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How to loosen up tight spaces

This article has been prompted by some challenging projects I’m currently working on.

Whilst I enjoy designing new homes to be built I really love the challenge that renovation brings with it.

Having to design within existing spaces really makes me get my creative thinking cap on. Let me share with you a few design ideas that I’ve learnt and implemented from past and current projects.

Apartment living has even more constraints with size compared to a typical house. Apartments often are designed with combined room layouts. Lounge, dining and kitchen will be in one connected space and you’ll no doubt have seen combined laundry/bathroom combos.


I’m working a bathroom/laundry renovation at the moment and it’s been a fun one to get my head around. How can we make a washing machine and dryer look good in a space?

An example of the copper bathtub from Birdblack’s Facebook

We’ve already purchased our big ticket item- a freestanding copper bath so it’s imperative that this is the hero and that no appliances stick out like a sore thumb. I designed both appliances to be stacked one on top of the other into a custom built cupboard. This allows them to be hidden behind closed doors.


But presents the issue of a bulky full height cupboard sitting in a bathroom. Time for some disguise! Baresque is the supplier of the product called Lucere Mirror Acrylic.


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It looks like mirror however it’s super lightweight, easy to cut and install and the added bonus it comes in a number of colours.

It is the perfect material to use as our door inserts for this cupboard. We’ve selected the colour Haze, a bronzed mirror tone. It will bring warmth into the space and reflect our amazing copper bath. Mirror makes things disappear and reflect light so that is two double ticks for us.


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Often there are many other bits and pieces vying for space in a bathroom-laundry combo, such as the hot water system.

Even in an apartment think about other locations to locate the tank so as to free up precious space in the bathroom. If you live on the top floor can you get approval to have it on the roof?

Or outside if on the bottom level? In our case locating the tank outside was not an option so we looked to the hallway and there it was- a partially empty linen cupboard. The perfect location to store our hot water system.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 10TH 2013;Participants of the Block 2014 reveal Room 2 at Albert Park on the 10th of November 2013 in Melbourne Australia. (Photo by Martin Philbey) *** Local Caption ***The Block - Room Reveal 2

This example of an in wall cistern featured on The Block

There are a couple of other tricks you can pull too. Inwall cisterns for toilets are a brilliant way to decrease the footprint size of a toilet. Wall hung joinery gives the illusion of a larger floor area. Reflective surfaces help bounce light around the space.

Selecting dark floor tiles and lighter walls with push the walls out making the room feel as large as it possibly can feel.

Don’t despair if your room is small, it may just be in need of getting a fresh pair of eyes in to reveal the potential!

Sarah Nolen

Sarah has 8 years in the Interior Design game under her belt and has worked on an array of different projects from simple renovations to complex re-designs and engineering feats. From the tightest of budgets to those with an endless supply. Sarah takes on each and every job with a unique perspective and gets inside the mind of the client to produce something truly individualised and specific to their needs. Specialising in residential design Sarah is always looking at ways to improve her client's lifestyles by making their house a home. Launching her own Interior Design business; Birdblack Design in 2014, things have never been so exciting.

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