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Design Your Life for More Happiness with Less Stuff

November 18, 2014

As land, building, and condo association costs rise, square footage is shrinking. This means interior design is more important than before. Interior Designer Umberto Ciccolella offers design tips to maximize space.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Lifestyle and real estate costs have driven major changes in the design of our homes, and developers are creating living spaces in response to these market trends. In Puerto Vallarta, the market is demanding open floor plans and multi-use functionality at a reasonable price. As land, building, and condo association costs rise, condo square footage is shrinking.

Life has become more casual and that is reflected in modern design. Gone are the formal sitting rooms, dining rooms, and closed kitchens separated from family and friends. People of all ages are looking for a simplified balance of both common and intimate spaces within their budget. Yes, interior design is now even more important than before, and can easily compete with the importance of architecture.

The trick is to create your space with great design and functionality.

One of the most popular examples is the addition of islands in modern kitchens. They can serve as a work space, extra storage, and a spot for cooks, family and friends to spread out and enjoy a drink and great meal together. Islands are not only beautiful, but they are also versatile.

When you design a small space, you can design it in a way that has more utility and expansiveness. To quote Charles Eames, one of the 20th century's most celebrated product designers: "I have never been forced to accept compromises, but I have willingly accepted constraints."

So how do you maximize space? Here are a few tips that are sure to help:

Be creative with the space. For example, convert an entryway into a multi-functional space by adding a built-in wall unit that conceals your home office.

If you have a small bedroom and a king-size bed, use furniture that is the same color as the walls so that they blend in and make the room seem larger.

Use interesting lighting and multiple sources of light in every room. This creates a sensation of greater depth, transforming small flat areas into more textured spaces. Use pendant lights, sconces and other wall-mounted lighting wherever possible. They take up less space.

Simple, small and clean-line furniture can increase the feeling of space. Embrace multi functional pieces of furniture.

Eliminate clutter. Instead of having many small pieces of art on a wall, just add one larger, colorful one.

Look at your possessions, especially the larger ones, and ask yourself: "Have I used this in the last year?" If not, it should be a candidate for sale, gifting, or donation.

Use scaled furniture that's appropriate for the size of your space. Stop and measure before you buy.

Use mirrors carefully - they can add space and light but be aware of what they are reflecting.

Lightweight window treatments let light bathe the space and provide a sense of continuousness that does not stop the eye.

For a living room, consider a sofa that is no more than 80 inches long and 36 inches in depth. And look for multipurpose furniture; try coffee tables with storage underneath, storage ottomans, sleeper sofas and sleeper ottomans.

Don't use a "furniture set." Stores package furnishings in sets because it makes it easy to quickly furnish a space without having to put a lot of thought into it. Besides being really generic and uncreative, they are usually too big for small spaces."

A good tip for determining the amount of furnishings you need is to define what your specific uses will be for the space and how you will use each item you are considering. Will I use that piece of furniture every day, or is it there to make the room look nice?

Pick a neutral color you gravitate toward as a background, and stick to it. Don't chop up spaces by using different colors. Add brighter accents in art and accessories.

Umberto is an interior designer with a studio located in Old Town Puerto Vallarta at Lazaro Cardenas #286, Emiliano Zapata. Prospective clients are encouraged to visit, where they'll discover his design philosophy and gallery of projects. For more information, you can contact Umberto in PV at (322) 113-0375; Cell: 322-120-2931; Email: Umberto(at) From the US, call (702) 448-5153.