Vital tips on designing your living space

Vital tips on designing your living spaceImage Credit: Supplied

You've made the decision and signed the agreement. The apartment is yours - whether permanently or for a fixed time. Now comes the all-important bit: how do you make it your own? Here are three ways to go about designing your living space.


Living in a loft evokes memories of the past when factories and warehouses were abandoned for more economical structures. Most of these structures had extremely high ceilings, large windows, exposed beams and of course unplastered brick dividing walls, which gave these structures their charm. They were also relatively cheap to convert to an alternative way of living.

Bathrooms and kitchen units needed to be built in and perhaps some dividing walls, but the enormous height also allowed the creation of a second or mezzanine floor. Such structures paved the way for the modern alternative to loft living as we see in Dubai.

Conceptually, many of these new developments are the same, although they have a few crucial differences. They are not converted factories or warehouses but are purpose-built apartments. They do not, therefore, have the exposed brick walls, beams and period-styled window frames. Rather, they are a modern take on loft living.

However, if you invest in a loft, here are some tips:

1. Start with a sketch - You have the opportunity to virtually walk through your space, which allows you to decide where you want the living area and sketch a layout that is suited to your requirements.

2. Let windows light up your plans - Windows, which usually provide a view, are an important consideration. Beautiful vistas are all very well, but you are likely to not appreciate the early morning sunlight disturbing your sleep.

3. Divide and conquer - Once you have considered this you can go about and divide the large open space with the help of screens and room dividers or even furniture such as a large sofa or book case will help you to achieve this. You could also use curtain material - from sheer to heavy - as a divider.

4. Choose your style - The empty shell itself spells contemporary, but is this what you like to see with your furniture? Consider using some period pieces that use natural elements such as a solid wooden table or an old grandma-style cabinet. Mixing it up with glass and stainless steel objects will give you a sleek and modern look.

5. Colour speaks volumes - Choose your colour palette based on space, natural light and features and take the style and colours from your preferred furniture and decorative items into consideration. Remember that dark colours can be overwhelming while very light tones can further enlarge these already huge spaces.

6. Don't forget to look up - Use your vertical space as this allows you to do wonderful things with lighting but equally so with selecting your wall decorations, most of which should be placed at eye level when seated.

7. Tread softly - Using wood or other natural materials-be that marble or stone on your floors - requires the strategic use of heavy carpets. You don't want to wake up in the morning and find the floor cold underfoot.

8. Breathe life into the room - Finally, never forget to place a few decorative plants or even some indoor trees strategically. They add life and colour to the room and keep the air fresh.


Studio living is de1initely not suitable for family life as the space is simply too small and really is only designed for single occupancy. The advantage of studio living is that you have, in most cases, a large open space (other than the kitchen area and the off-room bathroom facilities) with which to do as you please.

The kitchen space is usually open-plan, set against a wall dividing the bathroom from the living area. There are definitely challenges to turning such a space into a lovely but cosy bachelor's pad, but here are some pointers that can help you turn your open space into a home.

1. Create a flow - The open plan kitchen can work to your advantage. Start by creating a divider between the kitchen space and the rest of your studio. This can be done by strategically placing a dining table and also with the help of a handyman who can build a low partition on which you can mount a tabletop. Place high stools around it and your division has just become a bar, a worktable and a dining table. You will be surprised how popular this little corner will become with your visitors.

2. Bed up, not down - Every studio needs living space and a space to place a bed. In smaller studios I would advise investing in either a folding bed that doubles up as a sofa or a cleverly designed vertical bed, which if not in use will simply fold up against the wall.

3. Hide it in plain sight - Also consider getting the bed to serve a dual purpose. Once folded up against the wall, no matter how sleek and neat it may appear, it will always look like a cabinet against the wall. Consider mounting decorative pieces or art to the bottom. Those who lead more structured lives might even want to put a flat screen television here but since it would face the floor when the bed is horizontal you won't be able to watch TV while in bed.

4. Rethink the wall unit - Storage space is always an issue, as studios usually don't have any cabinet space to store stuff away in, but if you are considering a folding bed, which folds up against the wall, why not think of treating the entire wall as a large cabinet space? This allows you to build everything in from a bed to closet and storage space for ironing boards and the like. At less than a metre, the depth of such a structure will not take away too much from your living space. Treat it with warm wood panelling and you have created a wonderful contemporary atmosphere, leaving enough open space for your sofa and other furnishing elements.

5. Create another space - Another option that could also be considered is hanging vertical blinds or sheer curtains from the ceiling all around your bed, leaving an airy and somewhat mystical feel, but this is only advisable for larger studio spaces as it closes off an entire section of the room.

6. Colour basics - Points mentioned earlier such as selecting and sketching your layout, colour palette, materials and style need to be taken into consideration at all times. On colour schemes, consider working with neutral colours but use bright decorative elements that really pop and create that all-important wow effect. Again, that one large decorative plant is a definite must-have.


A three-bedroom apartment obviously comes with different challenges. The extreme high ceilings are gone, the layout per room has been decided for you, but of course for a family with children a multi-room apartment is the way to go, depencling of course on the lifestyle you wish to create for yourself.

A bachelor taking a three bedroom apartment has advantages over a family with children, as in all reality he only needs one bedroom and therefore still has two bedrooms left - with one usually becoming a guest bedroom and the other a study. A three-bedroom apartment, however, usually has a different layout from a smaller two-bedroom one. While the latter might have an open kitchen, the former usually has a separate kitchen and dining area if not a dining room. Floor space per room is also larger in most cases.

What remains the same is your lifestyle and the way you wish to live. The way you furnish and decorate your surroundings is a reflection of your personality, so with a three-bedroom apartment you have several options to reflect your lifestyle. Still, there are several things you will need to think about.

1. Planning helps - Despite the fact that the functionality of different rooms has been dictated to you, consider sketching a layout of your apartment, as this will help you to define areas within.

2. Pass and play - In a situation where you have a separate dining room, this in most cases is situated between the living room and the kitchen. This also means that there may be passages or corridors from one area to another. Take this into consideration for the size of your furniture and keep enough open space for open, unhindered passage - you don't want accidents with hot food.

3. View your options - Take a good look at the size of your windows and which direction they are facing. Natural light is important, but your view is too. If your view is over a beautiful park or a lake or faces the city's skyline, surely these are elements you would want to enjoy. Consider placing your furniture in such a way that you create a permanent painting of the view you have. This also allows for creating more spaces within the room.

4. Work with colour - Wall paint can be used to complement or contrast with the furniture of your choice. What matters is the effect you want to achieve. For some people, a theme for each room will determine the colour of the walls; for others, airy rooms may be paramount.

5. Conquest of space - Make good use of the extra open space you have in each room. You may want to use some of it to highlight moments that are important to you - by way of photographs or art or travel souvenirs. Don't, however, place objects at random. Consider how each fits in with everything around it and make sure each piece has room to breathe.

6. Plant some life - Again. don't forget to use plants, as they are not only decorative but also help clean the air you breathe.

7. Sound and light show - Consider the importance of your entertainment centre, be that audio or visual. Some people don't like to see a large black screen in the living area, but strategically placed this can become a integral part of your interior design. Don't buy home electronics for their technology value alone - how home theatre systems fit into your space is also important. If you have the budget, consider alternative finishes or art-style concealers.

8. Be you - Finally, remember that your interiors need to reflect your personality. A three-bedroom space allows you to express different meets, but keep in mind that you want each room to work both on its own and within the overall apartment scheme. The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.

Get tips on effective lighting ideas for your home

Source: Hink Hulsman, Special to Property Weekly

The writer is a designer with extensive experience in Europe and the GCC. He is also the CEO of Image Creators


For Rent


View more properties

For Sale


View more properties