Small Space, Big Ideas
Amy Cotteleer and her dog Wrigley
"I was so tired of white walls," says Amy Cotteleer. A marketing executive who spent 300 nights on the road last year (for clients like Motorola and the Gap), she longed for an antidote to all those pleasantly generic hotel rooms when she moved into this 692-square-foot house. "That's why I have loud wallpaper, bold colors, and gold chain-mail curtains," she explains.

In decorators Alexandra Loew and Lauren Soloff of the L.A. firm From the Desk of Lola, she found kindred spirits who encouraged her to go for design elements most people wouldn't attempt in a small space—like black walls and an 84-inch sofa. "I didn't want to feel like I was sitting on Barbie furniture," says Amy, who is six feet tall. In the end, those risks resulted in a gutsy and feminine interior—epitomizing the very woman who, after a night away, can't wait to put the key in her own door.
Bold and practical pieces in the living room
The Living Room
  • Max out vertical details. Amy's elaborate window valance, Baroque-framed mirror, and '50s Italian glass chandelier create a real sense of grandeur. They also draw the eye up, making the ceiling feel much higher than its actual eight feet, two inches.
  • Don't sacrifice comfort. For her six-foot-tall client, designer Lauren "felt committed to having real-size furniture." But Lauren and her partner, Alexandra, limited themselves to three bold (and practical) pieces. The custom 84-inch sofa folds out into a bed, and the two chairs spin around, allowing for flexible conversation areas at parties.
The living room console table
The Living Room  
  • Add sparkle and shine. The designers relied on glass and Lucite for tables that don't take up much visual space. The gold mesh curtains and full-length mirror also reflect light, which—despite the dark furniture—keeps the room feeling airy.
  • Two tiers=more storage "Having spaces within spaces allows you to tuck things away until you need them," says Lauren of the plush ottomans that live beneath the console. Likewise, Amy's bi-level coffee table offers twice as much surface area for stacking books and trinkets.

  The Kitchen
  • Be realistic. Open shelving looks great—if there's plenty of under-counter storage for unsightly pots and pans. With her limited space, Amy opted for a combination of covered and see-through cabinets. Having everything on display, she says, "is too much pressure for me."
  • Strike a compromise. Amy chose a large farmhouse sink and a big faucet because she believes even small kitchens deserve elements that are substantial. She made up the difference by opting for a compact, 18-inch dishwasher.
Maximize space in a dining nook.
The Dining Nook  
  • Create a niche. Though nothing more than an extension of the living room, this corner—defined by graphic, leaf-patterned wallpaper—stands all on its own.
  • Forgo doors. An open archway between the dining area and the kitchen prevents both rooms from feeling boxy and broken up—especially since they share the same wooden flooring.
  • Invest in smart design. Scored from a private antiques dealer, this set of '60s Danish string-back chairs slides neatly under the round table.
  • Stay flexible. Unlike a cumbersome sideboard, Amy's delicate bamboo bar cart can be wheeled closer or completely out of the way.
  • Stretch out. Positioning the black felt rug on the diagonal, Lauren says, emphasizes the alcove's longest axis and "creates a different point for the eye to go to, rather than from left to right or front to back."
Decorating solutions for a cramped hallway
The Hallway  
  • Make the most of dead space. Amy set out to transform this cramped corridor into "its own experience," she says, by painting the bottom half of the walls purple and adorning the top with floral paper.
  • Establish a focal point. Placing a pedestal table and artwork at the end of the hall demands the attention of anyone entering from the living room. The turning rug "also provides a sneak preview of the bedroom just around the corner," Alexandra says.
  • Defy convention. "People are afraid that extra-tall baseboards will make areas feel smaller," says Alexandra of the 14-inch molding she and Lauren added, "but they give Amy's space more architectural definition."
Creative hall closet space
Creative Closets  
Hide (almost) everything. Not content to settle for an inefficient depository for coats and umbrellas, Amy (with the help of California Closets) turned the hall closet into a bureau. Now it holds towels and out-of-season clothes.
Lighting and decorating tips for the bedroom
The Bedroom  
  • Light from above. A wall-mounted, textured glass sconce stands in for a reading lamp in this ultranarrow room—which has a layout that only allows for a bed and a single end table.
  • Deck out the ceiling. Continuous lace-patterned wallpaper gives walls the appearance of extending up...indefinitely. Below, the designers used black paint (their client's favorite color) to widen the headboard and shade her closet door. "You would think it would feel small," adds Amy, "but people come in and say, 'There's a lot of room in here!'"