Walls can expand space in a small home

March 14, 2005|by CHRISTINE BRUN/Copley News Service

Never underestimate the utility of using your walls to expand the space in a small home. Many items, both decorative and utilitarian, can hang on the wall instead of taking up precious floor space.

For example, one of my clients has a very small guest room with no built-in closet. The room contains barely enough room for a queen bed and a 22-inch-deep armoire to house guests' clothes. Each night stand can only be about 12 inches deep and 16 inches to 18 inches wide.

Since there was no room to spare for a bulky headboard, I suggested we use the same fabric as the coverlet to "frame" a very slim headboard of our own design. One way we could do this would be to stretch the piece of fabric just like an artist stretches canvas and eliminate any outside frame. The problem with this idea is that if a guest were to lean against the panel, it could easily sag and stretch out of shape.


Another possibility is to build a headboard in the same fashion as a cornice box by padding a piece of plywood with polyester fill and basically upholstering the board with the fabric. This way a guest can lean against the sturdy piece that hangs securely on the wall. The entire ensemble will not take up more than an inch or so of depth and will leave those critical 6 to 7 extra inches that a headboard might have occupied at the foot of the bed for passage.

Look to artists for even more fanciful ways to add texture and dimension to a room without stealing floor space. Wall-hung art can be the secret ingredient to creating unique ambience in a small home.

The piece shown here is the work of David Ward, who blends natural elements from materials such as sticks, branches and bamboo. From a very young age, Ward liked to craft things from items found in nature. His early creations included a treehouse, tables of aspen and a rocking chair crafted from eucalyptus. As an adult, he became a landscape architect.

Because he spent so much time both working and playing outdoors, Ward was influenced by the form and shape of natural things. He was drawn to designers such as artists like Michael Taylor, Ron Mann and Charles Arnaldi. He also embraced the Japanese tradition of including rocks, trees and branches in interior spaces.

While he was trimming trees and bushes, he became more interested in the trimmings. His yard became a giant pile of sticks and branches. Observing the long whips of fruit trees and the interesting patterns of Scotch broombark, he became obsessed with finding ways to attach them together. This exploration has led to the dimensional entrance piece in the photograph, as well as to pieces used over beds as unmatched and lightweight headboards.

Framed art over a bed can also give the optical illusion of a headboard. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, professional art installers can offer you earthquake-proof mounting brackets. One part attaches securely to the piece of art and the other is attached to the wall. The two fit together in a kind of male-female manner and are locked down by using a small wrench. This is the same technique used to install art in public places as an anti-theft mechanism.

Legitimate art is not limited to framed paper pieces or canvases but may include textiles, iron work and ceramics as well as dimensional handmade paper art pieces. It is also popular to mount interesting architectural fragments that might be found in flea markets, architectural salvage stores and antique consignment malls.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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