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Modern living – Thai Houses – Getting the best out of a small living space.

By Jack Miles

As resources become more expensive, houses are getting smaller of late, a trend which is evident in many countries not just Thailand. A smaller house however doesn’t mean you have to shrink your lifestyle. With some innovative fixtures and fittings, small can actually be quite cool.

The bedroom is one area of today’s houses that has shrunk in size. After all, a large bedroom just has more open floor-space but it is not necessarily space that would be used for any specific purpose. With bedrooms shrinking somewhat, the main thing to be aware of is storage and seating areas. Storage can come in many forms but the best houses will already have built in wardrobes in place, which take advantage of the full height of the room. Walk in closets are also in vogue. These are normally found in more opulent bedrooms but are increasingly being incorporated into smaller rooms. In this way your bedroom can feel bigger than it really is and will have plenty of storage to boot.

By combining a bedroom with a bathroom that may already have outside access you can again enlarge the space without actually requiring a larger floor plan. It will mean your bedroom will instantly become grander with an en-suite bathroom attached to it. The bathroom simply needs to have an extra connecting door between it and the bedroom. If you are able to plan it well, it can be joined to a walk in wardrobe to provide a good feeling of space in the bedroom with all its separate useful areas.

For the bedroom area itself some seating is a good thing to have in place and this can be by way of a fitted sofa or chairs that can be moulded into the shape of the room. Thai style chairs and curtains will give the place a traditional feel. A desk and/or a make up table can also be fitted into the perimeter of the room to save space. The bed should be as large as possible but for smaller rooms a more modest queen size bed that is five foot in width and five and a half foot in length may well suffice. Even though it is smaller version of a king size bed it will be dimensionally similar. As long as there is room enough to walk around the bed and the aforementioned fitted furniture is in place then a smaller bedroom can actually be more comfortable as it is often seen as cosier and more homely.

Next is the living room and here again clever use of space can make even the smallest living rooms seem larger than they actually are. An LCD TV is a must have since it provides a large viewing area without taking up any depth into the room. Choose a 40-inch TV instead of a 32-inch one so that even a small room will seem grander. Low slung sofas will give extra height to a room and this will always make it feel more spacious. Even with smaller floor plans you may have enough room for a Thai style dining table and this will certainly add an extra dimension to the living space without much effort. In a house that has sliding patio doors you can use these as a gateway to the living area quite easily and make them a feature using drop down blinds or curtains to allow for a softer look on one of the walls.

Kitchens are an area of interest to developers of houses. There seems to be differing views as to whether an open kitchen or a closed-off kitchen better represent modern living in Thailand. Certainly an open kitchen that adjoins to the dining area can be made to look more spacious, yet there are practical drawbacks especially if the dining area is also part of the living room. Cooking odours will be free to penetrate to all of the living areas and in this regard a closed off kitchen may be worth some thought. Also there is the question of the kitchen units imposing into the living area, which can be unsightly especially if the kitchen is virtually taking over the living space.

Yet, a closed off kitchen will make any space seem smaller since it will entail cutting up an otherwise open space with a wall and reducing the overall floor print of the dining area. A good way to bridge the gap is to use a closed off kitchen but to demark it with a stepped floor and a wide archway between the two rooms. The kitchen will still be visible from the living area, but the illusion will be complete in that it will appear as an entirely separate space. By fitting good quality high power extraction fans it will be possible to control cooking odours and prevent them from overrunning into the lounge and dining area.

A kitchen can also be very compact. Consider creating a three-metre long galley style kitchen in an area that can be partly closed off except for the archway. You would only need the kitchen room to be three metres long by about 1.5 metres wide, which is a total of just four and a half square metres. Counter tops usually are 60 cm wide and this will give you a comfortable amount of working space. Look to include an oven, a microwave and a double induction hob for cooking. By making the work surface around 2.5 metres long you will have enough room for a good-sized fridge on the end of it. Look for a taller model that gives excellent storage for both frozen and fresh food, as the extra height will make the best use of the limited floor space. For the rest of the kitchen look to install cupboards both at head height and also under the work surface for maximum storage. This will then be a professional looking kitchen that will take up minimal space and yet at the same time will be fully functional.

Other space saving extras in a house may seem obvious but are often overlooked. Stairs in Thai houses are often open affairs, but a cupboard under the stairs can really provide extensive storage and is easy to put into place. In this area you can keep cleaning utensils, unused furniture items and even bicycles etc.

The loft is also another area where good storage is available. Some houses have limited loft space but you can look to expand this by strengthening the roof trusses and adding in some additional flooring panels as well as a set of pull down steps for easy access. A complete loft conversion could be a possible next step, but for storage only, just some minor work would be needed to make great use of unused space.

Overall, developers are using many of these methods in order to make smaller houses look bigger and at the same time provide all the functionality that owners require. If you are buying a house that is still in the planning stage then there may be a good opportunity to work with the developer to tailor the space exactly to your liking.