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Your Home | Smart Solutions

Check out how they live large in a 520-square-foot condo

A little reorganization made a tiny South End condo big enough to entertain a crowd.

The relocated decorative mantel provides a subtle separation and focal point. Serendipitously, it fit in the new space within a quarter inch. New sconces by Barbara Barry for Visual Comfort flank the Western Mass. landscape painted by the husband’s mother. Baskets on the Pottery Barn shelves offer hidden storage.
The relocated decorative mantel provides a subtle separation and focal point. Serendipitously, it fit in the new space within a quarter inch. New sconces by Barbara Barry for Visual Comfort flank the Western Mass. landscape painted by the husband’s mother. Baskets on the Pottery Barn shelves offer hidden storage.Joyelle West

Layout of a space is everything, especially when the entire space is only 520 square feet. And especially if the owners of the tiny South End condo love to entertain a crowd.

So devising a smart solution was top of mind for Roisin Giese and Miggy Mason, principals of the South End-based design firm Twelve Chairs. “The banquette was the big aha moment,” Giese says. Although freestanding rather than built-in, the L-shaped piece sits flush against the wall, and is paired with a pedestal table pulled in close. The setup decreases the space needed for circulation around the table and increases the number of people who can sit there. Plus, thanks to ample depth and the tufted cushion, it has a lounge-y feel. “It functions as a window seat, not just a dining nook,” Giese says. “The homeowner loves sitting in that corner, propped up with pillows, looking down at the garden.”

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The primary goal for the project was to increase the functionality of the home’s public living space, which clocks in at 220 square feet. While the homeowners had originally positioned their sofa perpendicular to the wall to separate the living and dining areas, Giese’s solution was to unite them. She pushed a new sofa to the perimeter to open up the center, then unified the room with a custom-cut synthetic sisal rug that stretches just a few inches shy of all four walls.

The homeowners’ vintage dining chairs were reupholstered in Jammu linen by Jasper Fabrics. “They had four, which we tucked in wherever we could,” designer Roisin Giese says. The statement swing arm sconce is by Ralph Lauren for Visual Comfort.
The homeowners’ vintage dining chairs were reupholstered in Jammu linen by Jasper Fabrics. “They had four, which we tucked in wherever we could,” designer Roisin Giese says. The statement swing arm sconce is by Ralph Lauren for Visual Comfort. Joyelle West

Although a physical barrier no longer divides the space, there are still distinct zones. “We did some things to make it feel like one room, and then others to make it feel separate,” Giese says. A subtly patterned rug layered over the sisal defines the seating area, as does the grouping of botanical prints above the sofa. Each area also boasts its own statement light fixture — there’s a squiggly cast resin bowl pendant over the seating area, and a gigantic swing-arm sconce juts out over the table.

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The decorative mantel was relocated to the bump-out wall to provide a bit more visual separation as well as a pretty focal point. Because one chair swivels, it can service both seating and dining spaces. The homeowners’ existing vintage fauteuil and dining chairs — all reupholstered to work with the new scheme — can be pulled to either side, and a garden stool is an extra place to perch a person or a drink. “Anywhere we could accommodate more people, we did,” Giese says.

Storage, too, was carefully considered. An inexpensive shelving unit went up over the banquette, and coat hooks adjacent to the front door eliminate the need to walk coats to the bedroom. To the left of the entry, a shallow but still roomy console holds office supplies that lived in a desk that the homeowners realized they didn’t really need.

Towel hooks, floating shelves, and an extra-tall recessed medicine chest add utility to the bathroom, where Giese also swapped out a bulky vanity for a pedestal sink to open up some breathing room. New hex floor tile, shiny sconces, and floral wallpaper transform the formerly so-so space into a little gem. In the bedroom, a double closet and a dresser take care of storage needs, while a curvy upholstered headboard, a Roman blackout shade, and custom pillows made from a mix of organic and geometric textiles provide equal doses of soothing color and lyrical interest. “The homeowner loves floral patterns and color, so we incorporated that with all the accessories,” Giese says.

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The result is a light, bright space with plenty of color that doesn’t overwhelm, plus ample storage and an abundance of function. The homeowners appreciate the elevated aesthetic, noting that it’s no longer like living in a dorm, and marvel that they can pack in so many family members and friends. “It’s crazy,” Giese says, “because it’s still the same size.”

RESOURCES

Interior design: Twelve Chairs, twelvechairsboston.com

Chair upholstery: Crimson & Brighton Upholstering, fabric-showroom.com

Pillows and window treatments: Makkas Drapery Workroom, makkasdrapery.com

Banquette: Partners in Design, partnersindesignltd.com

Wallpaper installer: Nathan Siktberg

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS:

Having hung a single artwork over the mantel, the designers opted for a grouping of framed botanical prints, purchased at One Kings Lane, over the sofa. The subtle vine pattern of the rug, from The Rug Merchant in Rockland, and the floral throw pillows of hand-printed linen by Elizabeth Eakins, lend a springtime mood.
Having hung a single artwork over the mantel, the designers opted for a grouping of framed botanical prints, purchased at One Kings Lane, over the sofa. The subtle vine pattern of the rug, from The Rug Merchant in Rockland, and the floral throw pillows of hand-printed linen by Elizabeth Eakins, lend a springtime mood. Joyelle West




A hand-distressed cabinet by Somerset Bay provides storage in the entryway, while a mirror from Wisteria bounces light around the room. “It’s one of the oldest decorator tricks, but it works,” Giese says.
A hand-distressed cabinet by Somerset Bay provides storage in the entryway, while a mirror from Wisteria bounces light around the room. “It’s one of the oldest decorator tricks, but it works,” Giese says. Joyelle West

Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.