban flats probably don’t have internal staircases, this next idea can be used for access to a mezzanine floor or storage in a high ceiling apartment. Once again this idea comes from Japan where it is called kaidan dansu or staircase cabinets – you basically make your staircase out of cabinets. Tansu is the traditional mobile storage cabinetry having origins dating back to the 17th century, even though we probably think of modular storage as a late 20th century invention.

Kaidan dansu is quite a flexible product in that it can be mainly for stairs or mainly for storage, or anything in between. The style can also be used in a very modern setting with light wood and chic styling. It can also be used in a very traditional way with dark, carved wood and old fashioned handles and hinges. If you go to Google images and search for “kaidan dansu” you’ll see exactly what we mean.4


Not for the DIY-er this one – you’d need to be a top drawer craftsman to make these!

Although our ideas have been focused on large scale space saving, there is another approach to the problem, namely reduce stuff! When you think about it most houses are filled with clutter and items that are rarely used. Books, CDs and documents can all be stored with technology the size of an egg cup, and yet we all cling on to our ‘stuff’ – but that is an article for another day!

Categories: home improvement

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