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How to maximise space on smaller sections

How to build comfort and functionality without compromise

If you’re building in today’s urban centres, you probably won’t have a massive backyard like the good old days. The traditional quarter-acre is fast becoming obsolete – now, the typical section size ranges from 300 to 600 square meters. But a smaller lot doesn’t mean you have to compromise on comfort and style. Wondering how? Check out our tips and design ideas to make the most of limited space.

1. Build up

Adding a second storey gives you extra square footage and opens the door to creative design choices. Think loft-style bedrooms or high ceilings in communal areas – features that add functionality and flair. Or, what about an upside-down design like the Auckland North & West’s Ara Hills show home? Instead of sticking to the usual layout, it flips things over to put the kitchen and living areas on the top floor. This makes the most of great views while letting more natural light into the areas where the owners spend the most time. And downstairs? That becomes the chill zone for private spaces like bedrooms.

Sentinel Homes Orewa showhome

2. Create open-plan living

In a smaller space, the last thing you want is too many walls closing off your living areas. Opening things up will create a seamless flow between your kitchen, dining and living areas. This gives you a feeling of spaciousness and togetherness for your family and friends.

Open plan living gives you spaciousness and flow

3. Incorporate natural light

A smaller home without much natural light can be claustrophobic. Strategically placed windows, skylights and sliding doors will combat that by flooding your home with sunlight. Take inspiration from the Auckland Karaka show home, where carefully positioned windows turn every room into a bright and inviting retreat.

Lots of windows help Sentinel's Karaka showhome feel light and open.

4. Slide, don’t swing

Want to make the most of the outdoors without wasting any space inside? When you open sliding doors (rather than traditional swing doors), natural light pours in, and your living space doubles with a mix of indoors and outdoors. Sliding doors also add a modern touch to your interiors.

5. Be smart with storage

Built-in storage solutions make a small space feel larger by reducing visual clutter. For example, under-stair storage, floor-to-ceiling cabinetry and integrated wardrobes will keep things tidy and organised, giving your home a more spacious appearance.

6. Balconies for the win

Balconies can help blur the lines between inside and out, making your home feel bigger and effortlessly connected to its surroundings. For example, you could include two balconies – one for morning coffees and the other for soaking up the afternoon sun. If you’re after a lovely, sunny living space, whatever time of day, two well-positioned balconies are a great idea.

The main living area of Sentinel's Orewa showhome flows effortlessly onto the balcony

7. Keep it simple

Don’t get minimalist confused with stark and empty. The key is to create a sense of purposeful simplicity, allowing each piece to shine individually. For example, choose a streamlined sofa or a small coffee table and strategically place a few well-selected decor items. Use a light colour palette for walls and furniture to create an airy feel. Incorporate large mirrors to reflect light and give the illusion of more space. These little tricks make the area seem bigger and more open.

8. Hallways be gone

By removing hallways, spaces seamlessly connect, allowing the entire area to appear more open and expansive. This maximises usable square footage and improves natural light distribution, as hallways typically lack windows. Not to mention, no hallways means you get unobstructed views through living spaces.

9. Garage goals

Your garage can be more than just a parking spot. Insulated and carpeted, the garage becomes a versatile room. Use it as a home gym, an extra lounge for movie nights or even a dedicated home office – it’s a multi-use area that adds both functionality and comfort.

Carpeting the garage can give loads of extra useable space for a home gym, office or play room

10. Team up with the right people

Building a dream home starts with a dream team. When you choose Sentinel Homes, you’re not just hiring builders – you’re collaborating with architects and planners who understand your vision. From optimally orienting your house on your section to maximising natural light or finding innovative storage solutions, our team will ensure your home reflects your section and lifestyle.

Small home, big ideas

There’s no need to compromise on comfort or style when you’re working with a small section. From clever design strategies like building up or upside down to removing hallways and maximising natural light, you can transform limited space into functional havens. Whatever you’re thinking, Sentinel Homes will help you make your mark on urban living.

Need help designing big on a smaller section? Get in touch with Sentinel Homes today.

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