Shamita Sharma always had it in the back of her head that when she turned 30, she would redo the apartment she shared with her husband and daughter. At 33, she and her husband finally decided to dedicate their money to their East Delhi apartment, instead of the travelling that they love.
The apartment had been a traditional Indian style space, with lots of dark wood and carved furniture, but Sharma “wanted light and space”. Eighteen months later, with some crafty optical tricks, a careful division of space along functional lines and by hiding fixtures as artwork, Sharma and her dedicated construction workers transformed the apartment into an airy, sleekly designed space.
With millions of people crowding into our major cities, space constraints are knocking on everyone’s door. It’s never been more of a necessity to make the best use of space.
Bhavna Jacob, an architect and interior designer in Mumbai, says the key strategy is to use optical illusions that extend your space, and the easiest way to do this is by creating a “flow” through the home. First, the flooring should be the same throughout the house. Different types of flooring interrupt the eye’s movement. So, if you choose hardwood floors, they should extend into as many rooms as possible.
Also, wardrobes can be problematic in small spaces, Jacob says, because they are the bulkiest furniture items. However, wardrobes can easily be incorporated into the wall space. “All storage items should be taken up within the wall. It’s terrible to have small pieces of storage, which people feel like they’re hitting their head (against) or tripping (over) all over the place.”
Francois Vallar moved to the Capital two years ago into a home in the South Delhi neighbourhood of Hauz Khas that he calls “The Moghul Tower”, which is literally a room a floor over six floors. “It is an amazing place, with an incredible view, but it is comprised of six levels. It’s original, it’s a bit complex, but after a while your legs start killing you. If you forget something in the kitchen, and you’re on the terrace, you’re in trouble.”
Vallar says the simplest way to maximize space is to use minimal furniture.
Luckily, minimalism is his favourite style. “I really love to have nothing. And you can modulate easily. For example, you can use your bed and transform it into a table and transform that into a desk, if need be.”
Anuradha Kumar, the owner of Mora Taara, a Mumbai home accessories store, likes a clean, uncluttered feel to her Mumbai apartment. Her 600sq. ft home has a light, open feel, she says, partly because of her colour scheme. The furniture and walls are cream, to keep the space as light as possible. “Bright or dark colours would make the space feel so small. I use colourful cushions, though, to bring in a bit of character, but everything else is cream.”
She also keeps extra guest seating stored in her kitchen’s high cabinets. If she has more guests than seating, she simply pulls out a slim, patterned mattress and floor cushions. The rest of the time, the floor stays clear. She even chooses to keep all accessories on the wall. The only item on the floor, besides furniture, is a large, vertical plant. “It adds a lot of character and life to the room, but does not take up much space.”
Sharma, on the other hand, uses multiple tricks to open up her space. The most eye-catching ones are her wall dividers. A porthole-inspired wall divides the entryway and the living room. It clearly designates the rooms, but the foot-sized holes repeated throughout the wall do not block the view.
Achieving this same effect, but to a greater degree, is the glass wall that separates the dining room from the living room. Here, the glass makes the area look open, but still manages to demarcate the rooms. Sharma says the wall serves a second, more utilitarian purpose: “There is no way one air conditioner can cool the whole place. So, the wall lets us cool a smaller part.”
Another space-saving technique Sharma relied on was incorporating light fixtures into hidden crevices and into works of art. In the television room, Sharma spaced metal cutouts evenly on a wall, reflecting the porthole-inspired wall in the main room, and placed light fixtures behind each circle. Elsewhere, she hid lights behind framed artwork, or in cloud-shaped wall mouldings.
Sharma says: “There’s always bits and pieces still left to do, but I love it.”