The space-conscious age 

Smaller houses have been ‘our future’ for two decades now. As if punctuating the trend for compact living, HOME Magazine’s 2017 House of the Year was recently awarded to a Cambridge townhouse, built on a 315m² section. Unsurprisingly, the couple who commissioned the design were Auckland expats who moved to Cambridge in search of a more affordable lifestyle.

Housing affordability and high building costs are not the only reasons Kiwis are downsizing however. New Zealanders are decluttering for a number of reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do – we simply want less stuff and more experiences in our lives than in the past.  We’re also more concerned about the traceability of the things we buy. And it’s well-documented that our population is aging. The boomers are moving into the 65+ age bracket and looking to downsize their property as they do.

Aesthetically-speaking, our collective palate for minimalist design has also matured, thanks to Scandinavian influence on design trends and a more experienced design industry. So with smaller houses firmly part of our contemporary identity, where does the furniture fit?

The short answer is smarter design.

Increasingly, houses and their interiors have to be cleverly planned with no wasted space. A good architect will work within the confines of the location for spatial efficiency. Interior design — including furniture design — needs to be equally smart.

Furniture with a small footprint is an obvious solution to these economies of space. However, height is often just as important. Low profile pieces take up less ‘headspace’ in the room and instinctively declutter a layout.

But reducing the height shouldn’t come at the expense of comfort. A well-designed settee or chair will have sufficient seat depth to accommodate the human form. The Jigsaw is a piece that works on both levels. It has low, sleek proportions with a versatile arrangement of back cushions. They can be easily raised to create more seat depth and back height.

Slim arms can take a lot of weight out of a settee. We love the Marlow for this reason. While it is a compact piece in essence, the angled relief of the arm backs mirrors the slant of the legs giving it presence in the room without being overbearing.

But ‘compact’ furniture doesn’t necessarily have to be all clean lines and firm inners. The Bronte is great compromise for those after a plusher option. Because of its small footprint and slim arms, the Bronte works perfectly as a ‘slouch-couch’ with ergonomic integrity.

And for chairs that use space efficiently, it’s hard to go past the Mantis. The art deco aesthetic of the swivel chair makes it naturally compact and the laser-cut steel foundation minimises the footprint without compromising structural strength.

A few simple layout laws to remember:

  • Modular furniture allows for flexibility in a room layout

  • Choose ‘transformer’ pieces that create entirely new looks

  • Use furniture to create zones within an open living space