Made to Measure

To streamline a 1,000-square-foot South End condo for her clients, interior designer Stephanie Sabbe went a little custom and a little Ikea. Here, she reveals six tips for creating an artfully designed, efficient space on a budget.

tips designing efficient space

Designer Stephanie Sabbe in her clients’ South End abode. (Photos by Bob O’Connor)

1. Go Custom When Needed

Getting the right fit for your space sometimes requires splurging on furniture scaled precisely to your needs. In this case, Sabbe, unable to find a table narrow enough for the dining area, commissioned a 30-inch-wide-by-6-foot-long glass top from Cambridge’s Harvard Glass to sit on a custom welded-metal base.

tips designing efficient space

2. Keep a Low Profile

In small spaces, it’s important to minimize visual clutter. Here, Sabbe traded classic dining room chairs for a mix of space-saving seating options that fit neatly under the table when not in use: two ottomans from Ikea, a handmade wooden bench from Etsy, and a pair of comfortable, but not too tall, host chairs at either end.

tips designing efficient space

3. Get Creative with Off-the-Shelf Finds

Inexpensive accessories can be easily modified for a one-of-a-kind piece. For the host chairs, Sabbe had a local tailor combine two Ikea products—the “Henriksdal” slipcover and the “Nils” seat cover—to achieve the look she wanted. Excess fabric was used to create lumbar pillows for each chair. The ottomans, also from Ikea, are actually $15 “Solsta Pällbo” footstools, raised to the proper height with leg extensions and covered with Ikea curtain-panel fabric.

tips designing efficient space

4. If You Don’t Love It, Paint It

Thrift-store finds can be revitalized with a new hue. Sabbe’s clients spent a month priming and painting a retro Dansk credenza (found on Craigslist for $40) in their garage parking spot. The cabinet added enough uniqueness “so the room, which has a number of recognizable retail pieces, doesn’t look like something out of a catalog,” Sabbe says.

tips designing efficient space

5. Make It Home

Personalized touches are another way to give your space character. In the bedroom, black-and-white photographs, taken by Sabbe’s clients during their travels, become a focal point. Sabbe modified them in Photoshop, then had them printed and laminated for a grand total of $30. They’re hung with wooden trouser hangers from Bed Bath & Beyond.

tips designing efficient space

6. Seek Salvage

Discarded materials add texture to tight quarters. For the foyer, the homeowners kept the existing grasscloth wall covering, and purchased a skinny console table, made of reclaimed wood, from Providence’s Darn Good Barn Wood.