How To Live Large Anywhere (Even If You Have A Small Living Space)
By Lilian Chan
Hong Kong is a magnificent array of qualities that other major world cities aspire to be, but having ample space is definitely not one of them.
Unless you have lived in Hong Kong all your life and grown accustomed to the city’s lack of affordable quality space, being a new home-renter or homeowner in this high-voltage metropolitan can present a massive lifestyle adjustment for many who are not well prepared. The problem of lesser-than-average-sized homes introduces a challenge to new city-dwellers who have previously never had to make-do with living quarters as tight as ours; an ongoing struggle amidst renters and homeowners alike. “Overcrowding” and“Claustrophobia-inducing” are the top gripes of people across all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Luckily, where there are problems, there are solutions! Although the lack of sizeable housing makes this city one of the least friendly compared to its global real estate counterparts, it is not impossible to create a comfortable space of tranquility where one can call“Home”. Just because you have to drastically downsize your square footage does not mean that you must live less comfortably or stylishly. Great design come in all shapes and sizes. All it takes is a mental gear change in learning how to make smarter choices for even the most lilliputian flats.
Here are a few tricks and inspiration to help you streamline your move, declutter your life and achieve a minimalistic lifestyle that is workable with any kind of space:
DESIGN WITH PURPOSE
One of the biggest mistakes people make when attempting to declutter and organise their space boils down to the lack of detailed pre-planning. Often times, they will execute without a clear vision in mind and that is where they fail.
People tend to go on furniture shopping sprees before they even know what they are buying each item for. Furnishing a large space and furnishing for a small space are highly contrasting projects.With the former, you can afford to have excess furniture because there is infinite space for it. However, it is much more difficult to get away with this when confronted with limited wiggle room. It is important to remember that form follows function, so understand why you are buying for example, a bookshelf. If you don’t even own any books, then why are you filling up your already cramped space with unnecessary junk? Shop for furniture after you have compiled a detailed list of what each item will be used for. Sort through your stuff and eliminate the things that you don’t need, then proceed with furnishings and decor.
DOWNSIZE AND DOWNSIZE SOME MORE
Living in Hong Kong, most of us don’t have the luxury of having a personal walk-in closet to house our ever-increasing build up of belongings. Chances are you don't use most of the things piled up in your closet anyway, and then there are the seasonal changes during which some stuff are essentially useless, sitting around collecting dust.
Things take up space, and the more you accumulate in your home, the more stressful your life will become. Clutter equals chaos.
Wouldn’t you want to have a comfortable and clean space to relax in after a long stressful day at work? Kill two birds with one stone and put things up for donation. If you are a sentimental soul who just cannot bear to part with your belongings, there are many options to solve this precise problem. Due to the demand for such services, there are a number of storage companies that cater to this specific niche; all with pick-up and delivery services for further efficiency.
DIVIDE AND COMPARTMENTALIZE
Many high-density cities have housing environments that do not have distinct sectionalised rooms tailored to specific living needs. Some are often studios with an open plan, or simple one-bedrooms,which can present some unique challenges. Distinguishing a sleeping area from the living room from the dining room, or your storage room from your office/study can be an overwhelming and frustrating task. Here are some clever ways to employ flexible subdivision of small spaces:
• Invest in furniture that is space-efficient, multi-functional, and modular. Use large decorative pieces such as sofa sectionals, area rugs, standalone shelves and floor lighting to create partitions. Think storage beds, coffee table chests and flexible closet systems. Hong Kong furniture retailers are seasoned pros in providing a multitude of inventive products aimed at small space living. When in doubt,IKEA is always a reliable option.
• Spatial Continuity: Create clear pathways that flow from one space to the next.
• Forget about “rooms” that you don’t need.If you tend to eat all your meals sitting on the couch watching T.V, then you probably don’t need a separate dining room. Eliminating certain areas can open up your apartment to create extra space for features that are more important to your individual needs. In this case, you could have the option to create a larger living room that can double up as a dining room. Some rooms can be merged together for dual-function.
• Think Vertically: a room’s space comprises of more than just its horizontal dimensions and many people do not make enough use out of their empty walls and doors. Since floorspace is limited, create extra storage and show off your aesthetics by inviting the eye to move upwards as well as across. You can do this by installing different kinds of wall shelves, and back-of-door storage options. There are many options, from boxed and framed shelves to floating shelves. (Note: if renting,landlords often have rules and policies on permanent alterations, so check before you start drilling holes in to the walls).
• Don’t neglect the nooks and crannies:Corners are the most overlooked areas in home arrangement, but they actually make great spots for scaled-down pieces such as beanbags, bookshelves, small corner-desks, accent chairs, etc.
• Create aesthetically pleasing storage:make your storage unit your pièce de résistance. Storage units can be functional and beautiful. This is especially useful if you do not have a storage room to hide everything in.
ALLOCATE A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Do you consistently find yourself cleaning and up-keeping your apartment with a never-ending list of chores? Are you always losing important objects like remote controls, house keys and charging cables? Does your tiny apartment seem to be a giant blackhole where things constantly go missing?
People often mistake a smaller home with less work, but in reality, it is the opposite. Messiness is more apparent in a small living space because it is quicker for things to accumulate thus appearing cramped. As easy as it is to clean up a smaller-sized apartment, it is equally as effortless to create disasters of mammoth proportions.
The key here is to designate a place for everything that you own, or a “parking space” as I like to call it. Every item should have its own rightful place to “sit" when not in use. Objects without its own “home” makes it easier for you to lose them. This systematic approach to home-organisation is a tried-and-true method of evading untidiness and disarray in your life. For example, kitchenware should belong with other kitchenware, stationary should be placed in a holder of some sort in a place where you like to do your work, and electronics can be in its own separate category kept neatly in a container that is easily accessible to you. These are simply recommendations. You have the freedom to make this strategy as customisable as you see fit.
Clutter can increase confusion, thusheightening stress levels. Now is the perfect time to activate your Inner-OCD,and make your home life as user-friendly and simple as you can.
KEEP IT LIGHT
Small is one thing, but small and dark is just depressing. Try to work with as much natural light as is available to you,and keep your colour scheme on the brighter end of the spectrum. White is always a good and safe choice. Nothing transforms a room like light neutral colours and good lighting. This applies to all components of your home; from the wall paint, wallpaper, and curtains, to the colours of your furnishings,lighting fixtures, area rugs, and so on. Opt for visually lightweight pieces.You can always offset the lightness with accent pieces, such as a vivid painting, colourful embroidered cushions or vibrantly-hued houseplants and flowers. Succulents are a delightful choice because they are visually-appealing and super low-maintenance.
An easy visual trick to instantly expand the size of your apartment is by investing in some mirrors and furniture that reflect light. Mirrors are a great option since its reflective surface create an instant illusion of a much bigger space by adding depth. Go with adorned large-scaled mirrors that you can hang or lean against walls, not only do they make beautiful decor, they also double up as functional pieces.
EMBRACE THE PROCESS
This is an exciting time! You have the opportunity to find a brand new place to live, and we are here to make your move as painless as possible.
People too often complain about the stress of moving, but the process is as enjoyable as you want to make it. Take your time, be creative and make it personal. Your home-life is a very important decision that weighs in on a large number of factors, and should therefore reflect your personality; mental, emotional and physical goals.
Make it a point to treat your move as a fun challenge rather than a gruelling task. Your new living space will become your sanctuary, so put in the work, and reap the rewards.