Compact living strategies

Interior architect Nicholas Gurney explains how a "reductivist" approach is the new way of living

Have you considered that there could be something very satisfying about inhabiting spaces without surplus or excess? I’ve lived it and I help my clients with it. You see, I have a predilection for a practice called reductivism. It’s like minimalism but while both advocate for fewer possessions, this new trend is about living well in smaller spaces.

It can be very worthwhile, this reduction thing – the less space you have, the less financial stress, more time to enjoy the finer things in life and less stuff to fuss over.

I’ve come to understand that without surplus and without excess, one requires very little space to live. But what can be considered surplus and excess? And how small is too small? Well, I’m afraid I don’t have a simple, definitive answer to those questions. What I do know is that we can and will need to live comfortably in significantly less space than we’ve been afforded in the past.

Through design and innovation, I work with my clients to dispel conventional notions surrounding small space living. Set key design criteria for each project recognising that improved functionality demands a bespoke response. We know that we need a place to sit, sleep, bathe and cook and it’s the delivery of these functional areas that can be tailored to maximise the sense of space as well as reduce the need for too much space in the first place.

If, for instance, a joinery element was conceived to house a fold-away hybrid of a desk and dining table then we’ve eliminated two pieces of furniture and can also forego the amount of space required to support them. A murphy bed is not a new idea but if conjoined to the sofa we can waive the guest room and 12 or so square metres. A simple manoeuvre such as that has probably knocked 15 per cent from the required floorspace and even more from the initial outlay. Under-utilised spaces otherwise left void such as the space under the bed, above a doorway or high up on walls can total the equivalent of a lengthy wall of storage. Or better still, negate the need for the lengthy wall in the first place.

Believe me when I say that everything can be reduced from what we’ve become accustomed to. The most formidable obstacle to reducing the surplus and the excess is to shift preconceived ideas on how one should dwell.


Living in a small space can be very satisfying


Nicolas Gurney
Nicholas established his eponymous design studio in 2010 after completing a Bachelor of Industrial Design. His practice specialises in the design of modest spaces. Projects are highly functional and considered, delivering dynamic and clever solutions with a focus on the organisation of space. Through design and innovation, Nicholas aims to dispel conventional notions surrounding compact design and small space living. Gurney employs a strong conceptual focus and the needs of his clients are heavily embedded in the outcomes. In 2017, Nicholas co-established Yardstix to test Cross Laminated Timber as a means of delivering beautiful, sustainable and affordable secondary dwellings. To view Nicholas’ work or get in contact go to:


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