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Photo courtesy of Custer
By: Shelby Reno Company Oct, 16 2015

Designing for Small or Abnormal Spaces

Size matters.

Let me elaborate. While you may have space to spread out the team in a collaborative room, you may be tight on storage. Perhaps you have ample storage space, yet your breakroom may be lacking lateral length. Or while you may have a staff entertainment area dialed in, your offices have zero multi-functionality.

The size of your office matters relative to what you identify as core business needs and functions. Once those key elements are well-defined, it becomes more about making the most of your offices, breakroom, storage areas, and vertical density, plus the right mix and placement of furniture, artwork, and décor. Striving for space and style optimization as you grow or contract should essentially never stop.

Want it all? Our friends at Custer have you covered wall-to-wall—literally! Director of Design Amy Peceny and her amazing team of designers are pros when it comes to designing for small spaces. We broke it down to seven tips based on the scenarios you might be grappling with in your current space—or in the event you’re considering layouts of the next locale you’re eyeing.

Photo courtesy of Custer
Photo courtesy of Custer


Take advantage of your vertical space: walls, nooks, hooks, and shelves, wherever possible. Built-in furniture and shelving often take up less room than freestanding furniture because it can be customized to fit the space. There are endless options which will fit any odd spot with potential—even those which might seem too high or too deep. Keep an open mind and discover options to leverage the quirks of each area.

Do your best to incorporate pieces of furniture which offer a multi-functional component. Why? There have never been more options in the marketplace, and there is something for every budget. Trendy but obscure design or ridiculous prices might have held some of us back in the past. Instead, buy that affordable yet cool bench with a cushion top in a modern print which ties in the rest of the room, offers a comfortable spot to sit for two or three, and provides several cubic feet of storage.

Invest in mobile, undersurface storage to liberate your workforce from the same old, same old, and provide the mobility that many crave in their work environment. Second, mount computer monitors and other fixed equipment to walls to maximize valuable desktop space. Third, design with shallower work surfaces to allow for more circulation space. Custer’s rules of thumb are 18 inches for supplementary surfaces and 24 inches for main surfaces, if equipment is appropriate. Choose slimmer tables for meeting spaces where bigger groups meet, train and hang.

Large pieces add unnecessary bulk and make the room feel cramped and uninviting. If you’re designing in a small office, plan for your furniture to be placed around the perimeter, rather than “floating.” Further, keep panels and storage pieces low to maximize both natural light and awesome city views from windows. Even storage on legs as opposed to a plinth base will help lighten space; legged furniture promotes a fresh and contemporary feel.

Choose one light or neutral color to paint your walls, one flooring treatment throughout the space, and one fun color as an accent. Or, paint the walls on either end a darker shade of the adjacent walls. A long, large space seems to get darker as you get farther away, so use this phenomenon to your advantage to give the illusion that the space is grander than it is.

Don’t waste space with large conference rooms. Instead, use banks of standing-height storage to not only store documents, but to also act as an informal meeting place. Additionally, design spaces which allow users to “spread out” elsewhere, if necessary. There may not be enough room at individual workspaces to tackle certain tasks, so leverage a surrounding space to provide large, standing-height work surfaces to support the need for physically bigger projects. This will also encourage collaboration and conversation without encouraging those to perch for permanent periods of time.

Because the space is smaller, it only takes a few visible objects to make a space feel chaotic and unorganized. Here’s a rule of thumb you won’t forget: When accessorizing, opt for items bigger in size than a cantaloupe. Typically, anything smaller works against your efforts and, simply put, are not visually appealing. Worse, they can make a space feel messy.







Custer Office Rendering
Photo courtesy of Custer

Maximizing mini spaces for mega storage and style is never ending. The avocado-hued kitchen appliances from the Disco days haven’t returned, so that should help illustrate a point: The goal isn’t to break the bank on pieces which will need to be replaced in a few years. Rather, it’s about smart decorating on a solid foundation, selecting properly sized décor (again, size matters!), giving functionality to seemingly non-functional areas, and targeting multi-functional options to assign double duty to the furniture in which you do invest.

Here at X Ventures, we’re in the middle of expanding into the office space next door in order to accommodate the addition of new team members. We personally thank Custer for their style-centric ideas and inspiring advice for modifying and redesigning our own space as we grow our business!




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