The Big Appeal of Little Spaces

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a cape that I have always loved the nooks and crannies in houses, those special spaces inside created from the idiosyncrasies of the external architecture. I was forever envious of my sister’s bedroom upstairs, with its charming dormer windowseat and drawers set into the walls. I did not, however, have to share a bathroom with my parents, so I suppose it was an even trade-off.

House Beautiful Big Style in Small SpacesThis coming month’s House Beautiful brought back all of these memories and made me realize perhaps why I have so many clippings in my files of “Big Style in Small Spaces.” One feature in particular focusses on these types of endearing spots. In “The Magic of Little Nests, ” designers discuss the appeal of these little spaces in larger homes. “Even in the grandest houses, we’re inevitably drawn to the smallest rooms: they’re the coziest. In big rooms, guess where we head? To the coziest spots, the nooks and niches that are like rooms within rooms – their own intimate little worlds.”

Markham Roberts dining banquetteEach of these eight little nests represents an idea I have longed to have in my home. Take for example dining banquettes – this incredibly charming one by Markham Roberts is from a beautiful house he designed in Southampton. One of my aunts had a banquette in her kitchen that I adored (my sister’s and my favorite reason to visit – sitting there with her home-made egg salad and desserts made up for her husband’s vile cigars). I have tried in each of my homes to incorporate one into the kitchen or dining room! In fact, I have dreamed of something almost identical to the one above, but with an old harvest table, and while Roberts used a handsome cotton strié, I have imagined my tufted version in duck egg blue leather to coordinate with my Farrow & Ball pale powder walls. There are several exquisite hand blocked linens for curtains that could complete the look – trust me!!

Mary McDonald red lacquer dressing roomEvery woman I know dreams of a fabulous dressing room/closet. Queen of luxe glamour, Mary McDonald executed this stunning example in the home of an L.A. movie mogul. “You can make any space more useful, personal, and inviting,” she explains. “I address walk-in closets as sanctuaries. I love to create small niches such as vanities and a place to sit while you get ready for the day or night.” I want a dressing room sanctuary! And so does everyone else – just take a look at pinterest. Speaking of pinterest, I am delighted to report that this article uses House Beautiful’s new pinterest friendly technology, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing many of these photos there once the issue hits the stands and mailboxes. But the point is that we can all make our lives a little more civilized by capturing an unused nook, giving it a glossy coat, hanging a great mirror (it doesn’t need to have a Regency provenance like this one) and adding a vanity (try your local consignment shop if you don’t have a handy carpenter or budget to create the built in variety).

Sally Markham built in bunk beds

Who doesn’t love the enduring appeal of built-in bunks? How many of us as children dreamed of having such a set up – I know I did. And as a parent, the idea of stylish containment is equally as alluring! This fabulous sleeping arrangement for three girls  in a South Carolina vacation home was designed by Sally Markham, with generous bunks to accommodate guests and sleepover fun – lucky them!! We once rented a home in Florida for vacation that had bunks cleverly built into a wall behind folding doors in a library. The kids fought over who got to sleep there even though there were spacious light filled bedrooms.

But it’s not just kids and dogs who love small protected spaces. There’s something reassuring and comforting about being enveloped for us adults too! Take a look at the article in the JulyAugust issue to see how you can create a magic little nest of your own. There are some great ideas!!

photos by (from top to bottom): Thibault Jeanson, Tim Street-Porter, Thomas Loof


19 thoughts on “The Big Appeal of Little Spaces

  1. Ooh, I am all over this post Stacey! As you know, space is of a premium here in France–which is fine by me because I love cosy and the challenges in making little work well (although frankly if there was any way I could have a larger shower, I would be delighted).

    As for the dining nook –or breakfast nook, from my youth –yes. I simply don’t understand these monster kitchens with islands the size of a small state. They seem to have been conceived for family’s that don’t eat together–that want to be far apart. Bring everyone together in a little nook and there you go. Much happier!

    Bon weekend!

  2. I love spaces, large and small. Nooks, crannies, corners….all shared with people we love.
    Stay cool….in your corner. Another hot one today.

  3. “Duck egg blue” leather….ooooh, it doesn’t get any prettier than that!!! For the most part I think homes are getting smaller…keep the ideas flowing! franki

  4. I love small spaces, especially at the beach.
    I can remember the banquets and nooks that we had during my childhood. My mother knew a lot more about style than we gave her credit for.
    Looking forward to this issue.
    Happy Friday, Stacey.

  5. Great post! Such a happy breakfast nook-you can just picture kids sitting in the banquette looking over the railing to see who’s coming up the stairs. And I love the way MM hung the tapestry behind the mirror-makes the space even cozier.

  6. Oh-so-magical when small spaces are converted to welcoming/alluring environments. Photography is lovely and inviting. Beautiful post Stacey, as always!
    Enjoy your weekend! Andie

  7. I guess that’s why I spend most of time blogging, etc…in my small sunroom…I just love it! And it’s exactly why I spent so much time in the glassed in porch of our house in Hilton Head last week! I could’ve sat there all day long and would have never gotten tired of it! Give me a small space any day! It’s cozy…refreshing, relaxing, rejuvenating…you name it…it starts with a re!! That’s what a small space is! I loved this post and look forward to this issue!!!

  8. Thank you for posting about newest HB’s Small Spaces issue. Guess what’s always on my mind? How to make aprox. 900 sq. ft. liveable after living in 4200. Built-in bunks beds and a banquette have been on my wish list once we finally purchase our own home. I’m hooked on the thought of your duck blue tufted leather! I’m crazy for Mary’s version of a dressing table. The ‘pow’ of the lacquer just screens glamour. Have a wonderful Sunday Stacey!

  9. Im such a fan of small spaces. My boys’ bedrooms are on the tiny side, but I think it makes them cozy and comforting! Love all the ideas above. Small can definitely have BIG impact!

  10. I LOVE the bunk beads they look so cozy and elegant and will definitely incorporate them into something soon. It’s an art to make small spacious and these are some great ideas, I think the most important thing is to let everything breath which is subtle and inspires me to get back to writing my blog to articulate. Great site, thanks for sharing this!

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