Design Dilemma: Eclectic Small Space Living | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Eclectic Small Space Living

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Can small space living — let’s say less than 600 square feet — ever avoid that “little box” feeling? We think we’ve found a small condo that does just that. Instead of feeling like a sterile hotel room, this apartment in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park area manages to have all the eclectic interest of a grand Victorian, in just a fraction of the space. The condo is in what used to be a 215-bed hospital which was converted to condominiums in 1986. Interior designer Robert Holgate moved into the one bedroom space with his little dog, Buddy and transformed a tiny space that might have felt confining if it had been left too minimalistic. Instead the designer opted for a rich, layered, well-traveled look that gives viewers plenty to look at and explore. Take a look:

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Above, Holgate removed the wall between the kitchen and the living room, adding an eat-in bar between the spaces. The room feels vibrant and alive, thanks to some mid-century modern furniture pieces mixed with patterned tribal rugs from all over the world and striking, tasseled pendant lights.

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The artwork is a major draw in this apartment, as are furniture pieces that are kept lightweight, to prevent an overstuffed, heavy look. Holgate says that flexibility was key to his choices. The demilune console unfolds to become a circular table and extra seating for dinner guests. The Knoll table and dining chairs, original Eon seats from Seattle’s Space Needle, are lightweight, low profile and easy to move.

Here are a couple of views of the kitchen, which combine vintage pieces with brand new cabinetry.

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Here’s another kitchen view:

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Here’s a bedroom view:

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eclectic bedroom uncategorized

Another living room view:

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And despite the tight spaces, everything has a place. Here the hallway has become a laundry room and closet, complete with shoe storage.

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So what’s the key to this layered look which manages to add a surprising sense of depth to a very small space?


  • Keep furniture, lightweight, low-profile and flexible.
  • Mix furniture styles with freedom. The furniture should maintain a relationship by scale, but not necessarily period.
  • Indulge in lots of artwork. Holgate was as free in mixing artwork (graphic works, with photography, vintage posters, wall sculpture and  Asian prints) as he was in mixing furniture, which lends the room a sense of timelessness.
  • Add area rugs. Patterned, tribal area rugs help make the space feel worldly and cozy.
  • Get  creative with lighting. Overhead lights and lamps are an opportunity to add drama and interest.
  • Stay organized. Although this apartment has a lot of “stuff” in it, it never feels “overstuffed.” That’s because there is a sense of an edited collection in which objects are not allowed to pile up in corners. Curios and objects are given a place of honor on the bookshelf or on the wall in carefully composed gallery walls.

The lesson here is that small doesn’t have to mean temporary, sterile or boring.  And an eclectic, layered look doesn’t have to look cluttered , either!


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