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How to furnish a small home: Verena from hamburgvoninnen shares her tips

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A photo of Verena, who writes the “hamburgvoninnen” blog.
Architect Verena, who writes the “hamburgvoninnen” blog, shares her tips on how to furnish small living spaces. © Verena Marmann

Living spaces are becoming smaller and more expensive, especially in big cities. So experts on furnishing small homes are in high demand. We were fortunate enough to sit down with architect and blogger Verena, who writes the hamburgvoninnen blog, to get her views on the subject.

On her blog, which is based in the beautiful city of Hamburg, Verena gives tips on furnishing and interior design, presents other Hamburg residents’ favourite parts of the city, and even provides a glimpse into her own home improvement projects. She has also published a compact guide to furnishing small living spaces.

In our interview with her, Verena shared some helpful ideas and tips on this subject, and also told us what we should simply let be. With her simple tricks, there’s no need for any room in your home to look cluttered!

How did you come up with the idea of specialising in furnishing and decorating small rooms?

As an architect, I’d already worked on several housing projects involving small or, in some cases, very small living spaces. During planning I automatically asked myself how to best organise these rooms. I’d already faced similar problems from my years in shared flats, where I had to combine various functions such as living, sleeping and working in one small space.

Given lots of people face the exact same challenges, but of course want to live comfortably in small spaces, I thought it would be a great idea to publish a short self-help guide. As a home and living coach, I also support DIY enthusiasts to follow through on any inspiration they get from Instagram, Pinterest or blogs.

A table with pictures and various fabrics/materials on it, providing inspiration for a room’s design.
It’s important to have an overarching theme when designing small rooms. © Verena Marmann

In your opinion, what do you need to make even the smallest room as liveable as possible?

The most crucial thing is a harmonious overall impression. The best way to achieve this is by working to an overarching theme – so you need a good structure and a coherent colour concept. Apart from that, keeping everything as tidy as possible is obviously essential.

What’s the best way to decorate small rooms to ensure they don’t look cluttered, but are still cosy?

Don’t go overboard! Ideally you don’t want to fill up every inch of horizontal space, but instead create a more light and airy feel. In terms of decor, I'd advise highlighting one big piece that will draw the eyes. You can then group more detailed decorative accessories together in one place – on a tray, for example. As the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said, “Less is more”.

Bathrooms, in particular, are usually very limited in space, especially in older buildings. Do you have any tips on how to make the most out of these rooms?

Yes, bathrooms in older buildings are tricky. If you can, try to store things like hand towels, etc. outside the room – perhaps there’s space in your wardrobe, or in a chest of drawers in the hallway. If you need cabinets and shelves in the bathroom, these should ideally be off the floor and attached to the wall – for a lighter look and feel.

And what would you say are the best types of furniture for furnishing small rooms? What are definite no-nos?

To make small rooms seem bigger, you need a lot of free floor space. You can achieve this by mounting furniture on the walls – it can work wonders with things like cabinets and sideboards.

Small, intricate furniture is a definite no-no, as it can create a doll’s house effect that actually makes the room look less spacious. It’s better to go with fewer pieces of furniture, instead of lots of smaller ones. Small rugs should also be avoided.

A colour chart spread out on a table. Choosing the right colours for your walls can help you when decorating a small home.
The right colours can really help a small home shine. © istock

Which colours would you recommend for small living spaces?

For walls and ceilings, light pastel shades and off-white colours are good. Pure white can seem a little clinical and not very homely, and often creates too big a contrast.

You can highlight the cosiness of a room with darker shades. But that’s not to everyone’s taste. The main thing is to use a coherent colour concept.

Keeping a small living space tidy isn’t always easy if you don’t have a lot of storage. What storage solutions would you recommend for stowing lots of things in a small space?

I always recommend opting for closed cabinets over shelves. An open shelf is usually too much for a small room. Sometimes you can solve the storage problem with a built-in cabinet that goes from floor to ceiling – without taking over the room. Otherwise, cabinets should ideally be off the floor and mounted on the wall so that there is enough free space around them.

In general, before buying or making new storage, always ask yourself whether it would be better to just have a clear-out. Maybe you don’t need the storage after all.

Several cushions in blue and white piled up on a grey sofa.
You can make small rooms more cosy with cushions made from different materials and a coherent colour concept. © istock

What are your favourite house plants or accessories for decorating small rooms at the moment?

For plants, I recommend bigger plants with big leaves, like banana plants or bird of paradise, as opposed to lots of small plants. It’s the same principle as with decorative accessories. Of course, which plant is right for a room also depends a lot on the light that’s available there.

In terms of decor, cushions are always a good idea. They not only make a room more comfy, but are a great way to use different materials and textures and add more colour to living rooms. This creates depth and warmth.

It’s much easier to furnish a small living space with the right inspiration. Which blogs or websites do you take your inspiration from?

Pinterest is my absolute favourite. It’s where I get my inspiration for my own decorating ideas and living concepts.

What trends should we keep a close eye on this year? What definitely needs to be included when furnishing small rooms?

At the moment, darker, rich colours and luxurious materials like velvet and gold are in high demand. Terracotta tones and terrazzo – both as a material and the look itself – are also growing in popularity. Apart from those, I think that yellow shades will soon be big. In any case, there will definitely be plenty of variety!


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