Tips For Small Spaces

Think you need more square footage? Check out these tips for making the most of what you have and you just might change your mind.

ENLIST ROOMS FOR DOUBLE DUTY
Estimate how often you use each room in your home for its intended purpose, and turn the room that gets the least love into a multifunctional space.

MAKE THE MOST OF ‘FORGOTTEN SPACES’
If there’s a wasted corner, pass-through, nook or niche in your home, turn it into something functional. Add a slim table or wall-mounted countertop to that odd little space off the living room or the bedroom, and stash a set of roll-away drawers underneath for files and mount a few shelves above for books and other supplies. Voila – instant office nook. Likewise, consider giving purpose to the spaces beneath eaves or open stairwells, between window bays, along hallways and even inside closets.

CREATE ROOMS WITHIN ROOMS
Use rugs to define and unite different areas of a room, anchoring a seating arrangement with a large rug and setting off an adjoining dining area with a smaller one. Color and texture can also define a dining or work area within a larger room. You might paint the wall behind your living-room work zone an energizing lime green, for instance, and keep furnishings and other surfaces smooth and glossy. In the living area, use a more restful wall tone and cushier textures to invite relaxation and to indicate a subtle shift in function.

STRIVE FOR STYLISTIC UNITY
Stick to a unified vision for an entire room. A cohesive color palette, design style, wood tone or fabric can pull everything together and preserve a sense of spaciousness in a room that serves multiple functions. Look for furnishings that allow rooms to transition from one function to another: a coffee table that raises to dining height; a lidded ottoman that pulls quadruple duty as a coffee table, footrest, storage bench and extra seating; a shapely stool that also serves as a side table; a daybed or flip-down couch that functions as everyday seating and an occasional sleep spot.

THINK SMALL & SCALED BACK
Simple, modestly sized pieces leave more room for multiple zones than elaborate, oversize furnishings. Opt for a love seat with clean, modern lines coupled with a pair of compact armchairs instead of a mammoth sectional or a set of sofas with space-hogging rolled arms. Go for tables, bookshelves and other furnishings with slim, compact footprints, too.

USE YOUR WALL SPACE
Stretch bookcases, cabinets and open shelving to the ceiling to supersize storage space and visually enlarge a room without cutting into its footprint. Vertical storage also helps maximize floor space, so affix slender shelves or display cubes to walls instead of using floor-hogging furniture, and don’t overlook the storage potential above a door or a window, which can be a perfect spot for a substantial shelf.

BUILD IN FUNCTIONALITY
If you’re planning a kitchen remodel or are ready to spring for custom carpentry in another room, try to incorporate an integrated work surface or sleeping space into your plans. It can be something as simple as a deep shelf at table height that you can pop a laptop on and pull a chair up to, or it can be as elaborate as a built-in desk or sewing niche with drawers below and storage cabinets above.

DRESS UP UTILITARIAN FIXTURES & FURNISHINGS
Devise clever disguises for unsightly but essential fixtures such as a water heater, utility boxes, a washer and dryer or a mountain of computer equipment. Hang a homemade art canvas in front of an electrical panel or fuse box, or use a folding screen to cordon off a utility area. Hide the washer and dryer behind a curtain or a set of bi-fold doors. Or drape decorative cloths over office equipment in a guest room when visitors come to stay.

LIGHT THE WAY
Adequate and adaptable lighting for different activities in different areas is essential. In an all-in-one great room, for instance, the cooking, dining, work and relaxation areas should all have independent illumination in the form of overhead and accent lighting, along with task lighting where necessary. Put lights on dimmers so you have strong illumination when you need it and soft lighting when you want it.

DON’T BUY TOO SMALL
Just as you want to avoid furniture that’s massive and overstuffed, avoid furniture and accessories that are too small. Even in a tiny space, it’s important to consider functionality and good looks. To make a realistic furniture plan, use masking tape on the floor to lay out the ideal size of each piece, and then buy.

COMBAT CLUTTER WITH HIDDEN OR ATTRACTIVE STORAGE
If you’re lucky enough to have a closet or a pantry, invest in an organizing system that will use every available inch out of those spaces. If you’re not, spring for furniture that will house all your needed supplies in style. Coffee tables, ottoman pieces and other double-duty items offer hidden storage options. And attractive baskets, bins and cloth-covered boxes on shelves or in cubbies keep everyday supplies handy without adding visual clutter.

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