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From Modest Makings

by Kirrily Ireland

Since its early days of colonisation, where people were few and land was abundant, Australia has seen a steady growth in population, meaning modern families – particularly those in metropolitan areas – have had to adapt to smaller-scale homes now that lot sizes are at a premium. Western Australia Home Design + Living’s Kirrily Ireland explores how homeowners can enjoy all the luxuries of a mid- to large-scale home inside one that’s a little more modest.

Images courtesy of Unsplash

From narrow Victorian terraces to cosy cottages, compact apartments to even the standard suburban abode, builders and interior designers across the country have found increasingly clever ways to utilise even the most sparing of spaces, creating expansive and opulent homes without implementing major renovations or expansions – even if it is all merely an illusion.


You would be pressed to find a newly designed and built home that doesn’t showcase an open-plan layout, whether that home is grand or quaint. Creating one large, cohesive space to accommodate the kitchen, dining and living areas provides a wealth of benefits for homeowners and their families, helping with the overall flow and function. For smaller homes in particular, an open-plan layout will aid in establishing a greater sense of space.

Conversely, using walls to box in each section of the home unnecessarily occupies the internal space – not the smartest choice when this is limited to begin with. Separate rooms will also lead to less space for furniture, since you’ll need to leave clearways for doors to swing open, resulting in a closed-in, cramped feel. In a home where every precious square metre counts, why waste a single one?

If you don’t have the luxury of working an open-plan living area into the initial plans of a new home, and are dealing with an older dwelling, you may need to do a little renovating to connect these key spaces and open everything up, but it will be well worth the effort. Grab a sledgehammer and start knocking down some walls!

Images courtesy of Unsplash
Images courtesy of Unsplash


Perhaps an open floorplan isn’t available to you, or your abode is still feeling a little too humble despite combining the kitchen, dining and living areas; there are plenty of other ways to enhance the sense of space in your home, including introducing as much light as possible indoors.

One simple method to achieve this is to take a paintbrush to the walls. White and other lighter, neutral tones are the clear favourite among building and interior designers when it comes to small-scale homes. Since white naturally reflects light, it makes any room feel airy and spacious, drawing less attention to the walls, ceiling and floor – and the fact that these are all in such close proximity to one another – and letting the other internal features, such as the furniture and occupants, do all the talking instead.

Attempting an all-white room may seem outlandish to some, so consider pale timber floorboards or light-grey carpet for a more natural look. Avoiding dark, dense colours is in your best interest; you want your diminutive dwelling to be a refreshing and airy retreat, not a dim and oppressive dungeon. If you’re partial to darker tones, and don’t want to miss out on a cool feature wall or colourful tiles, just be sure to throw in some contrast.

The other way to let in light is to do exactly that – let it in! Not only do windows allow natural light to filter inside, but they also allow the inside to connect with the surrounding outdoor environment for an instant illusion of space. Depending on the level of privacy provided by external measures such as trees and fences, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows are the way to go, sparing no sun ray and making any room appear twice its actual size. Installing glass doors on the external walls will further strengthen this effect. While curtains are often necessary for privacy, if you can avoid them, even better. If you can’t, opt for a sheer, breezy fabric, or a simpler window covering, like external shutters or a fitted blind.

If you are able to achieve an open-plan layout, this will complement these sources of natural light beautifully, with fewer walls creating fewer disruptions to the flow of light, which can then illuminate more places within the home.


While installing more windows, painting a wall, or knocking one down, all help small homes look and feel bigger, these slightly extreme and expensive measures aren’t always available to everyone. Luckily, maximising a modest dwelling isn’t always about the size of the dwelling itself, but about what goes into it, and how its furnishings are arranged.

For instance, placing a mirror next to or across from what might be the only window in the room is a clever way of almost fabricating a second window, since it reflects the light and the view. Mirrors are a trick of the trade and used by interior designers to enlarge smaller rooms. Browse the market and select one in a sleek, streamlined design for an extra powerful effect.

When it comes to the rest of your furniture, think ‘less is always more’. Fewer pieces in smaller sizes help avoid clutter and won’t overpower the limited space. Look to minimalism for inspiration and focus more on the quality of each item of furniture, rather than filling each room with more than you actually need. Investing in a few stylish, on-trend pieces will serve you well.

Once you’ve chosen your furniture, it’s important to consider carefully how to lay it all out. Group items together as much as you can and leave a clear passageway in each room by arranging furniture on one side. Where possible, find furniture that’s low to the ground – whether it’s a low couch, wide and short bookcase, or pictures hung lower on the wall – to free up the above airspace.

By incorporating these tips into your small home, it won’t feel so modest for long. Less space doesn’t need to mean less style or luxury, and with some consideration to layout, colour and décor, you’ll be living in true comfort in no time. Remember, good things come in small packages.

Images courtesy of Unsplash

Images courtesy of Unsplash