Vail Design at Altitude column: Small space allows for large design impact |

Vail Design at Altitude column: Small space allows for large design impact

Frances Karsh
Design at Altitude
Using cabinets that reach the ceiling allows for extra storage in smaller spaces. Having the dining room open to the kitchen makes the space feel larger.
Special to the Daily |

The emergence of the tiny home movement allows us as interior designers to use our skills to create a livable, lovely, functional space. We shift the thought process to designing a small space that incorporates good design with added storage but that doesn’t feel small, cramped or uninspired. Homeowners are choosing small spaces and thriving in them — using design elements that are as stylish as they are functional and that are put together in a thoughtful and esoteric way.


What’s the best way to make use of small spaces? Senior designer Frances Karsh shares some of her tips: A small space allows for a large design impact.

Don’t waste coveted space. Maximize cabinetry: Do away with soffits and instead have kitchen cabinets go to ceiling. In particular, in a small condo remodel, we created hidden storage areas on the backside of cabinets to take advantage of every inch of space, allowing for a tidy and organized kitchen. Also in the kitchen, try counter-depth appliances. They don’t stick out into the small kitchen, making it feel more spacious. Although storage is at a premium, sometimes removing cabinets actually creates more space by opening it up and creating an open concept.

There are several changes that can add to overall square footage; sometimes it just takes a fresh perspective to see it. In a West Vail condo, we updated the mechanical and laundry area by removing an old, large water heater and went tankless, which is more energy efficient and a huge space saver. These small tweaks allowed us to create a mudroom, with ample storage. Next up, we chose full-sized stacked laundry appliances and put in additional cabinetry.

Don’t be afraid to take down walls: We removed two tiny utility closets that didn’t allow for much storage and felt awkward. This newfound space was split between the mudroom and creating a full-sized shower in the adjacent powder room. Pocket doors are a huge space saver, allowing for better flow and a clean look.


Furnishings can make or break a home. A smaller room requires smaller-scale furnishings, so the room is easy to navigate but still provides plenty of seating. Additionally, have your furnishings do double duty. We chose a sofa sleeper, tables with trays, a pull-up side table that can also pull up to center of the sectional to be used as a drink table and ottomans with hidden storage.

Finally, use lighter colors to help make the room feel larger and more open. White-oak floors, lighter walls and painted doors make the room feel spacious, and we kept the dark beams for a bit of contrast.

Lastly, we opened the staircase walls. The layout is the same but the feel is so much more open and inviting. The nook under the stairs has become a family favorite.

Working on smaller spaces opens up an entire world of design possibilities. Bigger is definitely not always better, especially when smaller leads to interesting, inspired design.

Frances Karsh is a senior designer at Slifer Designs in Edwards. She’s created homes from Palm Springs to the East Coast and loves the challenge of designing custom spaces in homes of all sizes.

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