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Designing spaces for micro living

micro living

Life in Hong Kong teaches us to appreciate our dwellings from a unique perspective. Having lived in Chicago for almost eight years in a spacious loft, I embraced the challenge of moving into my Star Street micro apartment. At around a quarter of the size of what I was accustomed to, I was immediately excited about this new opportunity to create flexible spaces. As an interior designer, I instinctively dedicated my time to considering multi-functionality around the living space.

So how should you begin selecting what actually is essential? In my case, I analysed my lifestyle through activities that I perform on a weekly basis, everything from work to socialising. My dining table becomes my work desk between meal times; when I have company coming around, electronics and accessories can be stored in the stool guests sit on. After they leave, the same stool can return to its original place as a bedside table for my books.

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Effective storage solutions when downsizing allow you to keep the essentials while simultaneously maximising your space. Everything that is visible has to be aesthetically pleasing in a small space; this could be a simple bamboo basket on an open shelf, a beautifully designed shampoo bottle beside the bath, or an Italian coffee espresso maker on the kitchen counter.

The next consideration is your choice of wall colour. While my favourite is black, I would suggest steering clear of dark shades in a small space. Using colour with high reflective value helps to alleviate the lack of space, such as, distant grey, pure white, beige, or chantile. Light colours make your room appear bigger by reflecting artificial and natural light, casting the illusion of a sizeable apartment.

White is supremely versatile in that it works well with any other colour, almost like a blank canvas, enabling you to furnish your home in different colours and textures to reflect your personal style. Tastes and trends are constantly evolving, so choose neutral colours for big furniture items. This then gives you the opportunity to take risks and make a statement by choosing bold colours on accessories, giving you the freedom to change your soft furnishings to suit the seasons.

The final aspects I contemplated were the architectural features and finishes. The choice of flooring material makes a crucial difference in small spaces. Homogeneous flooring that is continuous throughout makes your rooms feel larger, whereas a variety of flooring such as ceramic tiles and wood to divide areas make each individual space appear smaller. I would suggest using long wide wood planks or large format tiles, which have fewer joints; this can be complemented by low-level furniture that creates the impression of a taller more open living space. These simple yet effective approaches to small spaces will result in a beautiful yet practical micro-living home.

Rodrigo Buelvas Romero

Professor of Interior Design at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Hong Kong

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