The apartment was only about 700 square feet, if that. After we moved in, I realized how small the place was after vacuuming for the first time. “Honey, I only have to use one outlet to vacuum the whole place!” I said smiling.
It was funny, but then again, it wasn’t. Of course I would have liked to live in a bigger place, of course I would’ve liked to have our own little house, but we had made the frugal/prudent decision to downgrade after our move from California a few months earlier had been very costly (over $5,000).
I was not working at that point because I refused to put my baby into daycare and pay for someone less qualified than me to raise my boy, and my husband had to establish himself in Westchester and find work.
But I was determined to make our little “castle” — as Don called the apartment through clenched teeth — a nice, homey place we would feel comfortable in. I love decorating and like the challenge to make the most out of small spaces.
Here are a few of my tips on maximizing a small home’s potential:
1: Give rooms several functions.
The apartment had two very small bedrooms and one bigger one, but I decided to make the bigger room the office/eating area. We were barely able to put our queen bed into one of the bedrooms, it was that small, but that freed up more room to roam around during the day. And as a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t care about the bedroom being big — I wanted more space for Landon and me during the day. I had to work with the smallest bedroom imaginable, but that was okay.
We also compromised in the living room, where we set up Landon’s large playpen, which took up half the room. Sticking it into the other small bedroom, which was holding his crib (which he never slept in since we co-sleep), his changing table, and Don’s clothes wasn’t an option.
2: Buy smaller-scaled furniture so it doesn’t overwhelm the rooms.
Thankfully, we had a very simple queen bed from Ikea, no fancy or large bed frame, otherwise we would not have been able to fit it into the small bedroom. Our desks are small, so we could fit two into the office. Our coffee table and lightweight sofa are not huge either, and we just have a small table that our medium-sized TV sits on. Having all this smaller-scale furniture was very helpful during the move and when moving everything into the new place. You can always buy larger furniture pieces in the future.
3: Buy multi-functional furniture pieces that can be adjusted and made smaller or bigger.
I have this great little table from Ikea that can be a half-round side table you can put against a wall or be converted into a bigger table four people can eat from. So most of the time, when we don’t have company, we use it as the table for our keys, etc., which frees up space for Landon to run around.
Our coffee table in the living room doubles as a storage space after I put two storage ottomans under it (see picture). They hide a lot of Landon’s toys and also double as seats/tables when we have guests. I bought two more of these black ottomans at Target that are sitting next to the bookshelf and also hold toys. Landon can open them easily when he looks for toys, the toys are neatly put away when he doesn’t play with them, and I gained four more seats for company.
4: Get creative with storage containers.
I’m a big fan of all kinds of boxes, wicker baskets, shoe and clothes hanging units, etc. I use one of those shoe holder you hang on the inside of doors to hold hats and scarves, etc., in the hallway closet and one in L’s closet for all kinds of little things that get lost otherwise or that I don’t want L to be able to reach. I bought them for $2.50 each at Target. They are actually not deep enough for shoes, but they are working fine for my purposes.
Ikea sells these really pretty, inexpensive large boxes for under the bed, and I use them to store seasonal clothes and blankets under the bed.
We own a lot of books and therefore need a lot of bookshelves. I use one shelf of most of our bookcases to hold pretty boxes or containers. This breaks up the display of the book and makes them look more interesting, but I also use the added storage space for all kinds of things. I currently store all of my extra sunglasses in one basket in one of the bookshelves.
Just make sure your child/children cannot reach the basket/box, as they will surely want to investigate its contents. Or dedicate one of the baskets/boxes on the lover shelves to your child; you can make it a game for them by periodically putting their favorite or long-forgotten toys in there for them to discover. (Make sure you childproof bookcases — you can buy special hooks for them, otherwise the whole bookcase might come down on your child if he or she can climb.)
I hope these tips help you to decorate and organize your home, big or small, and make it a place you enjoy spending time in.