Making the Most of Small Spaces

Small-Living-SpaceYou’re crowded, cramped, always tripping over your things or other people, and feel like you have to navigate a maze to get from the living room to the bathroom. Sometimes it can feel like a cave. Whether you are living in a small house, tiny apartment or dorm room, or are just stuck with too many people for the home you have, living without enough space can be challenging and frustrating.

You have two options here: complain about it, or tackle the problem head on and fix it. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your small space.

Cut the Clutter
The first step you should take is to get rid of clutter. Having too many things trying to fit in a small space will make it feel even smaller. Ask yourself what you can live without. Are all those thingamabobs and doohickeys essential to your happiness? Do you really need those sweaters you haven’t worn since middle school, or the cappuccino-maker that hasn’t been turned on in 3 years?

This is not the time to be softhearted or sentimental. If an item actually does have sentiment to it, by all means keep it. However, if you are creating sentiment where there is none, then be ruthless and toss it. If you can’t bear to throw it away, then give it to charity, recycle it, or have a yard sale and earn a few bucks.

Getting rid of clutter will make the room feel more open and less cramped. After doing that, it is much easier to follow the remaining steps.

Double-duty Furniture
Make your space multitask. You have more than one thing to do a day don’t you? So why not make your furniture do more than one thing, too!

Grab an ottoman with storage inside that you can also use for extra seating. Use an open bookshelf as a room divider, or invest in a futon to use as a couch during the day and a bed during the night. Instead of just putting a table under the window, use a trunk or chest that can double for storage and a window seat.

Another way to use furniture to its full potential is to have a way for it to disappear when not in use. Beds that fold into the wall, chairs that store inside each other or small tables with drop leaves for that dinner party you are having, but that can then be dropped once again to create more room.

Creative Storage
There are places for storage everywhere; you just have to look harder for some than others. There are of course the more obvious closets and under-the-bed areas that work great for storage. But simple additions, like a spice rack to the inside of the cupboard door, a shoe racks on your closet doors or a turn table to awkward spaces can bring so much more space to your home.

Instead of having the awkward space between the cupboards and ceiling just gathering dust, add more cupboards or more shelving. Add shelving above the toilet that goes up to the celling to make use of wall space, and put double rods in closets for twice the hanging space.

Check for dark nooks and crannies that you can use. You may have to be inventive with the spaces available, but you can make them work. If you have an unused wall—and it’s allowed in your lease if you’re renting—take off the sheetrock, refinish the wall, and create in-wall shelving. These are especially handy behind open doors and other places that would otherwise be unusable.

Downsize Furniture
Huge furniture in a tiny room will only dwarf the room and make you feel even more cramped than you already are. Choose furniture that fits the scale of the room. Instead of one large coffee table, choose two smaller end tables. Instead of one big sofa, try a loveseat and a chair or two. Pick a flat screen TV if you can to save space. If you hang it on the wall instead of placing it in an entertainment center, it will open up even more floor space.

Pick a bed with a small headboard, as that can make the bedroom seem smaller, or have a headboard that doubles as shelving. If you go for the shelving option, you can even consider getting rid of your dresser to open up space. In your kitchen, pick small scale appliances—there are some fridges that take up no more floor space than the cupboards—and compact countertop appliances. If you can find appliances that serve more than one function, that’s even better.

Fool the Eye
There are ways to trick your eyes into thinking a space is bigger than it is. Glass is your friend with small spaces; a table with a glass top will blend into its surroundings and keep the eye moving. Mirrors and light-colored paint on the walls will reflect more light and create a bigger-looking space. Neutral and monochromatic furniture, floors, drapes, and walls also make space look larger, and you can include a pop of color with small accents to create focal points.

This might sound bland and boring, but will not only make the room seem larger, but will also camouflage odd angles or other oddities in the room. It will also make it easier to create seasonal changes, like dark orange throw pillows in the fall to red and green for Christmas. Just have fun with accents, textures, and wall art to let your personality shine through.

Follow these tips and watch as your space transforms from a cramped, crowded, cave to an open oasis for all who visit.

Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors and sharing her experiences with others through writing, which includes anything from Vancouver plumbers to local photographers.