Consistency is Key
As the popular adage goes: Consistency is key. And this is true for design as well. Even though certain design philosophies are rooted in the principle of contrast—take maximalism, for example—they typically function best when that contrast is applied consistently. (Basically, everything, everywhere, all at once.)
Consistency, however, can be much more nuanced than that, and it is a great tool for establishing a feeling of continuity throughout a space. This can be accomplished at the stage of decorating through furniture or wall colour, but an arguably more subtle way of achieving that continuity is through material. And for some small spaces, subtlety is essential. Whether it’s a tiny apartment, a compact office, or a cosy studio, the use of a consistent material is one of the most effective strategies for achieving a sense of unity and flow that maximises the visual appeal of the space while making it feel bigger.
Here are some of our favourite examples of small apartment designs that use material to create continuity:
Love the One You’re With
Applying a single material (almost) everywhere throughout the home is on the menu in this Walkerville Retreat in Victoria, Australia by architect Imogen Puller. In addition to having fewer decisions to make (score), having a consistent material throughout simplifies the overall design, which can lead to a more elegant appearance. This often works best with light coloured materials, like the lime-washed ply used for this beach shack, but hey, the world is your oyster.
Consistent materials aid in creating a natural flow within the space. The absence of visual too many transitions between different materials helps the eye to move seamlessly across the space, making it feel more open and harmonious. Architect Caterina Pilar Palumbo adopted this principle in a unique way in this Bergamo, Italy apartment. The blue steel loft installed throughout the unit not only increases the footprint but integrates the various rooms together by flowing throughout them. It is a great strategy for adding some fun to the space, without being too in your face.
Less is More
A top reason many designers choose to have a consistent material pop-up here and there throughout a space is to make it feel bigger. This apartment in Hong Kong, by architects Chi Chun and Etain Ho, features woven rattan throughout the living room, bathroom, and bedroom. In fact, it is even used to cover the air conditioner. Using this same material throughout the small space allows for a visual coherence that reduces compartmentalisation and makes the space seem larger.
Consistent materials can be the perfect backdrop for personalisation. By using a neutral base material, you can easily introduce your personality and style through furnishings, decor, and artwork. This allows you to express your individuality while still achieving a cohesive design. In this Krakow, Poland apartment, architects Kalina and Robert Juchvenic applied the same oak veneer throughout the kitchen entryway closet, and bathroom to create a unified backdrop that let’s client’s personality to shine.
With limited space, it can be helpful to avoid overwhelming the eye with too many textures or colours. Embracing material continuity is a smart design choice that can help make your space feel harmonious and inviting. Whether you prefer the warmth of natural wood, the sleekness of metal, or the versatility of concrete, you can find a material that allows for a natural flow within the space as well as the flexibility to infuse your unique personality into the design.
For more Never Too Small magic, check out our new limited series Wonderful Waste.