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Beautifully Small by Sara Emslie

September 15, 2014

Mondays can be really stressful as after every wonderful weekend we have to leave our comfortable homes and once again join the battle… Well, this Monday I have prepared something that might help you to keep calm and carry on. It’s going to be one more recipe for a beautiful interior, so that you can turn your home into a stylish little place that will serve as a relaxing sanctuary. Just please don’t tell me that your house or flat is too small to look beautiful. Not this time. This so called recipe is meant for compact spaces and it really doesn’t matter how small they are!

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Let me introduce you to one more fabulous book – Beautifully Small (Clever Ideas for Compact Spaces) by Sara Emslie – published by my old friends Ryland Peters & Small.


   As the author of the book – Sara Emslie has correctly pointed out “social demographics have changed dramatically over the last decade or two”, more people choose smaller spaces and the primary reasons are not only financial. “For students, first-time property buyers, key workers and those wanting to downsize on reaching retirement, living in a town or city with universities, multiple job opportunities, theatres, restaurants, bars and other leisure activities all close by is a hugely attractive option. Our lifestyle habits are changing too, and homes that are smaller in size can provide the perfect balance between sufficient living space and a desirable location, as well as offering more manageable household bills.”

Lofty aspirations

To be honest with you, I agree that there are quite a few pluses in living in a small flat, yet in the city – as you might already know I love visiting museums and art galleries, but small spaces have always scared me – it’s so easy to clutter them with your belongings… If you think that a smaller space could be a good solution for you, but also share the same fear of turning it into a warehouse, you need to have a closer look at Sara’s suggestions. I think we can definitely trust an experienced interior stylist, whose own house became a testing ground for many of her favourite design and styling ideas, that later on served as an inspiration for her book.

Flotsam and jetsam

   What I loved about this book the most is that it’s full of little tips and advice on how to make everything work. There are no general statements like everyone can do it or it’s a piece of cake. Quite on the contrary, in Sara’s opinion “to create a successful small space requires hard-working design and styling ideas” and “strict spatial discipline”. Yes, it’s doable, but you need to follow some rules. So what do we begin with?
   It would be best to sketch a “floor plan showing accurate measurements and indicating the positioning of doors and any restrictive structural elements” and to start planning the changes always having in mind that “a successful home is one that meets the needs of those who live in it”. Thinking about it it’s really simple – “if you work from home, then a work space that is large enough to accommodate office equipment and papers will be key, if you don’t entertain or cook a great deal, then it would seem sensible to designate less space for cooking and dining and more to relaxing and lounging” and so on.
   As Sara has done it all before she has recorded and explained everything that you should take into consideration: evaluating positive assets, calculating your budget, generating creative ideas, sorting out your storage space etc. But even if this hasn’t convinced you that Beautifully Small could serve as your downsizing guide, how about some specific tips:
– dual-purpose rooms are fabulous space savers;
– did you know that in a small bedroom, creating a play on scale with a large bed or one with a luxuriously sized headboard, you can create a feeling of luxury and comfort? (apparently this is a trick loved by many hotels)
– white as a fresh and clean colour provides a great backdrop for other elements, however, in a space without much natural light, bright white can look cold and grey.
   Worth remembering, right?
   Summing it all up, this book is an inspiring manual for anyone who owns a small house or a tiny flat. Full of informative explanations and colourful photographs of real homes it will certainly change your view – small doesn’t mean cluttered or uninhabitable, well, not any more!
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Beautifully Small by Sara Emslie (photographs by Rachel Whiting) is published by Ryland Peters & Small and is available from
8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2014 11:20 am

    Looks great and useful! We live in a small house, but still a WHOLE HOUSE with attic, and the clutter is a real problem. I’m sure I could use some tips. I’ve been trying to declutter for years and am only making slow progress. Worst offenders are stacked up framed artwork, and boxes of saved materials for courses I no longer give but might one day begin again. And my fabrics, and yarns, of course. Extra chairs for possible future courses here at home. And more, much much more!

    • September 15, 2014 11:39 am

      Sarah, I think that both of us are hoarders! Our house is quite big; compared to English standards it’s a mansion, yet sadly it does look like a warehouse… I haven’t got the heart to throw anything away, that’s why I have so many boxes for my “projects” (by projects I mean anything you can imagine… from sewing to building). There’s lots of space that’s simply occupied by stuff and sometimes I feel like giving up…

      Smaller house would mean less cleaning, but I’d definitely need some professional advice on how to create enough storage space. Meanwhile, it’s nice to look at interior design books and dream of that perfect home where every detail is well thought through. K.

      • September 16, 2014 8:40 pm

        Sympathising! I think this must be a universal problem for creative types who see potential use in just about anything. You have my sympathies. If I ever dig myself out of my own collection of stuff, I’ll let you know how I did it!

    • September 16, 2014 11:22 am

      Continuing this theme, here you will find some clever storage ideas:

  2. September 15, 2014 4:30 pm

    Love the pictures!

    • September 15, 2014 6:05 pm

      Beautiful interiors and beautiful pictures. I loved the whole book. K.

  3. September 15, 2014 6:38 pm

    Great post. Thank you so much:)

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