Architect Appeal

Small Space Design: Expert Tips from Architects

COMPILED BY Lynette Botha PHOTOS Supplied

Spatial planning when working with a small home or room is mandatory to maximise floor space and efficiently use what you have. Local architects give us their insights into what to consider when you want your tiny area to be a big deal.

Robert Silke & Partners

“We love working with small spaces,” says Robert Silke. “It forces us to be inventive and really think outside the box. Every single area needs to be intentional, and each item well considered. We’ve worked on many apartment projects that maximise space efficiently, while still maintaining an element of fun and surprise.”


small space design

“One of the smaller apartments we’ve designed is a 25m2 studio at Tuynhuys, which I kept for myself, and furnished and styled to rent out via Airbnb,” says Robert. “We were chuffed with the kitchen (by Inside Living), where we pushed the microwave up onto a shelf, which means the high-level cupboards had to be 45cm deep, instead of the usual 30cm. We then opted for an under-counter bar fridge and a two-plate glass Ceran cooker. These three simple measures had the effect of maximising counter space – and making a workable kitchenette possible in only two linear metres. We’ve also learnt that short-term rentals earn more income when there is a separate work table – so we custom-made one from solid Sardo granite by Sangengalo. Because it’s a different material to the kitchen countertops, it reads like a separate piece of furniture, yet doubles as more counter space (or a dining table) when it needs to.”

Essential Earth Global

“Sometimes it’s not the home itself that is small, but an area within it,” says Essential Earth Global’s Adrian Lombard. “An unused area below a staircase can be transformed into a home-office nook; a tiny spare room can have a dual purpose of home office and spare bedroom, using clever storage space and a futon or sofa bed that folds up easily when not in use.”


small space design
small space design

“While this project in its entirety is a sprawling farmstead, there are moments within where space had to be maximised,” says Adrian. “For example, the Garden Suite is a small room, so the adjoining Leccino Stoep had to be a space that extended the suite, and was also able to serve many functions – a small table to dine at, a couch in one corner for reading or relaxing. The stoep basically becomes your lounge, ensuring the suite remains spacious without compromising on necessary elements.”

Stretch Architects

“When it comes to planning and designing small spaces, we focus on making them feel luxurious and larger than they are,” says David Long of Stretch Architects. “While we know storage and furniture are important, we see these as secondary to the space itself. The way to achieve this grand, larger-than-life quality is fairly simple: make the most of natural light streaming in wherever you can; play with changes in level to subtly differentiate one space from another; create visual connections from one room to the next; and, finally, play with volume – for example, higher ceilings make a small room feel a lot bigger.”


small space design

“The Park Road project in Woodstock took advantage of the City of Cape Town’s new densification laws to build multiple dwellings on a single residential site,” explains Stephen Hitchcock of Stretch Architects. “An old shed located behind the existing main house was converted into two additional living units connected by a new shared courtyard space. Incorporating different levels, playing with light, and maximising every nook and cranny gives a roomy feel to a very small space.”

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