Friday, August 24, 2012

Concepts For Small Space Living

Over the next few weeks we'll be discussing some strategies for managing and decorating the home that are specifically geared toward small space and budget-conscious living.

      Living in a small space does not have to be limiting or feel cramped. It simply takes a few key strategies to make the most of the available space. One goal that I've come to recognize that is central is to create a feel of permanence. An apartment or other similar type of residence has a temporary feel to it due to the frequency of moves that occur in and out of the units. So, aim to take ownership of the space by using materials that suggest it's yours and you're there to stay (at least for now). The following are a few tips & tricks I've learned along the way for making a small space more comfortable. Regardless of whether you are in a small house or a small apartment, there are suggestions applicable to any situation. 

 Create a More Permanent Feel

     This concept applies more to apartments or other typically temporary spaces than a small house. You want to create an atmosphere that strongly suggests that you are well established there and it is your home. While plastic drawer bins, inexpensive shelving units and brightly colored items are fun and functional, they are more appropriately used to organize closets or cabinets. To maintain storage in an open space, choose more solid materials like wicker or canvas baskets. If purchasing inexpensive furniture pieces like those made of particle board, then opt for the nicer versions of that material. There are in fact particle board furniture pieces that are barely recognizable as such. 

 Select and Arrange Furniture Carefully

     In general, you want to select pieces that are lightweight and slim. Large pieces of furniture can quickly overwhelm a space and make it look smaller. The exception is large pieces such as a sectional paired with few other pieces. The advantage of sectionals is that they can offer equal seating with less space requirement. You do have to be careful for the direction of the chaise if it is an "L" shaped piece and the overall size since these units typically are quite large. 
     Also, choose to have fewer pieces. You want to create a sense of space, and furniture that lines the walls will give the room a more enclosed feel. Traditionally, a living room set up includes a sofa and loveseat flanked by end tables with a coffee table in the center. This arrangement has a lot of pieces and can create a very boxed in feel to a room. Instead, consider using club chairs in place of the love seat. The chairs provide equal seating but offers more visual space surrounding them. 

      Don't be afraid to use a piece of furniture for other purposes than what is customary. For instance, we were given a dresser set that has been used to store towels and linens when our unit at the time didn't have storage space for such. It's currently being used in a closet to house our large kitchen items like the roasting pan, serving pans, and other non-everyday use kitchen items. Bookshelves can also be used in a variety of ways beyond storing books. A short bookshelf can serve as a coffee/tea drink service area in your dining room. A full size bookself can be used to store pantry items in clear labeled jars in the dining room when there isn't enough cabinet space in the kitchen. The decorative presentation of each is what makes them work well outside their usual places. 
    Lastly, look for multifunctional pieces such as an ottoman with storage or a sleeper sofa.

 Constantly Evaluate Your Possessions

    The more space available, the more stuff found to fill it. When you are working with a small space you must examine the necessity and priority of everything you bring home. Small space living is a great exercise in determining wants versus needs. I may want a closet full of clothing, but what I need is a few good pieces. This is not to say that you have to feel limited in what you can have. My husband still has his full drum set and I my craft table and shelves. You just have to choose what your priorities are and allow those to have presence in your home. Ask yourself "What is most important to us as individuals?" For my husband it is his drums and for me it is my crafts. Next, what is most important for you as a couple and to your vision for your home? For us, I think we would like a comfortable space in which we can relax and be ourselves, but also one that permits us to be focused elsewhere as well. In other words, as much as we enjoy our home we also enjoy being with people and participating in activities. It's much easier to do those things if we're not totally consumed with keeping and managing our stuff. 

 Use Textiles To Brighten Up White-walled Rooms

     One of the challenges of apartments is that they typically come with plain white walls. If you're going to live in the same unit for years, then you may choose to paint the walls. Keep in mind though that you'll have to paint them back to white when you do leave and that's a lot of work and money. Instead, use fabrics to add color to your place. It is remarkable the extent that pillows, bedding and curtains can transform a space. Curtains make a big impact in any room. In the bedroom, a bedding set sets the tone for the entire room. In the living room, it may be your couch or it may be your couch cushions. If you are working with a less than ideal couch, then add some different pillows or covers to see the piece in a different view. I had previously been hesitant to add curtains to my home because I considered the investment in the material and rods a risk for if we moved elsewhere. I thought on being stuck with needing additional rods and curtains for new window arrangements and being unable to find matches. My solution has been to do curtains and rods as a DIY project so that where ever we go we'll be able to duplicate the material or rods. (Look for tutorials on these coming up as part of this series!). 

Add a Little Life With Photos and Plants

     The first time I met my husband's family, I couldn't help but notice all the photos of friends and family displayed throughout the houses. Displaying photos portrays the resident to be fond of wonderful experiences and  the company of others in life. They add a tremendous amount of life and personality to a space! You can still have artwork, but a blend of the two says so much more about you. 
     Houseplants also add a sense of vitality to a space. Having plants has the added benefit of being natural air purifiers! If your home receives any sunlight, then a plant is a lovely addition. Furthermore, if you have a patio or balcony that receives sunlight, then consider a balcony garden. I have thoroughly enjoyed having all the greenery lining the railing of our balcony creating my own little oasis in an apartment complex. Having a little garden has a way of adding cheer to a day.  

Use Vertical Space

     There simply is not a lot of space to work with in an apartment or other similar residence. Therefore, vertical space is an asset. If you can't work out, then work up. If you have a free wall in your kitchen, then you can hang utensils on a bar with "S" hooks. You can also hang pots and pans on a special wall unit. Spices can be stored in the cabinet with a pull out shelving unit which takes up less space than the tiered shelves. Use sliding tiered basket units in your freezer or under your kitchen/bathroom cabinets to maximize storage space. If your unit doesn't have adequate space for a bookshelf, then consider a few floating shelves that attach to the wall. Anything that is collapsible or can stack is going to be helpful. 

 Clear the Clutter

    Ah, clutter. In a small space, disorganization and clutter can consume a room far faster than in a larger space. There just isn't room for such things, so get in the habit of picking up after yourself immediately. A rule of thumb is that the only things on the floor ought to be your furniture. Take care of anything that has been permitted to exist in piles on the floor or on furniture surfaces.
    Beyond actual clutter, there is also visual clutter in a space. Too many items on a wall, furniture surface or countertop creates visual cutter. The eye ought to be able to seamlessly pass over the objects in a room. When there are too many or they are in disorder the eye tends to stumble across and perceive the space as cluttered or chaotic. If you have an entertainment unit, then the top should be clear. Select just a few of your favorite pieces to display on your nightstand, endtables or coffee table. 
     In the kitchen, have only the items that are very heavy or that you use on a daily basis sitting out. The bathroom is similar in keeping only the essentials on the countertop. In both spaces, the countertops are typically fairly small in apartments and keeping the items stored on them to a minimum allows you to better utilize the surfaces when working. 

 Focus on Functionality

   Don't be afraid to invest in organizational bins, baskets, or other systems. One of my personal hurdles has been in investing in organization bins or other systems. I was always afraid of a system that works in my current space not working in future spaces. With careful selection of bins and systems this can be avoided. However, if it absolutely won't work later then these items are always on demand and can be easily sold at yard sales or in online ads. The important part to remember is that you have to be able to function in your space. It's hard to function in disorganization. 

Use hidden spaces for storage

    Space under the couches and bed are wonderful storage areas for items that you might not need very often. Use flat storage containers to keep items together and sealed. A slim container with gift wrap, bows, and cards can be slid under a sofa. Out of season clothing can be stored in several long and flat containers and stored under the bed. 
     The top of the kitchen cabinets can be used to store large serving platters, home canned goods, empty jars and supplies used for canning, paper products (napkins, plates, cups etc), baking supplies (cutters, liners etc), or extra food items purchased in bulk. Be careful with overloading them, though, because cabinets can fall. If you store heavy items like home canned foods or foods purchased in bulk, then limit the quantity to one to maybe two rows. If you're storing other items like the ones mentioned, then select a decorative basket or box and affix a label to the outside. Items can get greasy or dusty up there, so choose containers that seal or at least sealed containers inside of  decorative containers. Essentially, you want to use this area for storage without it looking like storage. Decorative jars or baskets allow the eye to smoothly move across the upper cabinet areas.

 Practice Hospitality
     You can still practice hospitality while in an apartment or other small space. Believe it or not, a home doesn't necessarily shrink when it's shared by many people. In fact, it seems to shrink when it becomes a place of solitude and confinement. The key here is to understand that you don't have to have everything for everyone. Also, for the items you do need choose compact or collapsible styles. If you have overnight guests, then a nice blow up mattress will suffice. When the weather is nice, move outdoors onto a patio. For that occasion, collapsible chairs can easily stored or set out for as many as needed. I've yet to receive an ungracious remark or have someone choose a hotel due to our collapsible style hospitality. I certainly don't believe that sharing your home with others has to be limited by the type of residence or arrangements. Hospitality is about relationships, after all, not necessarily proper entertaining. 

Other Posts in the Home Sweet Apartment Series:
Homemaking While Apartment Living: Part 1, Part 2

Linked up at: Homemaker By Choice, A Mama's Story, The Alabaster Jar, Homestead Revival, The Better Mom, Covered in Grace, Raising Arrows



  1. hi like the way u manage your space. thanks for sharing the tips.

    Collapsible Bulk Containers

  2. This is really helpful, sometimes we have this mind set that when you have a very limited space, you will not be able to make your place a small paradise... thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    perth removal

    1. Piper, I'm so glad you found it helpful! I agree in that it is about considering your space paradise and then creating within it from that notion. :)

  3. This blog is helping to mange the space in good manner.I am so glad to find this blog.
    Hospitality furniture


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