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Condo living means small pleasures

Tips on making the most of minimal square footage

Whether it’s drapes or cupboards, floor-to-ceiling pieces will invoke a sense of height. 

Credit: Chantale Charette

Your living space might be small, but it can still be sweet. As Ottawans flock to the downtown core to enjoy the advantages of condo living, they must make peace with the fact that they have a whole lot less room than if they were living in a house in the suburbs.

Interior designer Chantale Charette, owner of Studio 853 design, has some decorating tips to help condo owners maximize their spaces.

Multi-functional furniture
Coffee tables and bed frames with storage underneath will help house your belongings while minimizing clutter. A wall unit can be used for everything from books to family photos, but you could also use one of the shelves for a mini bar and serving tray, Charette says. Over time, though, your best long-term option might be to invest in custom-made furniture — to fit your exact measurements and requirements. “It will combine your functions and maximize all the space — but according to your specific needs,” she says.

Loving our lofts
Many people love the high ceilings and huge windows of a loft-style condo, but even the most exhibitionist home owner wants some privacy now and then. Whether you go with remote-controlled blinds or more traditional drapes, don’t skimp on material.

“Always do floor-to-ceiling,” Charette says. “In a smaller space, you’re trying to invoke the sense of height, so by visually producing that line that goes from the ceiling all the way to the floor you’re emphasizing that.”

Your drapes could be patterned, which adds something extra to the room. Pulled off to the side, they look elegant; pulled shut, they give you all the privacy you need, she says. Charette also doesn’t hesitate to put furniture in front of windows to liberate the other walls.

Separate spaces
The “all-in-one” look isn’t going away anytime soon, but you can make subtle touches to establish the living and dining rooms as separate spaces. An area rug in the living room helps to delineate the space from the dining area. Or, subtly differentiate the spaces by grouping photos on the wall in a distinct way, Charette says.

A tall, decorative ceramic or a tall plant can also help to divide the space visually while keeping the physical space whole.

If those touches are too low-key, you could consider hooking glass panels from the ceiling. Whether translucent or in a colour that brightens the room, the panels add an artistic touch and create ceiling-to-floor lines, she says.

Bigger ain’t better
At least not when it comes to a big ole couch in a one-bedroom condo’s living room. Realtors and interior designers alike recommend choosing the condo that’s right for you — not your furniture.

“When you’re doing that move into a condo, you kind of evaluate every piece that’s going in,” Charette says. “I would propose to go with something that is a little lighter looking than the heavier piece. It’s going to look like the elephant in the room if it’s not balanced.”

Smaller pieces with thinner legs look better in small rooms. A glass table with chrome legs will look lighter and airier than a large, heavy wood table, she says.

True colours
You might think living in a smaller space would rule out darker colours, but Charette disagrees. If you’re living in a loft-style condo, all that natural light allows you to choose warmer colours if you’re going for a cosy effect, she says. But if you’re looking for a bright, modern look, lighter colours are your best bet.