Seven Tips for Making the Most of Smaller Spaces

  • 17 June 2018
  • Sarah Holden

At The Little Gallery we realise that not all homes are blessed with endless amounts of wall space, and we often find our visitors saying, 'Oh, I wish I had the space for that,' or 'I love this, but it's just not going to fit!' There's nothing more heartbreaking than not being able to take home the piece of art you have an instant connection with, which is why in this post we're tackling ways you can decorate your home beautifully when you're short on space! 


1. Long and narrow

If you are tight on wall space, column-shaped paintings are your go-to! Great for bringing some colour to those narrow 'in-between' strips of wall, or framing a hard-to-decorate alcove, this shape is versatile as well as striking. If it's an abstract piece, you can often get away with hanging it in either orientation - so when time comes and you feel like refreshing your walls, you can hang it in a different place and feel like you're seeing a brand new painting! Try Kirsty Black's 'Flood,' 'Winter Storm' by Lisa Ormsby or 'Flock' by Lyndy Wilson.

Not limited to paintings either - sculptures can be equally adaptable for positioning a multitude of ways, and bring an exciting physical dimension to a room. Consider installing Tony Howse's 'Waka Paddle' as a wall piece, or a series of ceramic abstractions by Jude Elliot


2. Make use of foyers and entranceways

Often a forgotten or neglected space, entranceways are a key area for setting the mood of the rest of your home. Hall tables can be perfect platforms for displaying sculptures - their tall, narrow frames elevating works to a flattering viewing level without dominating them. We think Jo Pervan's delicately crafted oamaru stone and glass sculptures would sit perfectly in a foyer space, effortlessly creating an elegant tone with their refined silhouettes and neutral tones and textures.  

If it's colour you're looking to add, Jane Galloway's gorgeous prints come in a huge range of designs as well as sizes to suit your space! Native birds and flora, favourite coastal scenes, landscapes as well as nature-inspired abstract designs, these are the perfect artworks to transition from exterior to interior. Prints are available both framed and unframed, so you can choose the best option for you. 


3. Double duty: art with function 

Not all artworks have to be a painting on canvas or a framed print, and luckily many of our artists create objects that are also practical and functional! Too beautiful to be tucked away in a cupboard, why not show these off and enjoy them every day? Teapots, bowls, platters and vases can be a feature on a dining table or kitchen benchtop, or displayed on high kitchen shelves while not in use. We love Neil Hey's colourful ceramic wares - his popular bowls and platters are pretty enough to display on their own, but can be used as standout serveware for dinners and parties too. Likewise, the handcrafted glass works of Jo Tricker are stunning in well-lit areas and the array of tones in each piece can complement your existing feature colours. 

Love rustic themes? Try these statement chopping boards and serving platters, handcrafted here in the Coromandel by Kevin and Kim Brett. Made from found native timber, each board has the story of its origin inscribed on the reverse. Display this side from a hook or stand when not in use for a functional character piece with plenty of charm! 

For the bedroom, these woodblock printed silk scarves by Kate Hill could make beautiful hanging wall pieces when not worn - simply drape over a thin dowel rod, attach a discreet ribbon or cord to the ends and hang! Gary Brooks' luminous concrete orbs can also be used as tealight candle holders or jewellery dishes (as can these kanuka bowls by Tom Pearson) - functional as well as adding bright pops of colour to a space. 


4. One word: Collage

It would seem collage feature walls are a trend here to stay - and when done well they can be a fantastic way to showcase lots of your favourite artworks all together, saving space as well as creating a beautiful feature display. Choose to stack vertically, line up unevenly in a row, or completely cover a wall - the options are endless! We think the best way to get the right balance is to have a decent play around with your pieces on the floor first - take photos and make note of what you think is working for you. There are no hard and fast rules - mix up canvases with frames, abstract with realism, or even prints with ceramic wall pieces - it's really up to you, and after experimenting you'll find your perfect personalised feature wall! 


5. Shelves are your friend! 

Do you have an unused mantelpiece or a wall where you could install some floating or hanging shelves? These can be great little spaces to display smaller sculptural and pottery works, and the elevation can really flatter works and give them room to breathe - avoiding the 'mass ornament' effect. Try a row of ceramic or glass pieces of different shapes and sizes, but with a shared feature element (such as colour) to tie it all together. If you want to achieve a more pared-back, consistent look, you could try the same art piece in different sizes - such as these raku vases by Mike Cogswell, or these votive offerings by Suzanne Sturrock. 

A single large shelf or mantel can even be used to line up a series of framed prints and paintings - this can look amazing when the right pieces are set together, and is a great technique to maximise the amount of artworks displayed in a space. A general rule of thumb is to have a common element among the pieces so the overall effect is one of harmony rather than chaos! We find the same colour frame works well, or a series of works by the same artist - but move things around and see what works best for you! 


6. Art outside

Do you have a garden or outdoor space that's looking a little lacklustre? Our range of outdoor art can help with that! Able to stand up to the elements, our outdoor pottery and sculpture pieces can bring a bit of personality to your garden. Try the gorgeous hand-built ceramic busts by Ian Webster, or the colourful, eccentric works of Gary Nevin

One of the great things about many of our outdoor art pieces is that they can also be displayed indoors and not look out of place! Versatility is key when working with smaller spaces and collecting artwork that has the option of being displayed in many different places is an invaluable bonus! These works can look right at home in foyers and even bathrooms - fantastic for when you feel like a change, or when you want to shelter your piece from the brutal Winter weather! 


7. Framing: yes please! 

A high-quality frame can work wonders for a piece of art (see our previous post on framing here). Not only can it help you integrate a work cohesively into your existing decorating style, you'll find the framing and mat board can have a big effect on the appearance of space in the room it is hung. When getting a piece custom-framed, make sure to consider where it will be eventually hung. Is there a lot of light in that area? Will it be displayed alone or as a series or collage? What tones already exist in that space? 

A disproportionately large mat can give a piece breathing space to a piece, and make the wall feel less cluttered. Lighter toned or white frames have a clean feel and can create the illusion of a larger room, while dark frames anchor the focal point of a space and add definition. Balance is key, and it will depend also on the work itself, the wall palette and the position it hangs relative to other elements. 


Visit our galleries in Tairua and Whangamata to be inspired by how our artists use framing in their works, see how we hang collage-style and get a sense of what pieces could work with your space! If you can't quite find the perfect piece of art that will fit in your home, you could also consider getting a commission. Have any questions or queries regarding the details of any of the above works? Please don't hesitate to contact us, we're more than happy to help! 


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