Finance Property Is half of your home going to waste? It’s time to look at how we use space

Is half of your home going to waste? It’s time to look at how we use space

As homes get smaller, furniture designers are becoming smarter. Photo: Supplied
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The increase of compact furniture designs makes decorating small spaces easy.

With all our documents stored on a laptop, the home study can now be replaced by something as simple as this Kristof desk.

The Mogg Sgoglia shelf desk is an inspired space-saver.

Furniture that does double duty can be attractive, fun and simple. This Perch Loft bed comes from Oeuf.

We tend to see small houses and apartments as stepping stones on the way to a “family” home with several bedrooms, a couple of living rooms, a rumpus room, home cinema and a Labrador hogging one of the sofas.

It was only a couple of years ago that Australia dropped from first place, in favour of the US, on the global home-size leaderboard, according to a report commissioned by CommSec. In 2009, at the peak of our dominance, the average size of a new house was 247 square metres. It is now around 231 square metres.

But do we still need this kind of wiggle room? So many technological and lifestyle factors are coalescing, that the time seems perfect now to realistically assess our space requirements.

The most obvious indicators are, of course, the environmental benefits of living with less, and the lower energy and maintenance costs of a smaller dwelling.

Awareness that consumerism is a hollow promise, global interest in the tiny homes movement, the popularity of Marie Condo’s campaign to declutter our lives, and the idea that simplifying our lives can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing are other signals that the tide is turning and a lot of us don’t want huge homes that we inevitably fill with stuff.

The other significant thing to consider is that many of the elements in our homes are now completely redundant.

We don’t need the same kind of storage that we did in the past. We no longer need to store racks of CDs or DVDs. Music, movies, books and magazines are streamed or downloaded.

There are several rooms that we don’t need anymore – a study, for example. Everything we do is on a laptop and a filing cabinet is no longer necessary; we receive and store documents electronically.

Dining rooms are definitely redundant. We gather informally around the family table, or eat outside if the weather’s up for it. Consequently, we don’t keep good china and cutlery packed away somewhere to be used only for Christmas and birthdays.

What about the spare room? Is that the one that does double duty as a junk room and no one goes into until the guests arrive? Sofa beds are a lot more comfortable than they used to be.

Storage itself is cleverer now – drawers in bed bases and headboards, storage spaces in ottomans, coffee tables with compartments and a million hooks, gadgets, shelves, racks and organisers make cupboard space more efficient as well as utilising hidden spots and dark corners.

The availability of excellent double-duty and small-space furniture makes it easy to adopt a less-is-more lifestyle. Derlot Editions, based in Brisbane, has won awards for clever double-duty pieces designed for small spaces. Online retailer Apartment Lifestyles specialises in just that and many mainstream retailers have incorporated compact ranges. Expand Furniture specialises in transformers that go from being a coffee table to hosting a banquet.

Having fewer rooms also means that it’s possible to furnish them with better quality items that will last a long time. Better for you, better for the environment.

However, there must be room for the labrador.

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