Small spaces offer a range of challenges and come in a variety of shapes.
From the graduate exchanging home for a dorm room (and usually sharing it) to studio and efficiency apartment dwellers, cottage or bungalow inhabitants, growing families who are searching for a method to accommodate the changing needs of their family, anyone attempting to find a space for their home office and anyone who lives in a city where space is at a premium with a price tag to match; all of you share this challenge.
A castle does not have to have palatial space to feel like a palace.
Dorm Rooms present a special set of issues. You have one room the size of a typical bedroom that must become the ‘home space’ for two people, include a place to quietly study, relax, enjoy some privacy and provide enough storage for all the ‘stuff’ young people deem as vital to their happiness. (This includes clothes, shoes, computers, TV’s and everything that applies.)
While many dorm rooms come equipped with some basic furniture they rarely work towards creating a home away from home as they imply.
If you are lucky enough to have a good relationship with your room mate, things can get a lot better very affordably.
Shop thrift stores, Craigslist (Under the ‘For Sale’ section of Craigslist you will find a Free section. This has postings for ‘curb alerts’ and will allow you to relieve someone of their goods for the price of your gas to pick it up, and that’s all) and any other options you can locate. This is a temporary living arrangement; keep your cash for the lean times and get creative!
Put out a BOLO (Be on the lookout for) space saving twin pedestal beds. They take up the same space as the cot you are provided with and offer 6 wide drawers below the bed for expanded storage.
Even if the beds have to be pushed against the wall, you can use the unavailable side for seasonal storage and the important ‘stuff’ you acquire.
Look for inexpensive open, short shelving units and place them on the closet floor. These will keep spare books, sweaters and jeans easily accessible and leaves the top rod for hanging clothes. Install inexpensive hanging shoe organizers on the interior of the doors.
Search for used night stands that have three drawers. This is not the time or space for the open look. If you do this you will eliminate the need for dressers and open space for one important piece. A desk armoire provides much needed desk space, built in lighting to study, a place for all of your computer and class book storage and, the all important and must have TV. You can close the door and your room is neat; your area privacy is protected when you’ve finished your work.
Check out the rules on painting your room. If it is permissible, do it! Take a long look at your windows. Adding soft long drapes adds privacy, texture and creates a cozy feeling. They also keep out unwanted natural light when you plan to sleep in! Find complimentary bedding and throw pillows and thick cushy rugs to complete your theme.
Add neutral lamps to the nightstands or opt for wall sconces by the beds to allow each of you the opportunity to sleep without unwanted lights interfering and your tiny, cramped dorm room will become a true haven away from home.
If you have a roommate who is agreeable you will have fun locating these pieces and redecorating. Even the reluctant roommate may have a different attitude when they see your results!
Studio Apartments consist of one room that accommodates the living and sleeping areas and if you are lucky, a full or partial wall separating the kitchen; and one bath.
Take a moment to review the Dorm Room suggestions to make the most of acquiring storage in your apartment.
You may find a ‘Murphy bed’ (a fold out bed that appears as a narrow wall unit when closed) is built into the space. If so, it’s a great way to get rid of the sleeping area when you’re not using it.
If not, you can use the same shopping methods described above to find a used one if you cannot afford a new one.
In lieu of the Murphy bed, a futon is inexpensive, serves as a sofa and folds out to a bed for sleeping. All of these are good space saving options to consider.
Smaller apartment size tables for your living room will allow you to create a spacious feeling in your home. Look for end tables that can double as night stands with three drawers if possible. These will provide storage for clothing and lingerie while serving as end tables during the daytime.
Large, thick wool rugs create a sumptuous and homey feeling in the room and add texture. Look for light, neutral colors to increase the feeling of space. This also adds a visual break point separating your living area from your dining area.
The dining area is probably small, but looking for a way to separate it from your living area will make you feel like it’s a special area and not an intrusion into the living space.
Look for a small buffet or entry table to place against the end wall. This adds storage for dining linens and anything else you may need. Again, look for drawers! More is better.
Hang a mirror, a special picture or something simple and large above the buffet. Mirrors make the space feel larger.
Once you determine your personal style, look for a 36″ table with chairs that slide under the table. This frees up walking space when you are not dining. If you have space for a small tree beside the buffet you will find that it provides a complete separation of the area visually.
Lastly, go to Habitat for Humanity thrift store, consignment stores or any other option where you can locate a gorgeous light to hang above your table. Nothing says an area is special quite so much as the light you grace that space with.
Top your table with a simple and special centerpiece and your eating area is now a dining area that you will love to entertain in.
The kitchen is usually a galley style that has limited floor space. If a microwave is not included in your apartment look for a small one and hang it under a cabinet. Counter space is critical in galley kitchens.
If you have any available space, look for a rolling cart that doubles as a chopping block/prep area and has storage below. You can move it when you’re using it and store it out of the way when you’re not preparing or cooking food. Use substantial size baskets on the shelf below to store vegetables and fruits.
The keep it simple method will make you feel much less cramped in smaller kitchens. Orderly cabinets increase storage space; clean countertops allow you to use the limited space for food preparation.
Your bath area is likely to be compact. If so, look around. Is there an area to hang a decorative cabinet and increase storage? If so, find one! The biggest challenge in a studio apartment is find a place for the things you require to be comfortable.
If you have a Burlington Coat Factory or Tuesday Morning store near you, they are worth checking out for shower curtains and inexpensive and attractive storage and organizing options.
A cloth shower curtain will create a warm and cozy feeling even in a small bath area. Thick towels on the towel bars say ‘this is my home.’ Some things are worth splurging on and I firmly believe these two items are on the top of the list.
Explore the window coverings and paint options described in the Dorm Room section and apply it to your studio apartment if possible.
Efficiency Apartments typically offer a combined living and dining area, a kitchen, separate bedroom and a bath.
Take a moment to review the suggestions in the Dorm Rooms and Studio Apartment sections as they all apply except the sleeping area. You are fortunate to have a completely separate bedroom.
Your bedroom should feel special. You are sharing living and dining spaces; take the time to look for possibilities in your bedroom.
I love to use chandeliers with dimmer switches in bedrooms. You can find really beautiful small chandeliers inexpensively if you shop with the methods we have been discussing in the previous sections.
If that idea does not interest you, look for a really attractive ceiling fan and use the bedside lamps for lighting.
Limit your bed size to a queen unless you have a really large space. Using apartment size furnishings or scaling down the number of pieces in the room will make a dramatic difference in how your room feels.
Paint if possible. Find ‘the’ color and shade that provides the look and feel you want in your private space. Add texture with rugs, window coverings (hang from the top of the wall rather than the top of the window to make the space feel much larger) throw pillows and plants and top it off with bedding that compliments your other selections.
Take a good look at the living room space and the bedroom space and see which best supports a small computer armoire to create your home office.
Your living area will benefit from a TV that hangs on the wall or a narrow media cabinet that increases storage if you do not add the computer armoire.
You may want to explore adding an apartment size sectional sofa. These can create a break from the dining room and living room and still provide an open and spacious feeling while adding seating.
Cottages and Bungalows are actually smaller versions of a typical home. Space planning is more important than ever to achieve a homey, un-cramped feeling.
Eliminate clutter wherever you are able to; clutter is the chief offender of small spaces.
Cottages or Bungalows
Simple, smooth lines will benefit the feeling of spaciousness in your cottage. Sometimes the mere thought of a ‘cottage or bungalow’ conjures a vision of a Victorian space complete with curly cues on the lamps and curtains replacing cabinet doors. Lose that image!
Cottages benefit from the Seaside and Country Cottage designs that combine soft colors, upholstered furnishings with clean lines and double duty tables in the living room and dining areas.
All of the ideas presented in the ‘Dorm Room’ sections apply in small spaces. Visit the Efficiency Apartments section to enhance those ides to cover dining and kitchen solutions.
Most of all enjoy the homey and comfortable atmosphere that is gained from a small space! It makes a large statement if you capture the charm and make it yours.