City dwellers often crave more space, but the second-best thing is space-saving, flexible furniture. Now manufacturers are finding new ways to shrink, fold and collapse furniture, and many also offer expert advice.
The Futon Company brought the Japanese-style bedding to London 35 years ago, then added a range of sofa beds. Now many of its designs double up as storage, or lean against the wall using special slip-proof grips.
Ikea regularly visits the homes of local customers to look at their lifestyle and tackle their design problems. Leading the London team is designer Clotilde Passalacqua, who says many of the capital’s homes are small and crowded, though ceilings may be high.
She recommends the Ikea Pax system, planned online to suit individual needs. For the bedroom, she suggests stacking boxes with pull-out drawers for clothes, and in the kitchen, a trolley with a worksurface top and extra shelves can boost storage. She says dead areas — such as over doors or under stairs — can become useful thanks to modular systems with add-on units that maximise space, and recommends fitting storage to the shape of an area where possible.
John Lewis has advisers on hand. Deborah Goodge (Oxford Street) prefers built-in storage, but this is expensive and won’t go with you when you move. Ready-made items that fix to the wall are a compromise.
She says: “Keep the floor space as clear as possible. Make the walls work hard. Consider fold-down gate-leg tables and extending or wall-hung tables. Choose beds with built-in storage and sofa beds that fold away. Side tables, coffee tables or stools with lift-up tops provide extra seating and storage.”
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Danish company BoConcept will send a design consultant free to your home to sort out your space, followed up by 3D drawings and in-store planning sessions.
“We know that space is an issue,” says Claire Rossal, London head of design. “Our furniture is adaptable and flexible to meet the challenge.”
Coffee tables lift to become dining tables, a “smart bed” can store sports equipment, TV units can offer storage and a footstool can open into a bed.
As for decor, you can use visual tricks to create an illusion of space. Where natural light hits a room, paint that surface white, says Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux. Glossy surfaces can bounce the light around.
Dulux Light & Space paint reflects twice as much light as ordinary emulsion, and glass-topped tables can increase the effect. Using the same floor coverings can link rooms together.