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Interior Design: Sprucing up neglected spaces

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An elegant home interior is not just about arranging objects artistically or complementing furniture and accessories with appropriate wall colours and floorings. An effective home interior reflects individual style and, most importantly, transforms neglected spaces into practical, usable areas, creating a pleasurable living experience in the process.

Every home has some space that is challenging to enhance. Some of the places often ignored are the area under the stairs, corners in rooms, landing spaces, long hallways and dark and gloomy entrances. When enhanced, these areas can add charm to the inside of your house.

However, decorating these often-overlooked areas requires a little bit of homework and a few inspiring ideas. With a little effort, you'll be surprised to see how these spaces can be transformed into beautiful and valuable zones. Property Weekly speaks with interior designers to gather tips to enhance hard-to-decorate spots within the home.

Under the staircase
The area under the staircase occupies considerable space, but many times this place is underutilised or completely neglected. This area can become a worthy spot in the home with a little facelift.

Installing a door under the stairs can create an instant storage room. The space can ideally house suitcases, camping gear, coats, jumpers and even the vacuum cleaner and other home appliances, says Shelley Watkinson, Design Executive at Elemento.

For those looking to add storage space, get a good carpenter to create made-to-order drawers to be fitted under the staircase, says Hanna Karonen, Interior Designer and CEO of Lux Design. This can provide extra storage for home décor and accessories.

Shelves can also be installed to create an open display unit for accessories, travel souvenirs, trophies, etc., making it an attractive feature in the room, adds Watkinson. An enclosed space under the staircase can also be a great spot for the family pet.

The same area can also be a cosy personal space, says Karonen. Simply build customised benches, throw in colourful cushions, add a curtain for some privacy and you have set yourself a comfortable personal comer to relax and unwind.

For book lovers, this corner can be a great place for a good read in private. All you need is a comfortable chair, a footrest if space allows, a reading lamp and a magazine rack or bookshelf. A scented candle or small vase of fresh flowers will instinctively draw you in to sit and read, says Watkinson.

The space under the stairs can also be transformed into an office or mini workstation, especially for people looking to have a workspace at home. A fold-down desk will help keep things in order when they are not in use. Watkinson advises to tuck away an office chair underneath  the desk and attach a task light to the wall for reading and writing.

Long corridors
Pepping up a long hallway certainly requires a range of style tricks. Transform a lacklustre passageway into an inviting and stylish area with the following simple tips.

The easiest way to jazz up the hallway is by displaying pieces of artwork on the walls, creating a wonderful focal point. You can even buy artwork from local artists and show off the beautiful pieces in your house. Also, try framing your children's artwork from school and hang them alongside the pieces you've bought, creating a harmony between fine art and budding artistry in your family, advises Watkinson.

Another technique is to create an interesting wall feature by arranging mirrors on the wall, preferably in uneven numbers. Mirrors reflect light around the corridor and create an illusion of space, says Watkinson.

Hallways can also be adorned with elegant and cosy wallpaper patterns, giving corridors an aesthetic look. You can even add a pair of settees and a table with a lamp between them to brighten up the space and give it a fashionable look, advises Karonen.

The corridor is also a good location to display your photos and even create a photo essay of your journeys and adventures. Elegantly displayed family photos, set in beautiful frames, gives a dramatic impact to an otherwise unexciting place. Arrange photos in a desired theme and let them tell their own story, says Karonen.

In a wide corridor space, adding a full-length, wall-to-wall bookshelf to display your book collection is one way of utilising the space effectively. Also, build a wood paneling or acoustic panels on walls with the help of a carpenter. This not only brings down the noise but also gives the space an elegant look, adds Karonen.

Also, try adding life and colour to your corridor furnishings. Give your furniture a makeover: reupholster a bench chair or chaise longue, and paint or place wallpaper on the inside of a bookshelf, says Watkinson.

It also helps to break up the boring effect of a long ceiling by hanging interesting pendant lights. Create an illusion of the corridor being shorter than it is by placing an interesting piece of furniture or artwork at the end of the corridor, says Watkinson.

Landing area
Landing areas in homes are challenging spots to decorate due to their varied sizes and shapes. However, when adorned wisely, these spots become purposeful areas within a home. A few ideas to consider include adding a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and transforming the space into a fantastic home library. With a reclining or massage chair, soft lighting, a beautiful rug and soft background music, you can create a complete relaxation retreat here, says Watkinson.

For larger families, this space can be turned into a games room. Choose comfortable storage seating such as ottomans to store board games and toys. Hang a TV on the wall, and add shelves for DVDs and computer games. Paint the wall a lively colour for the kids, says Watkinson.

If you want to create interesting visuals as you climb the stairs, use wallpaper with a bold design. Beautiful prints or stripes will transform the look of the space completely, adds Watkinson. You can also set a vivid tone with adequate lighting arrangements. During the day, a window allows natural light into the room, hence, minimise the window treatments and use sheers or blinds rather than heavy curtains. Floor and table lamps with dimmer switches create a great ambience at night, says Watkinson.

The space can also be converted into a second living room. Install an electric fireplace and set the mood with appropriate lighting fixtures. Use your favourite colours, especially if you are not brave enough to use them in the main living room. Make it your private sitting area, an extension of your bedroom, adds Watkinson.

Don't forget to choose furnishings and storage solutions that fit nicely in the available space and are pleasing to the eye. Do not use the landing space as a storage area for school bags and sports gear. Keep it clean, fresh and clutter-free, advises Watkinson.

Boring corners
Comers in rooms go vacant because people are unable to visualise styles that integrate well with the whole room design. Most furniture and artwork do not fit well in the angled wall space, but strategically picked showpieces can make a comer look attractive and useful. Here are a few quick solutions.

Find a local carpenter to customise a study desk or pick an elegantly designed piece that fits well from furniture stores. A desk with a little study lamp and few tiny accessories gives an inviting setting to the quiet study niche, says Karonen.

Convert the nook into a cosy little sitting space. Place two high-back chairs with a tiny table in between and lay a statement-making accessory on it. Include a stylish rug, a coffee table in the centre and you have set a private chatting spot, says Elina Abraham, Director at Panache.

Create extra storage space. A pyramid-styled, freestanding shelf with glass doors gives the empty comer a functional value and an attractive look. In the dining room, these shelves can accommodate plates, cutlery and serving dishes. In the kitchen, fill decorative glass containers with spices and grains, giving you easy access to these items when cooking, says Abraham.

Bring a luxurious charm to the master bedroom's corner by placing a big armchair in the nook, and add a floor lamp and a stylish chest of drawer next to it. Display beautiful accessories on the chest to add opulent style to the bedroom, says Karonen.

Install tailor-made shelves in the comer and use this area to display your books, magazines or some of your collector's items, trophies and other exquisite prized possessions, adds Karonen. You can also set a breakfast area in the kitchen with a customised bench in the comer and pair it with a small table and some chairs. This is a great spot for morning meals in a hurry, adds Karonen.

In the children's rooms, transform the comers into a seating and a storage area. Place a triangular-shaped bench that has some storage space underneath. Add colourful and attractive baskets in the space to store children's toys and give a clutter-free look to the room, suggests Karonen.

Also, try to bring to life a dead comer of a living room by placing refreshing plants in large decorative pots. This brings nature into your home interiors, says Karonen.

Gloomy entrance
The entrance is an essential part of a home that is vital for positive first impressions. If this place is dark and gloomy, it gives an unpleasant feeling. A few pointers to set the right tone include lightening the appearance of an entrance with a fresh coat of paint. A beautiful paint effect in a soft, light colour will add warmth and create an inviting feeling, says Watkinson.

A well-lit entrance offers a warm tone. You can add statement lighting by hanging a chandelier or a beautiful light fixture in the entrance and creating an inviting ambiance, she adds. You can also place a vintage chest or contemporary shoe cupboard by the door to easily put shoes away without cluttering the space.

Also, try placing fresh cut flowers in an attractive large vase. This quickly brightens up the entrance space and makes a remarkable statement, says Watkinson.

Putting large picture frames of your family or friends will give a dramatic appeal to a home entrance. Create a collage of photos or hang a few large frames. Remember, it is the first thing you will see as you step into your home, points out Watkinson.

Home interior tips
• Combine different ethnic and geometric patterns in the home to get an interesting overall look.
• Be creative with colours and do not be scared to use vibrant, strong accent colours together.
• If you can afford it, reupholster old furniture at you home with beautiful, good-quality fabrics.
• You should choose your lighting wisely, because it changes the whole atmosphere of your house.
• Create a rich and stylish look for your house by adding patterned wallpaper to your walls.
• Get help from a local carpenter when you need to customise any type of furniture to match your space requirement.
• Be creative in mixing expensive and low-cost items together. Personalise your space the way you want to express yourself and make it more interesting and fun.

-Hanna Karonen




Source: Hina Navin, Special to Property Weekly