Making small-space rooms do double duty
After being cooped up in your home for a YEAR, is it time for a refresh? Have you been staring at your four walls and realizing you need a change? Spring is the perfect time for this, no? If you live alone and have a small home, this is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. As a former Interior Designer I’ve had to come up with all sorts of creative solutions in order to give my clients what they want and need in the space that they have. I enjoyed working with my single women clients the most (of course!), but their projects did present special challenges. Usually it was how to get all the function they needed in their homes into smaller spaces than those of my couple-clients. Here’s the process I used with these clients, organized into 6 tips that you can use, too! Bring on the spring cleaning!
First, take stock
The first thing you need to do is take stock of the space you have. How many rooms are there, how big are they, and what are their purpose? Next, take stock of your needs. Even the smallest of spaces generally has a bedroom (or sleeping space), a bathroom, a kitchen, a living space and a dining space. You need a sleeping space, you need a bathroom and kitchen, and you need some sort of living space, but do you need a dining space? If you’re living alone, do you actually sit at a dining table for your meals or do you eat them off of the coffee table while sitting on the sofa watching TV? Be honest, and don’t worry, married people do this, too! Now, if you have people over for dinner a lot or out-of-town guests come to stay with you, then you probably do need a dining space even if you don’t use it on a regular basis. But if you really don’t need your dining room, that space can be repurposed to accommodate another need you have, like a home office or a space for your treadmill. Once you’ve taken stock of your rooms and your needs, you can start planning how to best utilize those small spaces.
6 tips for living alone in a small space
- Decide what functions need to take place in your home.
They might consist of the following: sleeping, bathing, cooking, watching TV, eating, working, working out, play space (for the kids), arts & crafts, hobbies, entertaining, storage. You may have others to add to this list. However you use your home, you’ll want to find space for each activity that you do on a regular basis, so be thorough with your list.
- Decide which rooms can do double duty.
If you have more functions than you have rooms, figure out if some of your rooms can be used for more than one function. Can you put a small desk in the corner of your bedroom, for example, and use it as an office, as well? A desk could go in the living room, too, and could even double as a console table behind the sofa. If you’ve decided you absolutely must have a dining table even though it only gets used a few times a year, can that table double as a desk or a hobby table in lieu of a separate office or craft space? Yes, you need a place to sleep, but do you also need a large home office? What if you converted your bedroom to an office and installed a murphy bed? A murphy bed could go in the living room, as well. Your dining room could be converted to an office, fitness room, play room or storage space. There are lots of ways to make your rooms do double duty when they need to.
- Get rid of clutter.
A surefire way to make your rooms look and feel less spacious is to stuff them full of… stuff! Time to get out the Goodwill box and start filling it up. I used to do home staging, where I brought in furniture and accessories to vacant homes that were on the market for sale. One of the biggest rules of staging is, less is more. Instead of cramming those vacant rooms full of huge furniture and loads of accessories, they were “lightly furnished and accessorized.” In order to make the homes feel open and airy, and the rooms feel larger, the furniture pieces were smaller than the rooms could actually accommodate and the accessories were scattered here and there. If you’re living in a small space, the same rule applies, so get rid of all the extra clutter and make your rooms feel larger!
- Choose your furniture well.
People tend to go to the furniture showroom, see a fabulous room grouping and think that it’s going to look that way in their home, too. Keep in mind that furniture showrooms have thousands of square feet and the room groupings in them look a lot smaller than they’re going to look in your home. Measure, measure, measure! We tend to buy furniture pieces that are way too big for the rooms we have or we buy too many pieces. Measure your rooms before you go to the furniture store and be realistic about what you need and what will fit, especially if you’re using your rooms for more than one function. Nothing makes a room look smaller than stuffing it full of too many huge pieces of furniture.
- Look for space-saving products.
There is a wealth of space saving ideas and products on the market. Some things get mounted to the ceiling and only pulled down when needed. Some things stash away under a staircase. Some are simply organizational in nature and let you operate with a less-is-more mentality. Check out space-saving options and employ the ones that will work for you.
If all else fails and you still have more stuff than you have space to accommodate it, consider offsite storage. You’ll pay a monthly fee, of course, but it could be worth your sanity. I have a lot of Christmas decorations and they take up a lot of space. I also have a basement to store them in, but if I didn’t, that’s something I could see putting in offsite storage. They could be picked up and dropped back off once a year.
There, I’ve armed you with a bunch of ideas on how to make the most of living alone in a small space. Now, take stock of your space and your needs, get rid of the clutter, add and rearrange until you get it right, and know that you don’t have to have a huge income or a huge house to live well!
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