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TV star offers design tips for small spaces

HGTV's Chip Wade can develop cozy creations

POSTED: November 29, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Regardless of the time of year, decorating a small house or room can be a challenge.

Whether the decor is seasonal or everyday, a few simple rules can make a room more visually appealing and create more usable space.

Chip Wade, star of HGTV’s Elbow Room and an Atlanta native, spoke with The Times about how he deals with small spaces on his home design/remodeling show.

He said using basic principles of design is a smarter, more economical way of handling design in general. The benefit of following the principles is more accentuated in a small space because the square footage of the room is limited.

Wade said the biggest mistake people make in a small room is having too many things on the floor.

“Most of the time it’ll be furnishings,” Wade said. “If it’s not furnishings and the furniture is sparse, sometimes they’ll end up putting more things on the floor like accessories.”

He said home designers should resist the temptation to use the floor as a decorative catch-all and use the walls instead.

“What I try to do is do as many backdrop installation pieces as possible,” Wade said. “What I mean is get the function, get the storage, get the built-in more permanent-type pieces (of furniture) on the periphery of the room. This way there’s enough presence and interest in the space, but it’s on the perimeter rather than relying solely on pieces of furniture or other freestanding decorative elements to make the room feel complete. While some of the ideas are fairly well-known, like getting things off the floor, the difference is making sure those elements on the perimeter of the room are holding the foundation of the design.”

Wade said the conservative approach is to make backdrop pieces interesting with texture and shape rather than bright colors that can become dated much quicker.

When completely redecorating a room, Wade recommends purchasing new furniture items early. Waiting until the end of a redesign can really limit options and lead to overspending.

“Pick them out early,” he said. “Otherwise what happens is you design your space and you get underway and then you’re forced to have to find the perfect piece instead of finding some of the larger pieces and designing around them.”

Gail Wolfe, interior designer and owner of Today’s Traditions Furniture and Design on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, said people shouldn’t be afraid to use large pieces in small rooms.

“So many people are afraid to use large art,” Wolfe said. “They’ll scale down in furniture sizes and art to make it seem smaller. If you do scale down your furniture, don’t hesitate to use large pictures or something that will bring elevation to the room.”

Wolfe agreed using basic design in small space can vastly improve the function and appearance of a room.

Small spaces are, by nature, cozier than large open rooms. But regardless of size, lighting can make all the difference.

Wolfe recommends avoiding overhead lighting if at all possible and having at least a few table or floor lamps. Shadows can make the space feel smaller and less inviting, adding soft lighting can completely change the feeling in the room.

These days, you can find a wealth of tips and tricks to spruce up a space by watching television shows such as Wade’s or by bringing house plans to local designers for specific tips.


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