The latest projections suggest that one-person households will increase at a rate of 159,000 this year and that by 2033 one in five of us will live alone. British homes, already among the smallest in Europe, look set to remain that way as developers cater for this growing demographic. "As space becomes ever more of a premium many new build developments now include studio flats," says kitchen specialist Neil Lerner.
Retailers are reporting an increasing demand for products designed to cater for diminutive spaces. "Increasingly people are becoming more space savvy, wanting to make the most out of smaller rooms with cost effective and practical solutions," says Warren Evans, founder of bed maker Warren Evans. Charlie Marshall, head of The Sleep Room, agrees. "Consumers are beginning to look for more intelligent design in the products they are buying," he says.
If you're living in a small space or have a room that's on the petite side of bijou, there are products out there that can help even the most spatially challenged. Perhaps the most interesting are those that are masters of disguise – products that double up on function or simply disappear into the background when not in use.
A great example is the hidden kitchen: set entirely behind doors, simply push a button and the kitchen appears. "Hidden kitchens really make sense in small spaces as they hide clutter and prevent smells," says Lerner.
If you have the budget to go the whole hog, try the Boffi On-Off kitchen. Priced from £30,000 (www.boffi.com) it's an enclosed kitchen that opens and shuts by remote control. Lerner's hidden kitchen range (www.neillerner.com) is another top-end alternative; expect to pay from £25,000. For cheaper versions try John Strand (www.johnstrand-mk.co.uk). The company's tiniest hidden kitchen is the HA03 – at just 1m wide it incorporates a fridge, two hotplates, microwave and sink along with storage and is priced from £1075.
For those with a little more space to work with, an open plan kitchen can blend in if you choose units that work with your living room furniture. You can find units in maple, walnut or wenge and in any variety of colours. "To make a space feel larger, choose light-coloured units and reflective work surfaces such as glass," says Lerner. "Roller shutters or pocket doors are a great way to disguise larger appliances."
John Lewis kitchen planner Jude Keenan recommends adjustable taps that can be pushed down into the sink when not in use and covers that slide over sinks, disguising them and extending worktop space. Or combine kitchen functionality with entertainment space. "You can now incorporate remote control television into the kitchen unit doors too," says Keenan.
If you eat in your kitchen, consider a drop-leaf table with stools or folding chairs, says Living in Space designer Anita Kohn. "The table can be pushed against the wall and stools can be hidden under the table to create extra space. There are even wall-hung chairs for the truly small kitchen," she says. Try the Pantone Chairs from The Holding Company (www.theholdingcompany.co.uk), which look good hanging on the wall when not in use.
Living and dining
In the living room, storage is the first element you should aim to disguise. "Think carefully about your furniture and include storage within functional pieces," says interior designer Joanna Wood. "For example, a tiered coffee table with a shelf for storage or a trunk that can double up as storage space." Try The Holding Company (www.theholdingcompany.co.uk) for stylish trunks and Next's Opus coffee table which incorporates hidden storage beneath a sliding glass top (www.next.co.uk, 0844 844 8939).
Sofa beds are the original masters of disguise – comfy seating by day, a guest bed by night. For a designer option try Eden from Chaplins (www.chaplins.co.uk) or Ikea (www.ikea.com) has the compact but comfortable Lycksele Havet, which is also available as a single chair/bed.
For dining areas, choose round rather than rectangular tables. "A table with a clear glass top will instantly make the room feel bigger and a round dining table with a centre pedestal also increases the sense of space," says Kate Mooney, managing director at Occa-Home. Choose an extendable table for extra flexibility – Heal's Confide table (www.heals.co.uk) is a good option.
Televisions can take up a lot of space. To minimise the impact try the Mirage TV unit, which has a full length mirror on the reverse and can be rotated by remote control (available from Anna Casa, www.annacasa.net). "If you have a flat screen TV you can surround it with matching picture frames so that it blends in with the rest of the décor," says Anna Dodonova, owner of Anna Casa. Or replace a TV with a projector that can be hidden in the ceiling and use a blank wall as a screen.
In a small apartment you're more likely to have a corner rather than an entire room for a home office. Aim to hide it away when not in use – Neil Lerner's home office with its aluminium roller shutters makes it easy to do just that (www.neillerner.com). Or try the Wimbledon Space Saver range (www.johnlewis.com). Just 53cm deep, the desk has a pull-out keyboard shelf and a box seat that fits neatly underneath when not in use. The Table-Chest, designed by Tomoko Azumi and available from Aram (www.aram.co.uk) is another master of disguise: a chest of drawers that converts into a side table.
Beds are for more than just sleeping. To maximise space, choose a bed that lets you use the dead space underneath for storage. Try The Sleep Room's "Loft" bed (www.sleeproom.com), which can be raised to reveal storage space. Warren Evans (www.warrenevans.com) has a range of Extra Deep frames – the Siesta, Daydream, Trinity, Brahms and Rio – designed to store deeper under-bed storage boxes.
A TV in the bedroom doesn't necessarily need extra storage. The Ciak bed (Anna Casa, www.annacasa.net) hides the TV in the end of the bed.
If you're really short on space, try John Strand's Wall Beds. During the day they fold flat against the wall. They're so well-disguised that they even have shelves or a laptop desk on the reverse (which fit cleverly under the bed when the bed is folded down) so that you're not wasting an inch of space.
And while keeping clutter to a minimum is a good idea, it's important you don't go overboard.
"The key is to get the balance right – you don't want too much open space as it can look bare and unwelcoming," says Evans. "Cushions, fluffy throws and a statement rug are all space-effective ways of transforming a room. Mirrors on the wall create the effect of extra space and sticking to fabrics and furniture that are a similar colour will ensure the room doesn't look cluttered."
Top tips for tiny homes
* Planning is the key to any good design – mark up a scaled drawing of the room or use masking tape to draw in the size of furniture before you buy.
* Don't overcrowd the room, try to keep corners visible and have as much clear floor space as possible. * Buy scaled-down versions of furniture – a compact sofa, a smaller dining table and so on.
* Mirrors increase the perception of space and light in a room and add depth – consider wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling for maximum impact.
* Choose shallow built-in cabinets and shelves which will give you storage space without overwhelming the room and design storage to go all the way to the ceiling.
* Choose simple window treatments. Forget big swags of material and look to venetian blinds or elegant shutters instead.
* When deciding which of your items to hide, divide your belongings into what looks good and what doesn't. Try to hide functional pieces in cleverly thought-out storage and use surfaces to display your favourite items.