10 tips for small spaces

i love small spaces. i think in part this is due to my minimalist bent, as well as my desire to have less things to clean/maintain/care for. it's also the trade off a lot of us make in order to live a more urban lifestyle, with restaurants, retail and entertainment within a short walk. however, living in a small space can also bring some degree of discomfort--being organized is essential, as is making the most of any and all storage space that you have available (ie you need to be strategic before going bonkers at costco). it also means thinking about your lifestyle and how your home functions. living in a shoebox requires strategy--here are my best tips for making a small space work for you:

  1. think outside the box. always good advice right? what i mean by this is that it's good to consider your level of comfort over the designated areas of your home. sometimes this means turning your living room into your bedroom for a more spacious, relaxed environment or converting your closet into a tucked away workspace. think beyond the designated spaces into how you would like the space to function. when you take away the barriers of "clothes go in the closet" or "my bed doesn't belong in the living room" it can open up new possibilities that make your life insanely better. 
  2. consider how your home functions. do you frequently entertain? how many guests would you like to have over at once? or is your space more of your own private retreat? do you work from home or spend a lot of time at your computer? maybe your an avid home cook or are frequently following along to yoga podcasts in the comfort of you living room? perhaps you have frequent houseguests? recognizing the core functions of how you use (or would like to use) your home are key to creating an environment that fits your lifestyle. one of the top home design mistakes that people make are failing to recognize how they want the space to function. 
  3. be selective. this applies to homes big and small, but is especially imperative in small spaces. buy only items that you love or need, preferably both. it's worth considering working with a designer even for small spaces because they can help you select hard-working pieces that can run double duty and still bring a smile to your face each time you sink down into your perfect sofa or peruse your well-ordered closet. regardless, being choosey is an essential element to decorating a small home. 
  4. purge. this is a hard one for a lot of people. if you live in small space, your life will be a lot better when you get rid of the items (regardless of how much they cost!) that annoy you on a daily basis. you're probably thinking of an item right now--it's likely one you spent a lot on (whatever that threshold is for you) and it somehow didn't work out as planned. maybe you got it on sale--it wasn't exactly what you wanted but you felt you could "make it work." it's called a sunken cost and it times to remove it from your life and your home. it may be an appliance, a piece of furniture or a piece of art. donate it to a good cause and move on.
  5. mix high and low. each room should have at least one little touch of luxury. i like to think of small spaces as jewel boxes: it may be small, but it should be beautiful. your touch of luxury can vary greatly in terms of price--you could choose something like a cashmere throw to a piece by a local artist or perhaps your luxe item is as simple as a pretty vase filled with your favorite flower. it's guaranteed to make you happy and elevate each room. 
  6. curate vignettes. choose a few key spaces where you can create beautiful arrangements that delight the eye. this could be on your coffee table, on a shelf or even in your closet. creating these detailed spaces builds a sense of depth and thoughtfulness into even the tiniest space. i personally like to have at least a few of these areas (like the coffee table) able to swing into a second use and have found that trays make it nearly effortless to convert my coffee table vignette into a working space for tea or cocktails as the occasion demands--or takeout as the case may be. 
  7. don't be afraid of making a grand statement. the disclaimer to this is that you should make one, maybe two grand statements and leave it at that or you may be on the verge of going from spectacular to spastic. so if you want dramatic, billowing silk drapes to frame your prettiest window, go for it! or maybe you want a piano, or a huge sculpture or a brightly patterned wallpaper? all smiled upon, just do it strategically. it's all about implementation and finding balance that pleases your eye and complements your lifestyle. 
  8. consider your storage needs. as silly as it sounds, everyone has incredibly different and personal relationships with their storage. some people need lots of storage for various reasons, hobbies or preferences, while others need very little to no storage. i'm personally always in the process of cleaning things out and hate to have too much in hiding. my ultimate goal is to someday achieve a no storage or next to no storage home...which may or may not be realistic. after you've already done a good purging, make a list of the types of items you need to account for in storage, whether it's kitchen supplies, clothing, kid's toys, or the like. what items can you display and which need to be kept under wraps? creating set systems and distinct spaces for each category can make items easier to find and far more likely to actually be used. 
  9. organization is super important. said someone who is type a to a fault. one thing i've discovered is that making labels just for the sake of making labels is not all that helpful or a very good way to spend your time. organization really only matters if it is functional. meaning, pair like with like, be consistent and try not too reorganized every few weeks or else you'll always hear your partner or roommate asking you where things are all the time. not fun. 
  10. throw out conventional wisdom. you may very well not need that "apartment-sized" sofa. sometimes going big is a good thing, even in a small space. if you're going it alone in terms of design, it's rather obvious, but worthwhile to state that measuring matters before any major furniture purchase. i also find it helpful to get some painters tape and mark out the size of the outline on the floor to get a better idea for how the space might flow with the new item. it's also helpful to think in terms of flexible furniture that could live in more than one spot in your home--rearranging is usually fun and sometimes essential. your home is really a living, breathing thing in some ways: you may adopt a dog, have a child or simply want to entertain on a more regular basis. choose pieces that can make the transition with you.

so there you have it--my best tips for making a small space work for you. whether you're working to design a better dorm room, condo, rental apartment or a tiny house, we'd love to hear from you--share your best tips with us in the comments!