The Devil – The Details

Do you live in a small space?  It seems that in NYC our homes are never big enough for the amount of things we want to bring in, especially when a family is growing. That’s the thing about kids: they have stuff and they don’t like to throw anything out. And as adults, let’s face it: we like to hold onto our treasures as well. As an interior designer, I try to help my clients gently come to the realization that you can’t keep it all. That is what our memories are for.  A good rule of thumb is when you bring something new into the space try to gently release something of equivalent size.

Do your teenage children  still have rows and rows of stuffed animals lining the walls of their bedroom? Consider tossing the little darlings…that is the stuffed animals, not the kids. Do you have closets whose shelves are jammed with things that you have not used in at least 4 years, not to mention 10 years or 20 years? Go ahead and fill one garbage bag (not four – just one) with some of these things and toss them to the mighty NYC Sanitation Department. Look at the multitude of family pictures that line the windowsills of your living room. Pick four that you love and that are actually great shots, and remove the others.  It is much more impactful when there are fewer.

Pare down. Live lean. Do with less. When you do this even on a small scale there can be an opening of sorts, physically, mentally and emotionally. Enter Designer. Now I can start to design intelligently for you and make a small space work for maximum impact, efficiency and beauty. Now I can help your apartment come to life with new ideas, inspiration and the space, literally, in which to do it.

So here’s what:

Use consistent flooring throughout, and I do like a dark floor because it encourages the eye to flow through to the end of the room.

Do not fill all the wall spaces with furniture around the perimeter of the room and cram everything in, simply because there is wall space.  The only way this possibly works is if you are doing custom built-ins.

In the bedroom, invest in some custom designed millwork around the bed and to the ceiling if possible. Incorporate the headboard. The wall space above the bed is potentially valuable storage space.

In the bathroom an integrated basin and counter can make the space feel open and clean and can create valuable extra inches for bath counter items.

Door heights matter. When they are higher, the eye moves up and this helps bring the ceiling up. If you are renovating, consider this.

Use lighting liberally, especially when you have a small space. When light sources are varied and everything is on dimmers, the space will be more interesting and you can zone the areas better. It is well worth it to have a generous budget for lighting and for the electrician.

If you have the space, put a desk/console behind the sofa. It’s a great way to incorporate the two functions in one room. But keep it tidy!

The image above is a built-in unit I designed for my client’s FOYER. There are two work stations for the kids. They use it on a daily basis.

Purchase a storage/captain’s bed and actually use it for everyday clothing. You may be able to do without a dresser if you are not a clothes hound. This will leave more room for a desk/work area if needed.

Invest in custom closet interior design, complete with drawers and shelves.  Do this for every closet in the apartment. You will never regret this investment.

In a small space the details matter even more. You may not have the square footage for multiple floor plan options, so this is where you need to commit to the design. Keep the Devil out – let great design in.

4 thoughts on “The Devil – The Details

  1. Harriet Goodman

    Housing Works ( will pick up good condition furniture from your home, up to five boxes of books/vinly records, and clothing in large black plastic bags. Good for a tax deduction. Call for appointment and discuss items you want picked up. Consider listing items on Craigs List. I posted a rowing machine at midnight last night and woke up to an offer at 6 am. Anyone under the age of 35 will tell you what are “hot” items for Craigs list.

    1. Marcia Butler

      Thanks Harriet, for this information and for doing such a great job with the difficult job of “gently releasing”. You are a model design citizen!


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