Home decorating: tips on making a lot out of a little space

Kay Green of Ormond Beach, Fla., knows a lot about making small spaces appear larger. It has a lot to do with perception, she says. For if a space is interesting and works well, then it is not perceived as being small.

Through her business, Kay Green Interiors, she not only helps private clients visually expand their rooms, but does the same for Florida builders.

In the latter role, as a decorator of model homes, she terms herself an ``interior merchandiser.'' Her understanding of the market, of life styles, and of functional spatial arrangements helps sell houses and condominiums.

Here are some of the ideas that she finds useful when it comes to making a lot out of a little space:

Use light and airy colors. This is basic, particularly if you carry the same color scheme throughout the home.

Choose glass tabletops to reduce the appearance of bulkiness.

Stick to simple window treatments, avoiding complicated multiple or layered arrangements and overpowering valances.

Provide multiple sources of light in each room. Three lamps in each room is a minimum.

Open up the kitchen area with a fully lighted ceiling and under-the-counter strip lighting as well. Open upper cabinets by using glass door fronts.

Use clean, simple, light-colored cabinetry and furniture, embellished only with extremely simple hardware. Oak, birch, and bird's-eye maple are suitable woods.

Use smaller, controlled wallpaper patterns in bathrooms and kitchens in colors that blend with the rest of the room.

When using clear mirrors to reflect space and give the illusion of enlargement, use as much of the available wall space as practical. In other words, don't stop a mirror in the middle of a wall. Continue it to some natural division of space. Use mirrored closet doors.

Utilize open walls, niches, corners, and the space above doors for built-ins. Build drawer storage units into closets. Plan convenient storage in every available space: Shallow shelves can hold everything from books and bric-a-brac to canned goods. They can be built over and around a bed, or below windows.

Build in or buy commercial ``fold away'' counters that appear when needed and disappear when not needed.

``Float'' cabinets by attaching them to the walls and then underlighting them with strip fluorescent lighting. This eliminates leg clutter and clears up floor space.

Designer Karen Butera of Palo Alto, Calif., also has big ideas for living in restricted spaces. And she, too, works as a consultant to builders. She shares the following:

Color creates a mood and a sense of spaciousness. Use no more than three blending basic colors in backgrounds, getting additional color only in accent pieces. In small spaces color must be continuous and flow completely around a room. Painting one wall in a contrasting color is not advisable.

Help make furniture ``disappear'' by mirroring the base of a dining table and by using mirrored cubes instead of bulkier coffee tables. In a windowless dinette end of a kitchen, place a large square of mirror on the wall and flank it with white shutter panels.

Plan every room around its own focal point. It can be a piece of furniture such as a breakfront or a piano, a beautifully framed mirror, a well-arranged cluster of art objects, or a whole ``focal wall'' of modular storage units.

Unify space by using one uniform carpet color throughout the house, including the bathrooms.

Since scale is important in small spaces, the size and proportions of furnishings should create a balance. Nothing should stop the eye. An armless sofa with a simple, tailored back is less cumbersome looking than one with hefty arms and billowy back. The same is true of bunched modular seating; the simpler and neater, the better.

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