Small Space, Great Taste

Compactness is a good quality to have in a car, but when it comes to a home, it's not always ideal. Although smaller houses, apartments and townhouses are more economical and certainly reduce housework, they can present a decorating challenge. This is especially true when you downsize from a larger space. How do you create an inviting, uncluttered space and still fit in all of your belongings and furniture for eating, sleeping and relaxing? Two popular trends are making it easier for the small home dweller to make the most of every inch of space without feeling hemmed in: functional furniture and multi-purpose rooms.

Kitchen and Dining Room

  • In a tiny kitchen, a table for casual dining can take up valuable floor space. Instead of a freestanding table, try a wall-mounted version that can be folded out for a meal and then tucked up against the wall when it's not in use. Choose a table colour that blends into the wall to make it less noticeable or choose a finish that matches the kitchen cupboards or countertops.
  • If you need something more substantial than a foldout table, consider installing a food preparation island that doubles as a seating area. Typically, the work area is on the side of the island closest to the sink with the seating area on the opposite side. Choose an island design with an overhang to make it easier for people to pull up a chair.
  • When selecting a table for the kitchen or dining area, look for styles that can be expanded with leaves to provide extra space for guests. During normal usage, the table becomes quite compact.

Bedroom

  • Instead of a bed with space underneath for dust bunnies, look for a bed that has a solid base with built-in drawers for storage. Remember, a recessed base can help avoid stubbed toes!
  • If you have a small bedroom that needs to accommodate a desk, a television/games entertainment area and storage for clothing, consider building a loft bed. A traditional loft bed has a ladder and open space beneath the bed, however, you can also build a loft bed that's easier to climb into and solves some storage problems. Along one wall, install a set of stairs with a railing to the loft bed. The space beneath the steps can house built-in drawers. Underneath the bed itself, you can create a walk-in closet. Alternatively, you can build a bed with sliding drawers underneath. The bed would only need to be high enough to accommodate your longest pants or dresses. These options eliminate the need for dressers or closets in the room.
  • Murphy beds have been around for decades and for good reason. When you're done sleeping simply fold it up against the wall and close the cabinet drawers. The major improvements over the years have been the quality of the mattresses and the sleek styling of the cabinetry with shelves and drawers.

Living Area

  • Use tall bookshelves and cabinets to take advantage of the vertical space. Not only do they take up less floor space, but people typically perceive tall, narrow pieces of furniture as being less bulky in a small room.
  • It's becoming more common for each family member to have their own computer but most small homes are usually short on office/desk space. Furniture manufacturers are addressing this relatively recent trend by creating a wide range of multi-function cabinets that open out to reveal a sliding keyboard tray, an area for a monitor and space below for a CPU. When the computer is not in use, the unit looks like any other traditional cabinet with storage for books, bedding, etc.
  • A couch is often the single largest piece of furniture in a living room, so pay special attention to choosing a style that compliments the shape of the room. For example, if you have a long rectangular room, choose a long, narrow couch to complement the layout. A shorter, deeper couch will work well in a square room.
  • If you expect that your living room or den will sometimes need to double as a guest room, invest in a good quality 'hide-a-bed' or 'futon'.
  • Built-in furniture and storage tend to take up less room than stand-alone furniture. Custom-built solutions become more affordable when you consider the time you would have spent looking for the perfect piece of furniture to fit an awkward space.

Bathroom

  • Increase the storage space inside a standard sink cabinet by installing either freestanding or secured shelves.
  • If you decide to install wall-mounted shelves yourself, invest in a stud finder to locate wood and metal studs as well as pipes.
  • A tall, shallow cabinet can add storage space and a place to hang towels. It is also an effective way to keep razors, medications and other potential hazards out of reach of children.

More Roomy Tips

  • The cardinal rule of living in a small space is to reduce clutter. Tackle your overflowing closet, bookshelves and other problem areas and sell, recycle or donate any items you haven't used in the past two years. It's far easier to keep things looking neat by adopting a minimalist approach. Easier said than done but it can be done!
  • If you wish to display decorative items such as vases or personal collections, try putting them on high, glass shelves. A shelf that is two metres off the floor or higher, tends to be out of the normal line of vision, which tends to make the room look less cluttered.
  • Another shelf tip: Paint wall-mounted shelves the same colour as the wall to make them less noticeable.
  • Small spaces usually benefit from plenty of windows, which provide natural light and a sense of connection to the outside environment. If it is not feasible to enlarge existing windows or install additional windows, you can help to maximize the light by choosing shear and/or light-coloured draperies. Blinds beneath the draperies can be lowered to provide privacy in the evening. Use task lighting and small pendant lamps to light dark corners and work areas economically.

Fitting a size eight foot into a size six shoe rarely works. The same is true when trying to fit large home furniture and belongings into a smaller dwelling! A whole new approach is required. Creative use of functional furniture and multi-purpose floor plans can help you enjoy a small space with great taste!

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