Designing to Open Up a Small Space

I recently had a unique collaboration on a remodeling project for a small townhome in Marina Del Rey.  I was hired to be a design consultant for a commercial contractor and his wife, a retired Interior Designer.  They both had strong ideas about what they wanted and often couldn’t agree.  Some of the design elements they wanted really didn’t work together.  This is where I came in… to be somewhat of a “referee” and to help bring a balance and the right “style and design” cohesiveness to their project.

The townhome is very long and narrow and my clients wanted to open up the small space.  They wanted some of the design elements to reflect the feel of a Tuscan Villa, but they also liked a clean but comfortable contemporary look.  Tuscan style tends to be fairly detailed, often with the use of heavy mouldings, stone work and larger scale furniture.  Through his work as a contractor, my client had seen a very contemporary folding glass door/window system, called NanaWalls.  He was dead-set on using this streamlined system, which seemingly would be in direct opposition to the Tuscan style.  However, the beauty of this system is that it is practically invisible and the outcome is amazing!

You can see the results in the before and after pictures.  The drapery wall, in the before picture, was knocked out by 5 feet and the NanaWall system was installed.  By using the glass wall system, the living room is not only visually expanded to the courtyard, but when “beach” weather permits it becomes an extension of the living room.  In the after photo you can see that the glass doors are fully opened to the left and there is minimal stacking space.  Expansiveness achieved!


We were able to balance the styles, using most of the Tuscan elements on the exterior and in the courtyard.  A beautiful flow was created from the indoor space to the outdoor courtyard with the use of the same limestone floor tiles for both areas.  When you want a small space to seem larger a good rule of thumb is not to use a lot of contrasting colors.  If there is a lot of contrast in a living area it visually breaks up the space and it will seem smaller.  Another rule would be not to use over-sized furniture.  I see people make this mistake all the time.  Other suggestions I have to open up a small space is to simplify, don’t over accessorize and keep clutter at a minimum!

In the after photos you can see that that the walls are a light color and the furniture is simple, is not too heavy for the space and is upholstered in similar tones of light blue green.  The only pattern in the room is the area rug which adds warmth, anchors and defines the main seating area, but is not overpowering.

All in all, together we achieved a beautiful, much enhanced, livable space that my clients will enjoy for years to come!

   Posted by Shelley Beckes and Pamela Jump





  • February 17, 2013., 6:54 PM
    Those doors are amazing! I love the completed room and all your tips for making a small space seem larger.


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