A dolls house is one of those bulky, often expensive, toys that take up floor space and have limited play life. Amy Whitworth designed the QUBIS Haus to have a dual purpose as a coffee table and a dolls house. The ingenuity of the concept combined with the sophisticated architectural quality of the design is what makes it a brilliantly big idea for a tiny space, read on here
Ironing boards, vacuum cleaners, buckets and mops, they all take up valuable space in your home. And their clunky and awkward sizes means it's often difficult to keep them hidden too. But I've uncovered these nifty little pieces that can be rather more easily squirreled away:
Ikea's JÄLL ironing board, doesn't need a stand. It can be propped up on a table and hung on the back of a door when not in use.
I have to take everything out of my broom cupboard in order to get my standard vacuum cleaner in and the door to shut. So I recently tested out the Vorwerk Kobold VR100 robot vacuum cleaner. It was brilliant, it sped off cleverly cleaning up every space of my floor even the hard to reach areas such as under the sofa, which is where I conveniently stored it. You can even set it to work when you're out.
What I discovered, however, is that robot cleaners are ideal for tidy people, but if your floor is likely to have the odd bit of lego, chess piece or dog chew lying around on it you will need to get into the habit of doing an in-depth site survey before setting the thing off.
Cordless is the way to go though. Without having wires to wind around things and unplug and replug as you move from room to room you can get things done so much more quickly. The Gtech Air Ram cordless vacuum cleaner performs as well as a standard wired version and it doesn't require bags, so that's one less by-product to stock up on and store. Gtech has just launched the Multi too, a useful hand-held cordless device, which is all you need if you have a really tiny place and don't mind a quick whizz around on your knees.
If you don't have space to hide all your cleaning equipment away, don't worry, just go for products that look good enough to show off, the
Dot com gift shop has a lovely selection of Russian doll-inspired dustpan and brush sets and their hot pink feather dusters are fun too.
Whilst this Dish Wish Dish brush from Maiden will have the washing up magically clean in no time!
High-sleeper beds are great, because they add another 'floor' to a bedroom and they give it a studio-like feel, which is why they are particularly popular with teens and older children. Here's our guide to buying one and some of our favourite styles... read more
If you live in a little home, you need to minimise all the obstacles with in it. Where ever possible lose those knobs and handles. Chests of drawers, wardrobes, kitchen units, bathroom cabinets, if you're buying choose handleless.
And, although more often than not, handleless styles are contemporary in nature, you can find some more traditional looks if you search hard enough, particularly with the current fifties trend so prevalent.
In dinky homes, handles and knobs are just another thing to knock yourself on and catch your clothes on, aside from internal doors, which you need to get a firm grip on, avoid them.
The latest push to close and automatic close handleless doors are very safe and effective. They also have fewer dust traps and produce a much cleaner, streamlined look, enhancing that feeling of space that you're forever chasing.
You can take handleless to the extreme and even opt for mugs and cups without such protrusions, you'll get more space inside your kitchen units as a result!
As the economy continues to wobble, more people are opting, or being forced, to rent rather than buy their homes. And, in particular, more young families are now renting. But even if you don't own your property, you can still stamp your personality on it and make it feel like home, without risking losing your deposit. Here's how:
Do clever things with your wallls
You need to go through your rental agreement with a fine tooth comb, before making any irreversible changes to your property. Some landlords will allow you to wallpaper or paint the walls, as long as it will be viewed as an improvement or if you agree to repaint or paper it in its original state at the end of your lease. Decals or wall stickers that peel off without a trace can be the ideal alternative.
Those bland tiles, landlords like to sensibly clad bathroom and kitchen walls with, can be jazzed up with tile stickers too.
And, you can personalise your walls with prints and photographs. Or adorn them with a piece of original art. And, if you're worried about knocking nails into walls you don't own, try 3M Command strips and picture hooks. These adhesive strips of various sizes can hold quite heavy pieces to walls and they remove off cleanly when you're done. I've tried them. I found they did the trick and came off without a mark.
If you know where to look, original art can be quite reasonably priced. Art college degree shows, Etsy and Rise Art are good places to search out. Rise Art was set up to make original collectable art affordable and you can find work on their site for far less than a £100 and they offer monthly rental and rent to buy options too.
When landlords dress their properties in preparation for rent, they tend to clothe their floors in hardwearing vinyls, engineered wood and neutral carpets. So warm and brighten up bland floors with a rug. The brighter it is and the more irregular the shape, the more individual your room will look. And it's not just living rooms that will benefit from rugs, they work just as well in bedrooms and hallways too.
You don't have to live with everything your landlord leaves you. Pack away any curtains or blinds that were up when you moved in and replace them for the period of your occupation with some that are more to your taste. Switch nasty nets with more stylish window film, think about putting on your own toilet seat and shower curtain and you don't need to live with their lampshades either.
Dress up the furniture
For the final touch, jazz up the furniture. Use cushions and throws to spruce up sofas and extra pillows and a bedspread to smarten up the beds. Then really make the place your own by filling the shelves and window sills with your pretty bits and pieces: books, vases, mirrors, photo frames and other treasured mementos.
The first week of July our home is awash with cards, crackers, tree decorations, festive gifts and even Christmas puddings.
This is not because I am one of those people who start preparing their Christmas to-do list on New Year’s Day. I am the exact opposite.
It’s because, big brands work around magazine schedules. I style photo shoots, so when you see spreads of people’s lovely homes in newspapers and magazines I, or someone like me, have spent a day in that house taking out all the boring, ugly, everyday objects - dish cloths and toothpaste, telephone chargers and clothes lines – and putting in lovely little extra touches – the very latest bedside lamps, throws, cushions, vases of flowers and maybe even a bed.
Magazines work far in advance. I’ve already shot this year’s Christmas pages, so stores launch their Christmas products to the press in July. And in June we did Autumn Winter.
One of those days in June I went to the Argos Autumn Winter launch. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t expecting much. I’d always regarded Argos as a store you go to for toasters, TVs and toys.
I got a shock. The company had transformed a series of plain rooms in central London into a welcoming family home, full of furniture that I wanted in my house, cushions that would look great on my sofa and lights that could hang out on my ceilings any day. Within minutes of coming home I’d ordered a round bathroom mirror concealing a cabinet behind – perfect for my little shower room.
The Argos group recently bought Habitat and this marriage of style and affordability has benefited both parties. Habitat now has a great range of budget furniture and homewares, much of which can also be bought through Argos and Argos has become much more focused on creating functional and design conscious products.
Argos’s Maine extra deep shelving combinations are an ideal mix and match solution for covering a whole wall in display and book shelving, for example. There are hidden storage options too for unsightly toys and ugly electrical equipment and these units are extra deep so that they will hold coffee table books, vases and ornaments that need to be shown off.
Whilst the Living Karran double bed slots right into that luxury hotel bedroom style. Not only does it look great, it has lovely legs too, remember being able to see underneath a piece of furniture makes the whole room feel more spacious. (Check out the Use your Legs to grow your rooms feature here)
And I’ve always struggled to find stylish and affordable high sleepers great for freeing up space in older children’s rooms, but finally Argos has delivered. With some clever styling the Harper high sleeper can make a teenage room appear to have the feel of a self-contained studio.
If you’re just looking to update your accessories, there are some lovely light fittings too. Give your living room ceiling a makeover with the Habitat Perle light fitting, a bargain at £30 and treat your kitchen to the Living Kit Half Dome pendant, £24.96.
To see the full Argos extended lighting range click here
This post is part of an Argos promotion, but the opinions are genuine and our own
When you live in a small space it's tempting to squeeze something into every available gap - under the bed, on top of the kitchen units, over the back of the kitchen door. But, if you want to avoid your rooms feeling too cramped, you need to leave space to let them breathe.
Eye up furniture with good legs that allow you to see part of the floor underneath it. Don't take this the wrong way, but you need more than one or two pairs of pins in the bedroom. Your bed, wardrobes, bedside tables should all show a bit of leg, and mind that they are not hidden under skirts either.
The same goes for the rest of the house too. If it can be raised, raise it. And, don't panic, you can still sneak a bit of storage underneath these pieces of furniture too, just push it to the back or the middle out of eye shot.
When you live in a small space, you're always looking for new hidey holes within which to store things in and there are some pieces of furniture and parts of buildings that could work so much harder if someone put their mind to it.
Architects have been designing building with lofts for centuries and yet the method for accessing them has not got beyond a disappearing awkward to access ladder. Consequently, these storage areas are under used, but without going as a far as a loft conversion there are ways you can make this space more attractive, useful and accessible.
I took down the ceiling in part of our home to reveal the loft above and this space has become a book shelf and perch for storage baskets and attractive looking toys, such as a wooden sledge and a football table.
Meanwhile, I've been searching for years for a kitchen table with at least one drawer under the table top, that doesn't look cheap and nasty. They were pretty much standard in the 'olden' days and they crop up occasionally on Ebay, but they are often trading on their vintage looks and are expensive.
A stylish sofa that opens up to reveal a wide chest for storing games would be useful too. It would basically be a sofa bed design with out the bed in it.
Any suggestions to add to the list?
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Whilst you can't over clutter a small home, there are some beautiful statement objects that are worth making room for. These are on my Christmas list:
Used alongside the bed instead of a bedside table, this cute wall shelf is perfect for helping you to stick to our optical illusion rule, where you maximise visible floor space to make a room appear larger. It's available in a variety of sizes from Pretty Dandy.
Shop fitters are often ahead of the trend when it comes to interior design, so it's always a good idea to pay attention to how they store and display their wares. It may well work really well in your own home. Baines and Fricker's contemporary take on the fruit crate are currently being used in the Paul Smith shop in Borough Market and if it's good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me!
Crafted from birch ply, they are all individually number stamped and are perfect for kids toy storage, magazines or even a vinyl collection.
It's pricey, but in its defence, the Havanah Campaign Dressing Table from Black Orchid Interiors folds up smaller, can also be used as a desk and it's the sort of furniture that's likely to become a family heirloom. Just think of all the things you could put in all those drawers.
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Buying gifts for children who have very little play and storage space is a challenge. Not now. I've done the research for you and found these perfect presents.
It doesn't take much to entertain a baby and often they are more interested in the packaging than the gift, so steer clear of the oversized gimmicky toys. Opt instead for cute colourful objects that stretch all the senses, such as this Giggle Stick which giggles when jiggled.
Toddlers adore undoing and concealing things, so they will love undressing Dasher the Daschound and putting him to bed in his kennel at night.
It will be show time in no time with this Fiesta Crafts puppet show. It fits snuggly into a doorway and there is a great range of puppets to go with it too.
Toys that fold away into books are fantastic when space is at a premium. Louise Comfort's pop up fairy book series provide hours of amusement and they fold back into standard size books, they are also great to pack when travelling.
These new Carddies are another great un pack and play pack up and away toy. You colour in the figures and scenes and then let your imagination transport you into their world. Sets include football, ballet, cavemen, farm and nativity.
Kids this age love to make things, the problem is all too often we don't know what to do with their homemade sock puppets, stain glass window collages and cardboard models. So get them making something that will have a function for them after its 'birth'. Such as this Artzooka! Sketcher Tape Kit, from which they can make a whole landscape play mat scene.
And, get them using their brains too with Carol Vorderman's Mathable Domino game. The 57-numbered dominos are designed to give the brain a real work-out. £16.99, www.mathablegame.com
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