TheRedandBlack: Tips from a pro: Utilizing space in tight quarters

Story originally posted to The Red and Black on Aug. 26, 2013

By Caroline Wingate

The art of decorating dorms and apartments relies on space allocation and creativity.

Apartments range in style and shape and can be hard to organize and decorate; dorms are no easier in the space department and both pose a challenge for even the savviest of designers.

Sarah Zenti, associate professor of furnishings and interiors in the College of Consumer and Family Sciences at the University of Georgia, provides a professional perspective for decorating in small spaces by giving a jolt of personality to functionality.

“I knew I wanted to teach during my undergraduate work in interior design,” Zenti said. “I love the problem solving and creative work associated with interior design. I also believe that a home environment can be a place that can sustain its inhabitants by providing them comfort, support and rest. I really want to demonstrate and impart that to my students so they can communicate that to their future clients or students.”

Zenti has worked in both commercial and residential interior design with experience in multi-unit apartment and house design, multi-family residential design and single-family residential design.

Design techniques are vital to maintaining a non-cluttered area. That space is precious, remember.

“Some of the basic design techniques that students can use in their own spaces is logical layout and space planning, understanding the principle of proportions, and personalization,” Zenti said.

In Zenti’s classes, students are taught how to recognize space that can be categorized and organized. Items in a room need to be proportional to the space they take up. There are opposite extremes here: either too many things cause a cluttered mess or not enough items will leave a room cold and uninviting. Finally, your own personal touch. Your taste is always in style as long as it is true to who you are. You will need some of these homey items to mesh your new space with your old space, for instance moving from home to college.

“It’s important to remember that personalization doesn’t simply mean choosing the latest trends in colors or accessories,” Zenti said. “It means that you incorporate elements into your space that speak of who you are and what you are. These could be items that you bring from home that you grew up with that remind you of your family or friends.”

In an ideal world, dorm rooms would be larger and space with roommates would not be cramped. However, until that day arrives, take advantage of the space you have been given and imagine all of the ways you will use it: to study, sleep, entertain, relax, hang out and many other opportunities to make memories.

“Once you understand how the space should function, it will be easier to decide what furniture or accessories to get and how to place them so that the space becomes functional and supports you in all of your activities,” Zenti said.

Decorating your space does not have to break the bank or burn up your brain cells. Think it through. How do you plan to use your space? Who will make memories in this space with you? Utilize the space you have, recognize that it is only temporary and only use things that you love.

Final Tips from Professor Sarah Zenti:

1. Remember that when dealing with small spaces you never want to overcrowd a space.

2. Look for items that serve multiple purposes. For example, use seating that has built-in storage and could also be utilized as a surface for writing, placing laptops, etc.

3. Keep study materials organized with folders, magazine files, catch-all trays, bookshelves, etc.

4. Make sure that you have a specific place for everything so it can be reorganized quickly and easily.

5. Be creative with the space you have. Get the most out of walls and closets by coming up with unique ways to organize and store items.

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