The house I grew up in and shared with my parents, sister and grandmother was a modest, 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath home that was probably no more than 1500 sq. ft. My sister and I shared a room, and it wasn’t until I was in my early teens that my parents finished off the basement, giving us much needed breathing room. I remember my father spent most weekends doing the work himself, and he did a fabulous job! He added a small kitchen and powder room, as well as space for a full size pool table, family room and dining area. In most ranches, the basements are the same size as the main living area, so converting this space was money and time well spent.
Fast forward to when I moved into my first apartment. I was 22 and it was $175.00 a month, located on the second floor of a cape cod style home. It had one very tiny bedroom that was just big enough for a twin size bed, a living room that was probably no more than 10×12, a kitchen and one bath. The kitchen was by far the largest room in the apartment. It spanned the full length of the house and was probably around 20×12. It was in my first apartment that I cut my teeth on learning how to make the most of what space you have, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with you.
Forget about what something is called and think instead how else it may be utilized. Why not use a bookcase as a room divider, an armoire as a bar, entertainment center or craft center. And how about a baker’s rack as an open pantry?
With the addition of casters, drawers from an old dresser can be used for under-the-bed storage (I suggest covering them with a towel or plastic to avoid getting dust on your clothes). If you have a small bookcase, put it on its side and use it the same way. Instant dividers!
One of the most useful piece of furniture I’ve ever purchased was a captain’s bed. It utilizes the real estate under the bed brilliantly, providing enough storage in most cases to store a full season’s worth of clothing and more.
If a piece of furniture doesn’t quite work in one room, try it someplace else. A small dresser, with a few easy tweaks, can become a kitchen work station. A storage ottoman or chest at the foot of the bed can serve you well as bench type seating in your entry way, or even a coffee table in your family room.
Consider multi-functional pieces. Modular sectionals can be arranged in many different ways to suit your living space. If you don’t have enough room for all the pieces, maybe they can be used in your bedroom or den as an ottoman or chair.
Have you seen the sleeper chairs or sleeper ottomans? They are fabulous for providing a place for guests if you don’t have a dedicated guest room.
One of my favorite space savers are nesting tables. They can function as nightstands, a place for snacks or a quick game of checkers.
Utilize all available closet space. Just say ‘no’ to sliding or bi-fold doors and use the back of your closet door in your bedroom for storing accessories or shoes. In the pantry, use the back of the door by purchasing a clear shoe holder and store small items such as snacks, tea/coffee, baking items, spices. The list is endless. I would be lost without mine!
Look up! Install a shelf on top of your bathroom door and you instantly have a place for extra toiletries or towels. Areas that are not as easy to reach are also perfect for storing out of season items. Here’s a great example of utilizing vertical space wisely. If your toilet is near a wall, the narrow space between it and the wall can be used for convenient shelving as well.
It’s no coincidence that there’s a ton of information now about small space living. Many people are tired of the McMansions of the 90’s and the extra maintenance and costs they entail and are looking to downsize and live more frugally. How about you? Do you prefer larger or smaller homes?
Want a look at some small space furniture innovations? Click here.