Living Large in a Small Space

Louise Hurlbutt, of Hurlbutt Designs, tells how to make the most of tight quarters.

When Kennebunk interior designer Louise Hurlbutt took on the challenge of transforming a tiny seasonal guest cottage into a spacious year-round home, the project had all the marks of being mission impossible. For starters, the structure, on Kennebunk’s Lords Point, measured just 14 feet wide by 54 feet long — and could only be expanded by 30 percent. With a footprint that snug, “we had to get into the mindset that we were designing a boat,” she says. While the project, built by Kennebunkport’s Spang Builders, was unique, the strategies Hurlbutt deployed offer object lessons for anyone trying to maximize their space — and who isn’t?

Lighten up. A whole-house palette of whites and light grays creates airiness, while inky polished Blue Pearl granite kitchen countertops and a gradation of sea and sky shades on fabrics “gives a sense of groundedness and ties in with the beautiful setting” — aggrandizing the space, Hurlbutt says.

Be stealth with storage. An L-shaped living room banquette and curved window seat in the breakfast nook contain built-in storage for bedding and table linens. Beneath the stairs, Hurlbutt created a closet for suitcases and folding chairs. “It’s important to have places to put all your stuff so you can keep the limited space you have neat,” says the designer, who also likes to use antique trunk “coffee tables” to house board games and puzzles.

Photographed by François Gagné

Enlist a designer early. As in, as soon as your architectural plans are set, Hurlbutt says. Before building begins, he or she can work with contractors on space-saving strategies that may not be possible to implement later on.

Value versatility. The cottage is a gathering place for the owner’s family, as well as a rental, so Hurlbutt outfitted it with furnishings that serve both purposes. In the dining room, a round walnut table for four unfolds to accommodate 10 thanks to pie-shaped leaves that nestle beneath the top. In the guest bedroom, twin beds for the owner’s college-age kids become a king-size bed with the help of a connector known as a bed bridge. “In a small space, all pieces have to multitask,” Hurlbutt says.

Use mirrors, mirrors on the wall. Hurlbutt incorporated a 54-inch-long mirror above the living room banquette to create the illusion of more spaciousness and reflect the cove view framed in a bay window on the opposite wall. “It was a way of bringing more of the surroundings into the house,” she says.

Contact Hurlbutt Designs or visit their retail store and design studio. 53 Western Ave., Kennebunk. 207-967-4110.