Make your big space work for you

4 Oct 2017

A large space doesn’t take a large budget to decorate. We suggest five ways to transform your space without major renovations.

So you’ve pulled the trigger and sunk your money into an elusive local rarity – a large apartment; now what? Every Singaporean grows up with a strong rhetoric of our little red dot’s size issues. As a country we’ve allowed our size complex to permeate our history (when we tried and failed to hang on to Malaysia’s apron strings), economy (emphasis on a quality workforce in lieu of natural resources), and city planning (high density is the keyword).

Big spaces gives you more chance to decorate

Big spaces gives you more chance to decorate

We can pack ourselves like sardines into trains, manoeuvre crowded public spaces like pros, and (literally) feel at home 40 storeys in the air. So if the thought of decorating a large living space feels daunting to you, don’t worry – you’ve just proven yourself to be a true blue Singaporean. After all, we haven’t grown up with space and we wouldn’t know what to do with it. The following tips, however, should make your new spacious apartment feel like home in no time.

Get off Your High Horse

The loft – so coveted and unusual in Singapore except for the rare condo and HDB loft units such as the ones at SkyTerrace@Dawson and TreeLodge@Punggol. Those who buy them love them for the high ceilings, which allow for expansive windows that let in a lot of natural light, but these airy spaces can often feel echo-y, and the tall blank walls, too empty.

Plants can help with making the space look more managable

Plants can help with making the space look more managable

Fill vertical space with tall potted plants, which are relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require the same commitment a permanent design fixture would. With such luxury of space and abundant tropical sunlight filtering through the floor-to-ceiling windows, loft owners can even opt for indoor trees. Large ferns are easy to care for and add a lot of greenery with their large, luscious leaves.

The money tree should be a welcomed addition to the home for any feng shui believer, and the fiddle-leaf fig, a plant already commonly seen in commercial buildings, is easy to care for, requires watering only when the top inch of the soil feels dry, and can grow up to three metres – a good height to break up the space created by a five-metre ceiling.

Paint the Town Red (or any colour)

There are very few instances in which you can get away with a half-done paint job, but with a large apartment, you can, and it’s easily achieved, too. Decide how high from the floor you want the painted section of your wall to end – a good height is waist high, or about a metre from the ground – and tape it off. Then, paint everything below the tape in the colour of your choice.

This visually breaks up a room and makes it appear less sparse and empty. In loft apartments, it also gives the illusion that a tall, blank wall is shorter and less bare than it really is.

Divide and Conquer

HDB jumbo flats, executive maisonettes, and multi-generation flats often have large living rooms that span the width of three or four bedrooms. The key to preventing these living rooms from feeling bare and echo-y is to divide the space and define smaller sections within them.

Floating a large couch or a L-shaped sectional sofa in the middle of the living room is a quick and easy way to immediately transform a long living room into two smaller spaces. The half of the room in front of the sofa can be where the family’s entertainment center is, complete with a TV and sound system, while the half behind the sofa can be a quieter reading area filled with bookshelves and comfortable armchairs.

Use furniture smartly

Use furniture smartly

Get creative; the divider doesn’t always have to be a sofa. Day beds are an effective option that also adds a cosy place to lounge on. Even grandma’s old-fashioned dark wood Chinese screens can work if you have a minimalist, mostly monotone interior decor that can be spruced up with a touch of antique flair. 

Go Big

A large room left empty will feel cold and bare, but that’s not to say it should be filled for the sake of being filled. Even a large room can look cluttered when encumbered with many small items, so decorate with purpose.

Instead of buying many small items to fill the emptiness, opt for large pieces of furniture that befit the size of your space. A grand sofa, big coffee table, or piano can act as anchor pieces that draw the eye. They “tell” the eye where to look, so the eye doesn’t dart around trying to take in everything at once.

Sky Habitat

Anchor pieces draw the eye

With focus placed on these anchor pieces, the space immediately appear less overwhelming despite its size. Smaller items such as decorative knick knacks, single chairs, and small potted plants should only be used as accents to complement your anchor pieces.

Light up Your Life

It’s harder to keep a large room sufficiently lit, and dimly lit corners in a large living room will do nothing for both the space and the occupants’ moods. Lighting isn’t as much of an issue in the day for lofts, which are usually flooded with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows, and flats with balcony access stretching across one whole wall of the living room. However, not all flats are built equal and some large HDB units have living rooms that are surrounded on all sides by bedrooms, and don’t get much natural light of its own. At night, lighting becomes an even bigger challenge.

Lots of natural and artificial light makes your space look better

Lots of natural and artificial light makes your space look better

Avoid relying on only one ceiling light in the center of the living room. If you have chosen to define sections within your living room, as suggested in “Divide and Conquer” above, giving each section its own ceiling light not only ensures that that particular area of the room gets sufficient light, it can also serve to further demarcate the section. Experiment with placing a floor lamp in your favourite reading nook, table lamps on side tables, and even wall lamps in the nooks and crannies that the rays from the ceiling lamp don’t reach. 

The five suggestions above have hopefully shown that decorating a large space is not necessarily a massive undertaking. Some potted plants, a lick of paint, and clever arrangement of the right furniture can do big favours for big spaces.

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