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7 unusual design tricks to tune up the cool factor in your small home

Got a small home? Here are unique reno ideas to help you live the good life no matter the size of your apartment.

Text by Janice Seow

#1 Make your dining room private, yet still space efficient

small home Authors Interior and Styling
Project by Authors Interior and Styling

It seems every other small home is open plan these days, where the dining area and living room (or dining and kitchen) are almost a single entity. While it can create the sense of a larger space or seem more space efficient, there are alternatives.

In this 947-square-foot home, Authors Interior and Styling has transformed the existing dining area into a semi private and poetic space. Light wood panels and strategic lighting create a sanctuary-like room for meals and conversation, and there’s also ample storage behind the seamless panels, making this a space-efficient design too. Can you spot the bomb shelter? It’s beautifully hidden behind the door.

#2 Display objects on walls sans shelves

small home HEI Architects
Project by HEI Architects

Display shelves offer up opportunities to showcase one’s favourite objects, and give the home a personality. But what if you have a small home, and have no wish for shelving that would only take up space?

The wall panelling in this apartment by HEI Architects is the alternative. Not only does it help to bring decoration and texture to the walls in the living area, but it has been extended slightly at strategic points to become a thin ledge to house the owner’s precious items.

#3 Enjoy a large kitchen in a modest three-room flat

small home Goy Architects
Project by Goy Architects. See full feature here

It’s not impossible, but requires getting your priorities right and sticking to them. Ask yourself: Where do you desire to spend most your time? If the answer is the kitchen, then make it a multipurpose space and the heart of your small home.

Since the owner of this flat loves to cook and have friends over for steamboat, Goy Architects has built the kitchen as a full-fledged living space for cooking, socialising and hanging out. The kitchen walls were removed to create one continuous space from the living room to the kitchen. Connected by a flip-up slab, the counter can also extend from the kitchen to the living area, or be converted into a large bar/dining table. It’s also a conducive workspace, doubling up as a 2.6-metre-long desk with powerpoints on three sides.

#4 Let your balcony work harder

small home balcony
Project by TM Design Associates

If your small home is blessed with a balcony, don’t let it become dead space. Make it work harder for you. We don’t just mean converting it into your dining room or a cosy corner. We mean, make it do both.

small home balcony

For this two-bedroom condo project, TM Design Associates has incorporated a space-saving foldable dining table that can be used when alfresco dining is desired, or be tucked back up so that it can be used as a relaxed lounge area for quiet breaks.

#5 Make your HDB flat an open studio apartment

BTO asolidplan
Project by asolidplan. See full feature here

Homeowners are generally comfortable with the idea of demolishing one or two walls to open up the home. But what about doing away with almost all of them, including the one to the bedroom?

The designers from asolidplan have given the owners of this five-room BTO flat just that. This unconventional dwelling features virtually no internal walls. Instead, a multifunctional platform winds through space, serving as a subtle separator between the bedroom and the living room. The steps double as seats for guests, bay window platforms can be used as reading nooks, and there’s plenty of storage hidden within the platform structure itself.

#6 Have an enclosed dining room cum home office

small home reno ideas Lemonfridge
Project by Lemonfridge Studio

From totally open to making it enclosed, this three-room flat by Lemonfridge Studio seems to break all small space rules with its walled up dining area. But it’s a strategic move. The glass enclosures enable one to take in a view of the flat almost in its entirety at a glance, and natural light makes its way through the flat with ease. Importantly, there’s privacy when the dining area is turned into a home office for those WFH days.

#7 Opt for semi-open shelves to organise your office space

small home study HEI Architects
Project by HEI Architects

Shelves and cabinets are some of the things that can add bulk to a space, including the workspace. But they are often necessary to keep things organised. With this apartment project, the desk takes up a corner of a modest bedroom, yet receives lots natural light being right by the windows.

HEI Architects has kept the design clean and simple, but incorporated basic shelves that help to keep stuff in a semi-organised state while still being within easy reach and view. The openness of the design also means that light and views from the window openings are not shut off and can still be enjoyed.

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