Custom design in small spaces can lead to big impact

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You might think custom interior design work is just for large luxury homes, but your new apartment, starter home or historic residence can benefit from the same service.

“I’ve done lofts, and I’ve done smaller homes everywhere from McKennan Park to near Sanford Health,” said Emily Connolly, senior interior designer with Montgomery’s in Sioux Falls.

“We’re used to working with smaller rooms, lots of walls and limited space. And no matter what your budget, we’re able to work with you to optimize your space and bring in custom touches.”

Here’s a before-and-after look in McKennan Park:

Connolly draws on plenty of personal experience in her work. Her own home is a 1950s dollhouse-style property with 800 square feet on the main level and 400 square feet below.

Her eye for opportunity allowed her to create an eat-in kitchen by adding a butcher block counter space and stools.

“It creates a multiuse space with being able to serve banquet-style, drink my morning coffee or use as an office space with my laptop,” she said.

“The dining area was a small bedroom converted into a formal dining. By adding a slider door, it created a pass-through to the entertaining space. This space has window treatments that is the jewelry of the space and makes the space feel larger.”

This dining room is only 9-by-10-feet, but it feels larger.

“Utilizing vertical storage with a cabinet brings your eye up and layer accessories — or in my case plants — has created depth and, again, makes the room feel larger,” Connolly said. “Layer is key. The dining table is small, and then I can add leaves to accommodate my larger family at Christmas. For everyday use, the small chairs with the condensed table work perfect.”

As part of Montgomery’s Whole Home Experience, Connolly and her fellow interior designers offer every customer free top-to-bottom design services, no matter what size space or project.

Here are some of her other pro tips for designing in smaller spaces:

Don’t do the showroom solo

When you own a smaller living space, it can be tricky to maintain a sense of perspective while shopping.

“Showrooms are a large space, which means sometimes pieces can seem smaller than they are,” Connolly said. “I usually set up a house call with clients, so I can get a sense for the space, measure, take pictures and make sure the pieces they select fit the space.”

Those in-home visits – which are complimentary, like the rest of Montgomery’s design services – allow her to “feel the flow and see the light coming into the space, how high the ceilings are and how much wall space you have. There’s a lot I can see when I come out.”

Strategic decisions save space

Optimizing a floor plan can be as simple as adjusting the depth of your sofa – going with a 36- or 38-inch instead of a 40-inch with smaller arms, for example. Utilizing chairs with curved backs allows them to tuck into corners.

Drop-leaf tables allow flexibility for larger groups and daily dining.

“I suggest you do a round table in a smaller space,” Connolly said. “You’re not going to get hit in the hips when you walk by it and you can soften the area and often fit more chairs around it than you would a square table.”

In bedrooms, lower headboards can help elongate space, especially with lower ceilings. Height does the same thing.

“If you have a bed with legs that go higher up, it’s going to feel lighter,” Connolly said. “And you can float nightstands. Any time you raise something up off the floor, it adds space. And you can add a pouf or cube if you want something maybe to put your shoes on.”

Starter budgets still can go far

We know you might have to get your head around using an interior designer for a first or second living space – but this free service actually can help you optimize your budget.

“You can still get that Instagram-friendly look for your home and not buy pieces that are going to wear out in six months,” Connolly said. “Often ,we’ll look at a higher-quality sofa because it’s used so much, and then we might do a couple chairs that are less expensive.”

Also good to know: Montgomery’s can take care of you with great financing options.

“That’s a great way to get started and get some quality pieces at a variety of price points,” Connolly said. “A lot of people come in and think they’re going to destroy furniture and don’t want to spend much, but the reason the furniture is destroyed is because they didn’t spend a little more to get better quality.”

Design for loft life with personality

If you’re renting your home, you still can put in tons of personal design touches.

“When I lived in a loft downtown, my space was a lot of fun. I had my kayak hanging in there, which became like a piece of furniture,” Connolly said. “I’ve even had people in lofts change out lighting if that’s been allowed, accessorize above the cabinets and just generally personalize it to their personality. We help with everything from floors to light fixtures and everything in between.”

And speaking of flooring, two words: area rugs.

“They help a lot with sound absorption,” Connolly said. “So if you’ve living above someone, we can soften that foot traffic, which is huge.”

There probably are more furniture options than you think

If you have an older home with older furniture, you might be surprised how the industry has changed. While the trend was “up-sizing” furniture for decades, in the past five years “people started migrating toward the city and into urban life, and lofts came in to play, so people were looking for smaller pieces,” Connolly said. “We have a lot of smaller pieces; you just need to know where to look.”

Trends toward Scandinavian and its newer cousin “Japandi,” which blends a Japanese aesthetic, have inspired many new pieces – and your interior designer can help you source them.

Accessorize and minimize

One easy way to make a room feel deeper: wallpaper. But not the whole thing.

“Adding wallpaper on one wall as a backdrop creates a focal wall,” Connolly explained. “It draws the eye back and makes the room feel deeper.”

Window treatments that go all the way to ceiling draw the eye up and make the room feel larger, she added.

“We do custom draperies, and you see how window treatments become the jewelry of the space. Once you put it in, it changes the space completely.”

And when it comes to accessories, think going vertical with your shelving and artwork, and don’t overdo it.

“I never put something on a wall unless it’s perfect because it just detracts from everything else, especially in smaller spaces,” Connolly said.

“The idea is to create depth, and the more depth you create the larger the space is going to feel.”

Ready to partner?

If you’re ready to take advantage of Montgomery’s Whole Home Experience, no matter what your home size, just stop in the store anytime or click here to get started.