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Architect Victoria Benatar Answers Your Design Questions

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Today's topic: ask an architect and design expert your questions!

Architect and interior designer Victoria Benatar visited the Curbed University open thread this past Friday to take questions from all of you. Here are her answers:

1) What are some quick and not-too-pricey ways to make a small space feel bigger?

Space sizes are unchangeable. When a space is small, it's small, but there are some artifices that can help to give a sense of amplitude. I will use some of the projects I have done for my clients to illustrate three ways to do that:

A: Lowering a wall height down to 40 or 36 inches, or using glass partitions (doors or windows between spaces), will make the space look bigger, allowing light and visual integration but not necessarily functional connection. This strategy can be implemented between living and dining rooms, bedrooms and home offices, kids' areas and kitchens, etc.

B: Enlarging openings in existing partitions between spaces or making open kitchens can give the illusion that the area is bigger, because it shares space with the adjacent areas.

C: Elements such as mirrors (see below), which can give the effect that a space is larger than it really it is. Also painting in a light color, with lots of light coming in, can help to make a space look bigger.

2) When you're going into apartments and embarking on renovation projects, what are the most common design mistakes that you see your clients making?

The most common mistake clients make in New York City is to purchase oversized furniture. In general, spaces in NYC are small and in the showroom everything looks small because showrooms are large. Clients fall in love with a piece and buy it without having a clear idea of how big the furniture should be to make their space work.

3) Now that spring is here, how can New Yorkers (if they have any) make the most of their precious little outdoor space?

Depending on the size of the space (probably small) and number of people you have to fit (one or two), New Yorkers can buy a pair of heavy exterior chairs and a bistro table to have nice dinners or breakfasts outside. The problem with this is the storage inside during the cold months. What I usually do is buy the pieces that can be used inside in the winter and can be moved outside in the spring.

Another "green" (a.k.a. sustainable) solution is to hang a hammock with a special hook. The example above is of a Venezuelan hammock that is very comfortable, easy to install, easy to remove, compact to store, very decorative and inexpensive. This can give your terrace a twist and add some enjoyment to your life.

4) Where do you go to shop for home furnishings and decorating supplies in New York?do you have any hidden favorites?

My shopping sprees are very wide-ranging: From Ikea, West Elm, BoConcept, and Kartell to Cassina, Roche Bobois, Ligne Roset, and Jonathan Adler. It all depends on the client's budget and style. Flea markets are great if clients are willing to use secondhand and/or vintage furniture (which I love).

5) Let's say you only have a Saturday and want to embark on a manageable home improvement project. What are a few different done-in-a-day mini-makeovers that apartment-dwellers can undertake on their own?

I would start with spring cleaning. De-cluttering is a major home improvement for a home or office that can be done in a weekend. This also includes organizing bookcases, cabinet content, closets, and drawers. After spending the weekend cleaning up, you can achieve some freed space in your rooms as well as manage to give charitable donations to the less fortunate.
· Official site: Victoria Benatar [victoriabenatar.com]
· Ask Architect Victoria Benatar All Of Your Design Questions [Curbed]
· Curbed University archive [Curbed]