Are YOU living in a Shoebox?

It’s official – British houses are getting smaller. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has released statistics that show that an average UK home is 85 square metres over 5.2 rooms, but a new build house in 2012 will be much smaller, at 76 square metres and only 4.8 rooms.


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Not only that, but they say that British homes are the smallest in Western Europe. Compared to new builds in the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark, for example, Britain always comes out the worst.

58% of owners of new build houses reported that there is not enough space for the furniture they have, nor any storage for their possessions. Reduced living space means that the quality of family life dwindles – 34% of households said that there wasn’t enough space to have friends or extended family over for dinner; 48% said they didn’t have space for visitors full stop!

So, if you are living in a shoebox, why not think “outside the box” and take some tips from the Japanese when it comes to making the most of your space?

Japanese please

The clever use of moving walls and sliding doors makes the rooms in Japanese homes rooms temporary, adaptable spaces. The main “living room” (or i-ma) is seen as a general living space; it can turn into many different rooms on demand, such as a study, bedroom or dining room.

This transformation is achieved by the clever use of paper wall partitioning, called ‘fusuma’. These are portable, light-weight frames of wood and paper, and they manipulated in a variety of ways to alter the layout of the house.


The UK way

In the UK, bi-folding doors can be used in much the same way to create a divide between rooms. You can get them in wood or aluminium, but UPVC bi fold doors have the added advantage of providing insulation and a sound barrier – much better than simple wood.

In addition, glass panels can be fitted to let in light. Glass doors work perfectly between a kitchen diner and a living room. The living area can be partitioned off temporarily when you have dinner guests, while the kids can play safely in the next room – seen but not heard!

If you have a large bedroom that is housing two children, a similar bi-fold door could divide the room into two at night, or allow for one side to become a guest room. Glass panels can also be fitted with integral blinds to allow for privacy.


Flat out

Small apartments can be tricky to live in. However, the clever use of concertina doors can transform the place into a hub of several rooms, and also change the whole feel of your home.

Opting for a bi-fold “floor-to-ceiling” door, instead of a small window at one end, can triple the amount of light entering the property. This instantly gives the illusion of space, which can be further enhanced with clever mirror positioning.

Splitting up the rooms with bi-fold doors is also a good idea, particularly in those apartments where even opening a regular door can take up lots of space. Bi-fold doors don’t need to have a two or three foot space to open; they fold in on themselves, keeping space at a premium.


Have you got any other clever ways to make the most of Britain’s tiny homes?


Estelle Page is an interior designer with a passion for promoting good design. When she’s not busy planning her next big project, she enjoys a bit of down time with her husband and two kids. She’s also a keen writer and currently blogs for Eurocell.


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