Even in the grandest houses, we're inevitably drawn to the smallest rooms: they're the coziest. In big rooms, guess where we head? To the coziest spots, the nooks and niches that are like rooms within rooms — their own intimate little worlds. Look around: There's bound to be an overlooked space in your house just waiting to be snuggled into. Here are ideas for creating and living happily in tiny spaces.
Snug seating makes any meal more pleasurable, whether it's breakfast with the family or dinner for two. Designer Markham Roberts made great use of a tight corner area in a big kitchen: "Intimate spaces like this make a room livable and easy to be in. If you think about it, no one wants to sit in a cavernous space, unless it's with someone you don't particularly care for."
An upholstered banquette under foyer stairs sets a welcoming, relaxed, convivial tone. "This is one of my favorite spots in my house," designer Melissa Rufty says. "It says, 'Kick off your shoes, have a drink, and let's talk about your neighbor!' When we have a party, it starts out collecting coats and purses, but it ends up collecting the late-nighters. I've actually had a friend fall asleep on my shoulder here."
A built-in bed and curtains create a private, magical room at the top of a staircase. "This cozy nook is the children's reading room," Ann Wolf says, "and it doubles as a backstage when they're doing theatrical plays. It's a space for the imagination. They adore it. It's every kid's fantasy — mine, too."
Even the tiniest nook can be turned into a "me moment" retreat. "This little window seat was a total departure from the rest of the house — a renovated barn that's open and expansive," designer Pat Healing says. "It's a place to catch your thoughts, to reach inwardly and contemplate."
What could be more inviting than a bay window with an upholstered seat and a mound of pillows? "The curtains turn this living room window seat into a private hideaway," says designer Rob Southern, who quilted the chintz on the cushion for a more h feel. "Close them, and it's a wonderful cocoon for tucking into a book, taking a nap, telling secrets — or simply having a quiet moment."
With curtains drawn to enclose it, a bed becomes a room of its own. Designer Barry Dixon loved the large scale of this bedroom, but "there's something wonderful about an intimate chamber in the center of the room, the notion of a space that's sort of clandestine," he says. "It's like an indulgent world-within-a-world. And that fan conjures a tropical romantic getaway."
Paint it a glossy color, hang a mirror and sconces, add a vanity, and voilà: a glamorous little dressing room! You can make any space more useful, personal, and inviting," designer Mary McDonald says. "I address walk-in closets as sanctuaries. I love to create small niches such as vanities, and a place to sit while you get ready for the day or night."
Kids love small, protective environments — think pillow forts and pup tents. More than just comforting, they're loads of fun. "We all feel more secure in smaller spaces," Sally Markham says. "This is a large bedroom for three girls. We designed built-in bunk beds that sleep 12, because their friends are always spending the night. Luckily the ceiling is high, so the bed area doesn't feel dark and cramped."