Philippine arts

Living in a condo? Here are 5 tips for decorating your small space

Amanda T. Lago

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Living in a condo? Here are 5 tips for decorating your small space

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rapple

Just because you’re short on space doesn’t mean you have to be skint on style

MANILA, Philippines – Condominiums can be the most convenient places to live these days. They’re easily accessible, close to commercial areas, and come built-in with security and amenities. The trade-off for all that is having less space than you would in a traditional house. But having less space doesn’t mean you can’t make it look nice – and interior designer Ivy Crisostomo proved this with the model living room she dressed up for SM Home’s “Essentials of Condo Living” series.

Ivy only had a space of 8×6 (her design partner James Razo asked for an extra foot for the bedroom he was doing), but she managed to fill it with all the living room essentials: a couch, a coffee table, a bookshelf – and a lot of personality.

SMALL CORNER. This tiny 8x6 space is the living room that Ivy worked with. Photo courtesy of SM Home

How did she do it? Here are the designer’s top tips for small spaces.

Identify what is essential to the space

Before even going out to look for furniture or home decor, Ivy recommends identifying the non-negotiable pieces that the space needs for it to function. “For the living room, there’s the sofa – that’s number one. For the bedroom, there’s the bed,” she said. Knowing what needs to be in your room can help you focus when you actually go out and buy your furniture.

Use multi-functional items

For small spaces, using multi-functional items is key, Ivy said. For instance, in her living room design, the sofa pulls out into a bed, the coffee table is actually a chest that can hold a lot of items, and a strategically placed mirror expands the small space and can also be used for quick face checks before heading out the door.

“Why choose a table that could just be a table when you can choose a table that could also be storage?” she said. “You shouldn’t put too many pieces in your space. You can have a few pieces but if one is twice its function, you don’t have to add items.”

DOUBLE DUTY. The chest seen here is both a coffee table and a storage unit. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Make it personal

Adding your personality into the space is an easy way to make it more cozy and comfortable. Consider your interests and what you like when you’re choosing your pieces. For the living room, Ivy’s hypothetical clients were a young couple who loved to travel – so she incorporated the travel element through a world map wall mural, as well as a clock that showed different cities around the world. She also made sure to add accessories that the couple could have bought from their travels abroad. Even the coffee table/chest had a travel element to it with the embroidered in a Paris-themed print.

“Some people put paintings. You can try to be creative that you buy something and at the same time give a personal touch to it,” she said.

Add a touch of nature

“With condo living – you’re living in a city or on the upper floor – there’s no nature. Everything’s cold, it’s concrete, it’s cement, it’s glass, it’s tiles. So it’s also important in a way to bring the outdoors in,” Ivy said. She suggested adding live plants to soften up a space, though she said that if maintaining live plants is difficult, artificial plants will do. She also suggested bringing in fresh flowers, or even adding a water feature to bring nature into a small condo space.

IT'S LIT. Ivy used a combination of light fixtures – including these drop lights at placed at slightly varying heights – to add visual interest to the small space. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Consider the lighting

Ivy, who studied lighting at the Parsons School of Design, pointed out that this underrated design element could actually dramatically affect a space. She suggested playing with different types of lights to create a good ambience. “Others want to flood [the space] with lighting…right now to create a good interior, you can have spot lighting or accent lighting that brings drama to the space. You can combine several lighting techniques to achieve a generally lit area,” she said.

Want more decorating advice? SM Home is hosting a series of free design talks on September 16 and 17. Ivy and fellow designers Erika Uichanco and James Razo, as well as architect Maya Franco will be sharing their tips on space-planning, space-saving, and using color in your home. The talks will be held from 1 pm to 5 pm at the ground floor concourse of SM Makati. –


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Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.