Small space, big design

Home + Garden

April 1, 2022

Charlotte designers create small spaces that pack plenty of punch.

Even the tiniest rooms can have an outsized impact. If you’re not ready to commit to that bold wallpaper or splashy paint color in the living room, why not take a chance in a bathroom, small dining nook or butler’s pantry?

 “Small spaces are opportunities to take bolder design risks that you wouldn’t otherwise do in a larger, more public space,” says interior designer Brooke Cole. “So take the opportunity to flex your design muscles — or use the expensive wallpaper that you fell in love with but was too pricey for your whole dining room but considerably less investment for a powder room,” Cole adds.

“You definitely need to create harmony with a color palette and patterns” when designing small spaces, says interior designer Natalie Papier of Home Ec. “Keep accessorizing to a minimum — think decorative but functional! You can save money by using affordable tile in an interesting pattern for a fun focal point. But don’t forget to play with interesting art and décor.”

These bright and bold spaces dreamed up by local designers will make you rethink beige and boring.

Raising the bar

Barrie Benson | photo by Brie Williams

During a renovation, this home was stripped down to the studs — interior designer Barrie Benson conceived the idea for the bar after noticing a small cavity in the architectural plans. The design was inspired by a secret bar concealed behind a living-room wall at Houston’s Menil House, the Philip Johnson-designed Modernist home of legendary arts patrons Dominique and John de Menil.

Going global

House of Nomad | photo by Laura Sumrak

“We see a small space as an opportunity for a big impact,” says the design duo of Kelley Lentini and Berkeley Minkhorst of House of Nomad. “Go bold with statement-making wallpaper or a moody paint, don’t fill small spaces with bulky furniture, and choose pieces with clean lines or organic shapes that allow the room to breathe.” This powder room is accented with HON’s own Bali fan mirror crafted with handwoven seagrass, sold through their retail store on East Boulevard or online at (View our previous design story with House of Nomad, here.)

Glam it up

Charlotte Lucas Interior Design | photo by Chris Edwards

Despite being the mother of four boys, Charlotte Lucas’ client had decidedly feminine taste. The metallic de Gournay wallpaper and vintage sconces reflect the client’s love for both French antiques and Hollywood Regency style. “Creating a fluid design with these juxtaposing styles presented an exciting challenge, and what we wound up with is nothing short of magic,” the designer says. Lucas teamed with builder Stanwick Dunham and Ruard Veltman Architect + Interiors on the project. The powder room sits behind concealed doors covered in Gucci pink heron print wallpaper. (Read our previous feature with Charlotte Lucas Interior Design)

Classic attic

Brooke Cole Interiors | photos by Laura Sumrak

In this Foxcroft home renovation, designer Brooke Cole converted an unused attic into a home office that’s also a cozy retreat for the homeowner to relax and unwind. “I wrapped the sloped ceilings and all of the walls in wallpaper to make the room feel larger and more like a cocoon, if you will,” Cole says. “If your space has weird angles or odd sloped ceilings like this space did — I would envelop the room, both walls and ceiling, in the same paint color or wallpaper. This will visually enlarge the space and let your eye focus on more of the pretty elements versus visual linear distractions. Eliminating crown molding or painting the crown the same color as your walls will also help your ceilings feel visually taller.” (From the SouthPark archives: see a previous design project by Brooke Cole Interiors)

In the swim

Home Ec. | photos by Megan Easterday

Designer Natalie Papier of Home Ec. drew inspiration for her daughter’s bathroom from vintage swim art. Maddie, 10, is an avid swimmer. “The yellow and white cabana stripes in a photo ended up being the tile layout inspiration,” Papier says. “I knew because it was a small space that a continuous pattern would give harmony to design.” Working with contractor Sean Carlin Designs, Papier flipped the layout of the room, moving the vanity and expanding the shower-bath area into one big wet room. The wallpaper on the ceiling is from a collaboration with Hygge & West and Schoolhouse Electric. “I liked the vintage vibes of the pattern but also the pop that green gave the yellow-and-white tile mix.” The strawberry stool, which she found at HomeGoods, became a viral sensation after Papier posted photos on social media. (Read our previous design feature on Papier’s home, here.)

Sunny spot

Matters of Style Designs | photo by Erin Comerford Miller

In the cheery breakfast nook of this 1938 Myers Park home, designer Sarah Fisher of Matters of Style Designs maximized space by having a custom banquette built around an original casement window. Since the family had three young boys, Fisher had the cushions upholstered in an easy-to-clean blue faux leather fabric. “We wallpapered the walls in a fresh, linear floral pattern and added white linen shades with green velvet trim to the windows,” Fisher says. “Rattan dining chairs, both comfortable and easy to clean, add texture to the space.” 

In bloom

Muse Noire Interiors | photo by Laura Sumrak

Designer Ashley Ross of Muse Noire Interiors created this floral wall in a home office nook for her client who had recently moved from a single-family home with a large office to a townhome. “Choosing this nook for her office was a part of shifting her mindset on not having work, or her role at work, define who she is,” Ross says. “We installed the fresh flower wall using test tubes as a gratitude wall for her growth. Every time it is time for her to tend to a vessel, she is to stop and think of something she’s grateful for.”  SP


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