Designer J.P. Horton’s petite Charleston rental is both his home and his design office. He wows clients—and himself—with vivacious rooms brimming with oversize art and clever furniture hacks. Read on to find out how he turned 800 square feet of living space into a spacious, airy house!

JESSICA MISCHNER: This isn’t your typical 26-year-old’s home.

J.P. Horton: Ha! I’m an old soul. I wanted it to look lived-in and loved, like I’d been there forever. That’s why I use antiques, which instantly confer history.

It looks so much bigger than 800 square feet! What’s your strategy for maximizing space?

I always start by drawing out the floor plan by hand—it gives me the creative liberty to, say, erase a sofa that isn’t working, and clearly see what’s missing. For instance, my living room is also my foyer, so I had to create the sense of an entry. Other space-saving tricks: buying older pieces, because they’re often smaller in scale; utilizing oversize art or gallery groupings to draw the eye upward; and using a variety of lighting—table lamps, floor lamps, sconces—to add depth and dimension to a room.

So almost everything here is multi­-purpose?

Yes! For me, function always comes first. That’s especially true in a small space, where things inevitably move around. That’s not to say that the colors and upholstery in all the rooms must match, but they definitely need to talk to one another. Plus, I get bored easily, so I’m always mixing things up.

It seems like you’re a rule breaker in all the right ways.

With small spaces, you have to do whatever works. And, let’s be honest, I’m not a minimalist. I have a lot of things, so it was important to me that my house feel collected but not cluttered.

How do you draw the line between the two?

To me, collected means taking a group of objects­—travel mementos, family heirlooms, personal items—and editing them down to the most important of the bunch. Accessories, art, and flowers give life to a room and spirit to a home, but you don’t want them all lined up on a shelf. Everything needs to be there for a reason, or it feels cluttered.

You clearly relish a good DIY project.

Early in my career, my budget often demanded that kind of creativity. That midcentury bar cart? I bought it years ago, spray-painted it cream, and lined the glass with fabric. I still love it.

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