In every home (however big or small) there are always ways to make the most out of hidden opportunities, turning the darkest, most neglected corners into useful space-providers.
From clever furniture arrangements to smart DIY (or even getting the builders in for a bigger job), we reveal the top space hacks from experienced home renovators.
1. Turn the kids’ bunk beds into a mezzanine level
Angela Bamforth, an interior designer from Cheshire, transformed her eight-year-old daughter’s bedroom by cleverly combining a bunk bed with a storage unit.
She removed the bottom bunk from her £100 Mydal bed, then used a £49 IKEA Trofast storage unit to create steps up to the top.
Using spare wood from the bottom bunk and a wooden pallet, she created a taller, cladded bunk bed with added storage and a generous space underneath.
“It probably took a couple of weekends to complete,” says Bamforth. “The only expense was the IKEA furniture and some fabric to make a canopy at the top.
“Our steps don’t have a handrail as the bed is against the wall, but if you were making this for a younger child, I would recommend adding one.”
Her daughter Clara uses the space under her mezzanine bed for playing and storing toys, having reclaimed a significant chunk of her bedroom for fun and games.
2. Create a home cinema without losing a room
Jessica Horton and her partner have been restoring an east London townhouse built in 1859 and documenting their progress on Instagram.
Over the years, many of their home’s original features had sadly been stripped away but they are now being lovingly reinstated.
Horton reveals how they used an opportunity to create a versatile home cinema:
“We built our very own home cinema into the arch of the lounge dining room,” she says.
“It was one of the first jobs we did in this space. We concealed it in one of the wood panels and built the projector into the casement of the opposite wood shutters.”
Usually, home cinemas are only found in the largest of homes. But this idea could be applied to any property where the downstairs rooms have been knocked through into one - adding a cinematic experience without sacrificing a sitting or dining room.
3. Disguise doors to play with space perception
Being playful with a door’s positioning can actually help to open up a room and create an unexpected feeling of space.
Interior designer Aurore Martial, of Domus Venus, says: “Secret doors can create a nicer flow in the room and a true sense of continuity.
“The absence of an architrave and the wall-like appearance can declutter the room, making it look bigger, sleeker and cleaner.
“You can choose between several styles, such as a bookshelf with a hidden door that leads to a storage space or a totally different room, with a revolving or traditional push-through door.”
That’s exactly what fabric designer Mark Swartz did in his studio, pictured above.
4. Cleverly define different zones
Who needs walls? Okay, external ones are good, and so are those around bathrooms and other private spaces.
But in large living areas it’s still possible to make a space function in different ways without sacrificing light and fluidity by putting walls up.
In open-plan homes, it’s possible to creatively define a seating area, dining area, working zone and kids’ play area using clever furniture positioning, flooring or wall dividers.
And the beauty of this technique is that everything becomes a movable feast, so when you fancy a change, you can switch things around for a fresh new look.
“I use sofas and rugs to help to define different areas,” explains Devon-based interior designer, Rebecca Dupere.
“This is particularly useful for separating a kitchen from the sitting and/or dining areas.
“A screen can be a good way to hide something unseemly like a basin, or perhaps to create extra space for a desk and home office.
“Room dividers can always be dressed up by hanging a mirror, clock or even a picture, which will give the illusion of them being more like a solid wall.“
5. Take advantage of high ceilings
Fitted shelving and wardrobes that reach the ceiling are a great way of maxing out on space.
Not all of us are able to reach cupboards high up in the eaves or take the books down from shelves at coving-height, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a sensible solution - especially if you can bag a stylish ladder to help you get to the high stuff.
Ally Dowsing-Reynolds, of home décor brand Dowsing & Reynolds, wanted plenty of storage in her kitchen but didn’t want to have boxy cupboards on the walls that would make the space feel cramped at head-height.
“We have really high ceilings so we asked our interior designer friend Karen Knox to design some shelves that were space-appropriate,” she says.
“She designed large open oak shelves with steel shelf brackets that span almost the full width of the kitchen. I can now display the essentials and show off a few of my favourite decorative items, without having large wall units that can make the room feel cramped.”
6. Make dead space under the stairs work harder
Harry Potter might have famously slept in a cupboard under the stairs, but usually it’s a space filled with useless clutter and electrical boxes - or a downstairs loo if you’re lucky.
The space under your stairs can actually be used for practical and very important things - like storing wine.
"Even people with pretty sizeable kitchens can struggle with a 'lack of space’,” says William Durrant, director and founder, Herringbone Kitchens.
“In this case, we were working with a client who really wanted wine storage, but there just wasn’t space for it in the main kitchen area, after all the usual things like sink, oven and worktops had gone in.
“So we identified this spot under the stairs and, thanks to our talented workshop team, brought the whole area to life as a wine storage unit. We love what a feature it's become.”
If wine isn’t high on your priority list, why not turn your under-stair space into a snazzy home office like this one?
7. Build storage into awkward corners
Bathrooms are full of complicated spaces. The “smallest room” often lives up to its name and it can be tricky to store all the products that keep us squeaky clean.
Borja and Dean are a couple renovating an estate in Warwickshire complete with five houses and extensive grounds.
They have been doing much of the work themselves and documenting the results on Instagram, including this beautiful original-looking cupboard they built into a bathroom.
“We wanted to create some additional storage in the bathroom and as we were concealing the toilet cistern in the wall this was a perfect location to do it,” says Borja.
“It was ‘dead’ space, and we hate dead space. We managed to repurpose a spare door and the inside is made from scraps of old oak floorboards.
“The best way to utilise corners or dead spaces is by understanding what items are most likely to be kept in that space.”