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5 Tips For Functional Interior Design

It may seem like interior design is all about making things look beautiful, and while that's certainly one of our ultimate goals, the job of an interior designer is much more than just aesthetics. In fact, one of the key rules of interior design is that form should follow function.

This doesn't mean that you need to sacrifice beauty for the sake of practicality! It's absolutely possible to achieve both, and that is where an interior designer can truly do their best work. The truth is, your home isn't a Pinterest post or a spread in an interior design magazine. It's the place where you live, relax, and spend time with your loved ones. If you create a space that is beautiful to look at but neither comfortable nor functionally serving your needs, then who have you designed this home for?

One of the most important things when remodeling your home is to keep an open mind. Having an idea of what you want is great, but leave a little room for flexibility. With a few small changes you can have a functional space that is still just as beautiful.

Here are some of our favourite tips for creating a functional home.

Consider Your Routines

What do you need your space to do for you? What will you be using it for?

If you know that you'll want to do yoga in your living room every day, find ways of making that easier and more accessible to you, and maybe don't buy a massive heavy coffee table that you'll need to move each time. Your home should be designed to help you live the life you want, it shouldn't become a barrier for you doing the things you love.

Consider how your space will be used. Do you want to be entertaining friends and family? Make sure you invest in comfortable furniture and have enough seating for people to relax. Design your kitchen in a way that makes it optimal for cooking for and entertaining a large group, consider a kitchen island with bar seating, plenty of counter space for preparing holiday meals, and enough space for people to move around without bumping into each other. And don't forget your lighting - dynamic and layered lighting can really help create a cozy and inviting atmosphere in your home.

Interior Design: Styled Spaces Victoria, Photo: Melanie Orr Photography

Is your morning coffee a ritual you need to start your day off right? Consider how you can incorporate this into your kitchen design to streamline the process. Perhaps a built in coffee bar to make it easy for you to prepare the perfect cup in the morning.

Interior Design: Styled Spaces Victoria, Photo: Melanie Orr Photography

Multi Functional Spaces

Since the pandemic led to many of us being largely confined to and having to adapt to working from home, the focus on creating versatile spaces has become more relevant than ever in the last few years.

You can see this in multi functional furniture, such as ottomans that can serve as extra seating, storage, leg rest, and with the addition of a stylish tray - even a coffee table. Kitchen islands are often used for counter space and bar seating, but they can also provide plenty of additional storage, and if you run electricity to it you can have an extra oven and cooktop, as well as additional electrical outlets. Kitchen islands are a goldmine of functionality, and we often see them being underutilised. Many people balk at the idea of installing electricity to their islands, but it is absolutely worth the investment. Future you will thank you.

Interior Design: Styled Spaces Victoria, Photo: Melanie Orr Photography

We also see an increased interest in creating spaces that can serve multiple functions. Need a place where you can work from home, but don't have a room you can spare for an office? There's no reason you can't seamlessly incorporate a desk and workspace in your living room in a way that looks intentional.

An important caveat to this is to make sure to always consider the primary function of your space, even when trying to maximise its utility. A sofa bed may seem practical for housing guests, but they're often less comfortable than a regular couch and it might not be the best choice for your living room. You might have guests staying over every so often, but if you're not comfortable sitting on a couch you're likely using most days - is it serving its primary function?

Be Practical About Your Layout

It's probably happened to all of us at one point or another. You see a picture, an idea, a pin, a video, and you think - wow, I want that in my home. And while, as interior designers, we would love to tell you that you can have anything you want and love in your home, sometimes we do have to put the brakes on. Because more than likely, the layout of your space is not exactly the same as whatever inspiration photo you have fallen in love with. This is why we caution people to not fixate too much on a very specific design or furniture piece. Inspiration pictures should be just that - inspiration. We can use that to give you a design that takes the essence of what you want, and create something beautiful and functional that is customised to your home.

Always make sure to consider the circulation and flow of your space. This is the key to designing a home that you will continue to be happy with in the long term. The first step of planning to remodel any part of your home should always be to sit down and really think about what purpose you want this space to serve.

Maybe you love the idea of having a kitchen island with bar seating (we love them too!) but you also want a huge sectional sofa. Trust us when we say - the love will quickly fade if you end up creating a narrow passageway between your sofa and kitchen island that you curse every time you have to squeeze through it. It's going to look just as awkward as it feels, and no matter how much you love a specific design or piece of furniture, you can still come to resent it with time if it's preventing you from using your space effectively. Managing size, proportions, and layout are some of the more challenging aspects of interior design, and the areas where you can really benefit from consulting a professional. But if you keep an open mind there is always a solution. This can be as simple as choosing a slightly smaller sofa that is well proportioned and still fits your interior design vision, such as in the image below.

Remember, form follows function. Always

Use Every Space

Have you ever seen a home with a strange, seemingly out of place nook that you can't quite figure out what it could be used for? Show it to an interior designer, and I'll bet you they'll be able to make something useful out of it! A reading nook, a quiet breakfast area to have your morning coffee, a work space? A huge part of designing functional spaces is making sure to utilise the space you have to its best potential. What you do with that space depends entirely on what you need. Do you need more storage, a cozy spot to relax with a book and a cup of tea, somewhere to practice your hobbies? There's a solution for everything, and there are few things more satisfying in the world of interior design than taking an underutilised or wasted space and transforming it into something beautiful that might just become your favourite part of the house.

Another aspect of making sure every space is used, is to consider what spaces in your home you're not using. Do you have a formal dining room, but find you always eat in the kitchen? There's no rule saying every home needs a dining room, and if you're someone who rarely has people over for dinner you might want to take a few moments to consider what else this space could be used for. If you are struggling with creativity or finding ideas, consider hiring an interior designer for a consultation. Every project involving an interior designer doesn't have to lead to a huge renovation, you can utilise the designers skills and expertise to get new ideas and inspiration if you're stuck on what to do. Then you can decide if you want to continue working with them or take these new ideas and remodel your space on your own. Most interior designers will offer this kind of a service. At Styled Spaces, we call it a fresh ideas consultation, and our clients love them!

Remember That You Can Never Have Too Much Storage

No matter how much storage we have, it always seems to fill up far to quickly. That's why it's important to find opportunities to maximise the storage space in your home.

We've already talked about creating additional storage in your kitchen island, but you should also think about using the vertical space to your advantage. If you're renovating your kitchen, consider installing taller kitchen cabinets. While the top shelves may be more difficult to reach, we all have items we don't use as often and may not mind storing somewhere slightly less accessible.

To make your space extra functional, you should also be intentional with your storage. Consider your needs and daily routines, and try to pinpoint where additional storage would make your life easier. Maybe you need a place for your gym bag near the door so you can grab it and go in the morning as you're heading off to work. Maybe you love baking, but dread having to pull out your stand mixer from behind a mountain of precariously stacked appliances in the only kitchen cupboard that can fit it. Or maybe your kids shoes are always lying in messy piles in the hallway because there's not enough space on the shoe rack to hold them. Once you know where the problem lies, you can be intentional about finding a solution.

Here are some examples of functional storage solutions that we incorporated into our Sidney Kitchen Project:

Interior Design: Styled Spaces Victoria, Photo: Melanie Orr Photography

We hope you've enjoyed this article with some of our favourite tips and tricks on functional interior design. This is one of our favourite topics, because it's truly the place where most people see the full benefits from hiring an interior designer. We love creating spaces that serve our clients needs and transforming their homes to a sanctuary that helps them life the life they want.


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