kitchen, bathroom & laundry blog
May 3, 2017

Blog series: Jenna Densten’s tips on renovating living spaces

Jenna and Josh Densten of Bicker Design, Design School and previous contestants on The Block 

Husband and wife design and renovation duo, Josh and Jenna Densten, are currently renovating their 1870s Canning Cottage in inner-city North Melbourne. The once two-bedroom worker’s cottage is being transformed into a one-bedroom studio, so they’re learning everything there is to know about renovating a small home. This is the second part of Jenna’s blog series where she talks about renovating a small living and outdoor space.

One of Josh and Jenna’s previous renovations. Photo: Bicker Design

Let there be light

My first consideration when planning to renovate my living spaces is always natural light. What orientation is your home and where are your windows placed? If you have the opportunity to design from scratch, then I would avoid putting windows on the west side. West facing windows receive the hot afternoon sun and want to avoid that. Instead, I would try and harness any north or east facing light. East is gorgeous morning light, so this kind of light in a busy kitchen is recommended.

Choosing colours and finishes

Once you determine your orientation, you will know how much light is coming into your living space. If you’re blessed with large north facing windows, then light is not your issue. You can likely get away with darker, moodier colours if you want a cosy place to relax. If you have south facing windows, then you are not receiving any direct sun at all. This is where you will need to consider lighter, warmer tones and reflective finishes like mirrors to bounce the limited light around the room. West facing windows mean you will likely need to keep your blinds closed. Unless you consider planting deciduous trees out the front to block the harsh summer sun but still let in the winter light. Ensure you use fabrics that can handle the harsh sunlight and possibly a cooler paint shade to help cool you down. Keep in mind your orientation when selecting colours and finishes, matte finishes absorb light and gloss reflects.

Choosing colours and materials

Lay it all out

The layout is another significant consideration in your living room and a small space; you may struggle to find the perfect piece of furniture to fit the space. Instead, I would try to custom a sofa and incorporate storage underneath. That way the sofa can fit the space perfectly and be functional at the same time! Try to ensure your TV is not your focal point, instead hide it in cabinetry or behind a piece of art. You want your focal point in a room to be something special like artwork or lighting.

Beautiful living room by Josh and Jenna’s. Photo: Bicker Design

Tips to maximise space

Built in joinery with storage underneath is a great way to keep things out of the way, as is storage built into wall cavities. Neutral tones and colours will blur the lines between the zones so a tonal effect can work extremely well in small spaces. For low ceilings, floor to ceiling joinery and curtains will draw the eye upwards and give the illusion of height. Depending on the natural light, mirrors and reflective surfaces will give the illusion of space and light, making your area appear larger. Multifunctional furniture pieces can work well, for example; stools that double as dining chairs and side tables when not in use.

Every square metre should be considered in a small space, and ever cupboard should have a purpose. In a small space, you are forced to live with only what you need, and there’s something cleansing about that thought!


Outside living 

Seamlessly integrate outdoors with indoors

Indoor and outdoor flow should be a high priority. Especially in small spaces, consistent floor finishes will blur the lines between inside and out making both your areas look larger. Consider glass bi-fold doors, which seamlessly integrate your both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Open plan living, combining the outside with the inside


Vertical gardens will give you the much-needed life and greenery in your space without taking up valuable floor space. Ensure you have a water system installed for easy maintenance.

Outdoor furniture and appliances

Scale your furniture, ensure it’s not overpowering within the space. You may be able to bring your indoor stools, outside when entertaining if you select a durable material. You can also buy an outdoor sofa with storage underneath to store the cushions when not in use. You can also choose a built-in barbeque, so it’s not jutting out and taking up space like this Beef Eater Bugg from e&s.

Product: Beef Eater Bugg BBQ. Photo: e&s photoshoot Photographer: Nikole Ramsay Styling: Michelle Hart, Bask Interiors

This blog series will also appear on Homes to Love.

Visit your closest e&s showroom for more inspiration and tips, or check out our website

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