Mia Parres and Rob Evans share their expert advice for making the most of living in tight proximity.
“Small spaces are not impossible spaces; they’re full of potential.” Mia Parres, along with co-host Rob Evans, is no stranger to finding seemingly absent potential in overlooked spaces. Their HGTV hit show, The Expandables, focuses on making small homes look as large as possible, without adding a single square foot. With the increase in close quarters that many homeowners are currently experiencing, expertise like Parres’ and Evans’ is becoming increasingly in-demand. Western Living caught up with the two in anticipation for their appearance at the Calgary Home and Design Show, starting September 22nd. They told us their top five tips for sprucing and opening up small spaces. Mia Parres (Interior Designer) Tip 1: Know your limits Before looking at what to buy to make the most of a small space, make sure you have exact measurements for the areas you’d like to put those things. “Knowing the dimensions of your space will actually help you create a space that feels bigger than it actually is,” says Parres. “Taking measurements from the beginning will go a really long way in allowing you to shop for smarter pieces that actually function in your space as opposed to making it feel more squeezed.” Tip 2: Use space-saving furniture An over-cluttered room always feels squishier than it needs to. That’s why finding furniture that can pull double-duty is a must for anyone looking to make their home feel larger. “I know a lot of the spaces we’ve done have had limited square feet when it comes to giving them a new layout, and you don’t want to crowd the space," says Parres. "So, for example, an ottoman that has storage inside of it for maybe kid toys that you want to hide away, or a couch that turns into a guest bed some of the time can work wonders."
Tip 3: Create the illusion of more space
You don’t have to be a magician to be a master of illusions in your home. “We all know the typical trick of mirrors, which almost kind of double your space. But I also think fresh walls, maybe keeping colours more playful when it comes to accessories, and also keeping surfaces as tidy as possible — so being smart with your storage— maybe adding a feature wall can make your space feel bigger by creating this illusion of a more grand space” says Parres. Tip 4: Bring the outdoors inside Freshen up the feel of a space by including some plants. “Just because you live in a small condo, maybe you don’t have a balcony, maybe you don’t have outdoor space in your small space, I think it’s important to have fresh, live elements to sort of feel a part of nature” says Parres. “Maybe you’re responsible for taking care of an orchid, or you have an herb garden on your wall.” Set up a new DIY project for you and the family to make your living space flourish. Tip 5: Add artful personal touches “This one’s more about people who are collectors” says Parres. “I think it’s so fascinating to see what people do with their collections that they’ve gathered over a lifetime. One of my favourite small-space things is taking a found object or accessory and framing it. I have a friend that collects scarves — she has a great fashion sense — and she took a bunch of these scarves and framed them in the front entry of her small condo. I just think it just added a little bit of luxury, a bit of fashion, and it was a really personal element for her.” Rob Evans (Renovation Contractor) Tip 1: Take time and consult professionals when making your plan “First things first: you need to spend the time and money too come up with the most effective plan that you can for a small space. Unfortunately with a small room, you can’t just say 'I’d like to make my living room bigger' and move a wall a couple of feet and hope that’s going to solve the whole equation. It doesn’t” says Evans. Make sure to keep track of how you use the different rooms in your house and plan accordingly. After that, talk to contractors, architects and designers about how to go about creating a game plan. Tip 2: Take out walls where you can Minimize as much as possible to maximize your space, but be wary of what will and won’t work. “You’ve got to take out strategic walls in your place that improve things. There’s nothing like spending a fortune on a house, taking every wall out, soon as you walk in the front door, you can see the back door. It doesn’t feel great spending a whack of money to feel like you have a one-room house,” says Evans. Another trick is to take doorways that delineate rooms and get rid of the door, opening up the entrance to the ceiling. This allows the rooms to still feel separate, but more open.
Tip 3: Maximize window space “We maximize every window space we can,” says Evans. “Now there’s different rules and regulations in every region about how much window space you can have. The majority of places, at the back of the house, you can open up as much as you want. Wherever possible, if you’re going to replace windows, maximize that window space.” Consult an architect on how much window space you’re allowed to add and where. Avoid mullions and any kind of division in the window to maximize the amount of natural light coming through.
Tip 4: Lighten and brighten
More lighting and brighter colours are an easy way to make any room feel loftier. “I have places that people have no budget. So we go in, we litter the ceiling with pot lights, and we paint out the place with brighter colours. You can always dim the light, you can’t always increase it. So, keep the space as bright as you can” Evans advises. Tip 5: Maximize storage and hide visual noise Evans suggests that the best way to manage clutter in the long run is by creating as much storage space as possible. “Under the stairs is a great place for storage, banquette seating against a wall, under there you can use storage. Don’t be afraid to tuck storage wherever you can. Build it into your design plan, because storage is paramount in these places.” Additionally, when adding in any wire-intensive technology, such as a TV, be mindful of the “visual noise” created by all the plugs, connectors and extensions. “If there’s a guy out there and he wants a big TV and his wife says no, if he hides everything else, I guarantee she’d be more than happy to have it in the house.” Catch Mia Parres and Rob Evans at the Vancouver Home + Design Show, running October 27-30 at the Vancouver Convention Centre - West.