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10 innovative architectural ideas for small-space living

Big, small or awkwardly formed, all homes can benefit from solutions that make the most of every square metre

Narrow kitchen dining area in a London home by Filippo Architekten
Studio Alexander Fehre

There are no limits, only possibilities, when it comes to your home. So, whatever its dimensions, be inspired by the best tricks for everything from maximising storage to dividing space and adding comfort to even the tightest of corners. The work of interior designers and architects from around the world, they will help you add value to every room…

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1 Next level storage
Smart storage in a staircase by TDO architecture
India Hobson

This twisting plywood staircase features added shelving at every turn. It was designed by London-based architecture firm TDO for their own office, which sits under the railway arches near Blackfriars station. A red steel bar, used to hold up the space after WWII bombing, has been integrated into this clever structure. tdoarchitecture.com

2 Work every angle
Clever desk area under a staircase by Mole Architects
Matthew Smith

Cut into the small slice of space beneath this new staircase, and lit from above by a generous skylight, this is the ideal work-from-home nook. It’s part of a family home designed by Cambridge-based Mole Architects, which last year picked up three RIBA Awards, including the main prize for innovative local housing scheme Marmalade Lane. molearchitects.co.uk

3 Extended shelf life
Stair shelving designed by Batiik Studio
Karel Balas/Vega Mg

By transforming one of this small set of steps into a wide, elongated shelf, Batiik Studio has visually expanded this hallway. The French architecture firm has earned a reputation for, in its founder Rebecca Benichou’s words, ‘unifying spatial constraints to give birth to unique environments’. batiik.fr

4 Smaller serving
Granny flat designed by Nicholas Gurney Architects
Michael Wee

Even the bench seating in this tiny dining area, an extension of the kitchen cabinetry, doubles as storage. Designed by Australian architect Nicholas Gurney, the alcove is just one of the compact solutions he developed for a modern, 20-square-metre ‘granny flat’. nicholasgurney.com.au

5 Boxing clever
Sao Paulo Loft Ninho designed by Architect: Nildo José
MCA Estudio

One of the most inventive trends in architecture is to build rooms in a box. If your ceilings are high enough, this method can create extra floorspace and looks incredibly dramatic. Brazilian architect Nildo José’s 80-square-metre Loft Ninho, created for a design showcase in São Paolo, puts a bedroom and en suite in a sleek, ceramic-tiled cube. Its roof, accessed via a ladder, allows extra space for an indoor jungle. nildojose.com

6 Galley quest
Narrow kitchen dining area in a London home by Filippo Architekten
Studio Alexander Fehre

Stuttgart Studio Alexander Fehre bought its bold approach to this London home, slotting a dining space at the end of a long, slim kitchen. By painting the table and benches red, and wallpapering both walls and ceiling, what could be a tight area is now a cosy talking point. alexanderfehre.de

7 Glass half full
Alberto Strada

One of the oldest tricks for increasing the feeling of space is to take out walls and maximise light. In the bathroom, this can prove troublesome for those who value privacy. The answer that architecture and design studio Quincoces-Dragò & Partners adopted in this home is elegantly simple: a dividing wall of fluted glass. quincocesdrago.com

8 Space capsule
Pod like shower room by Studio Maclean
Edmund Sumner

Created from a sliver of space in the corner of two rooms, this pod-like shower room is a miniature marvel. To accentuate its ingenuity, London design firm Studio MacLean has transformed the entrance with an orange oval door, with striped, mosaic tiling inside. studiomaclean.com

9 Head in the clouds
Stacked bedrooms in Japan by Ten-Hachi
Tomoko Sasaki / Living Inside

The brainchild of Japanese architecture firm 8 Tenhachi, this home just outside Tokyo is an open-plan, industrial space broken up by functional boxes, one of which contains this snug bedroom. The children’s room and play area are accessed via the ladder. ten-hachi.com

10 The curtain call
New York Apartment designed by Graham Hill of LifeEdited
Christopher Testani for LifeEdited

Open-plan layouts make tight spaces appear larger, with fabric dividers that can be pulled out of view providing privacy when needed. This 33-square-metre home, designed by New York-based company LifeEdited, fulfils its founder’s aims to prove that you can ‘live large’ in even the smallest of homes. lifeedited.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020

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