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12th July, 2012
Lucy Feagins
Thursday 12th July 2012

Smallspaces - photos by Matt Palmer

Smallspaces proprietor Sarah O'Neill outside her shop in Redfern.  Photo - Matt Palmer

After singing the praises of Melbourne shopping earlier this week, I thought it was only fair to balance things out today with a little love for a Sydney-based retailer - Smallspaces in Redfern!

This super sweet little design store opened late last year, with a unique focus - considered design solutions for small space living.  With a background in fashion and textiles, and many years spent working at much loved Sydney retailer Koskela, proprietor Sarah O'Neill says the inspiration for opening her own store came from a personal experience - moving to a tiny studio apartment.

The decision to downsize presented a creative challenge, but Sarah was keen to give it a try - ' I thought it was doable if I could find clever design to furnish it' she says.  But after searching, Sarah realised that despite the modest proportions of so many homes in inner city Sydney, there wasn't much available locally which catered to the 'small space' market.  Inevitably, she ended up designing her own furniture to make it work.

As you can perhaps tell by the sweet styling in this little store, Smallspaces has a distinctly Japanese feel.  Because you know, no one does shoebox living better than Japan!  Sarah recalls how time spent in Japan inspired her direction with the store, and gave her the courage to take the plunge -

'A trip to Japan inspired me - not only though seeing how elegantly they make small spaces work, and finding wonderful design and products, but also and most importantly, I experienced retail on a new level. The most exciting stores were not on the high streets but down laneways and often not even on street level. They were stores born obviously of ideas, passion and ingenuity, and not about expensive fit outs and marketing. They were authentic and charming and inspiring. So with all my key advisors counselling that this was THE WORST TIME EVER to go into retail, I opened Smallspaces!'

Smallspaces currently stocks storage solutions from Denmark’s Muuto, beautifully crafted furniture from Japan, custom made sofa and daybed options, alongside a careful edit of homewares and art.  Sarah's philosophy is that the best approach for modern small space living is to have fewer possessions, but to invest in pieces that are multifunctional, well designed and of outstanding quality.  Hear hear!

Sarah has many plans for Smallspaces - she's keen to develop her product lines, website, and additional services. 'I'd love to collaborate with like minded designers, architects and developers' says Sarah.  'I'm passionate about promoting small space living as a solution rather than a problem. It makes sense on so many levels - environmental, economic, practical and spiritual'.

Kudos to Sarah for following her instinct and creating a very special retail space for this growing market - a little slice of Tokyo on home soil!

674 Bourke st

Ph. (02) 8399 3144

Gorgeous new 'Slab & Slub' shibori textiles, hand dyed in Sydney.  Instore now at Smallspaces! Photos - Matt Palmer

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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