Learn the tips & tricks to make the most of your small space.
Make your small space work harder with smart solutions for making it look and feel larger than it actually is.
“Every room has eight corners. Don’t forget that.”
I first heard that from my mom when I was a kid. Whenever we moved, about every other year, I’d hear her mutter those words when she thought she was alone. Standing with hands on hips, she’d stare into the ceiling of our latest apartment, surrounded by boxes and wondering how we’d organize all the books and plants and knick-knacks this time around.
My mom had a point (and she made our space look cosy and organized and funky no matter the size), but she was no design expert. So I found two pros to provide some insight on how to make the most of tight spots in your home.
Meet the experts
Lynda Felton is stylist in Toronto who’s created living spaces for magazines and books.
Kyla Rozman, along with her business partner Pamela Ferrari, runs Vancouver-based In Order To Succeed Professional Organizing.
THE FUNDAMENTALS FOR ANY SMALL SPACE
1 Remember: A tiny room doesn’t have to hold only tiny furniture.
Sometimes with a small space, people avoid large furniture thinking it will dominate the room. Not true. A large sectional can often be better than a small sofa and chair. Lynda
2 Combine like objects and purge.
Don’t purchase any organizing supplies until you know precisely what needs to be stored. Kyla
3 Use mirrors and glass to create reflections and bounce light around.
Making a small space seem grand depends on maximizing light. You can do that with a glass coffee table, rather than a wood or opaque one. You can do it by tucking mirrors into corners, and by hanging art in glass frames, which create reflections. Lynda
4 Ensure that window coverings don’t cut off light when they’re open.
Hang curtains so that when they’re open, the entire pane is clear; open curtains should fall beside the window and not obscure any of it. Don’t hang curtains inside the window frame. Consider hanging curtains from the ceiling, rather than from the top of the window, which will add height (and some drama) to the space. Lynda
5 Think vertically.
Whether you’re hanging art or shelves, or placing furniture, don’t let vertical space go to waste. Using it is practical, providing a display space for art, for example, and it also draws the eye up, making a space feel more expansive than it actually is. LyndaROOM-BY-ROOM SPECIFICS
In the kitchen
6 Install to-the-ceiling cabinets.
Light-coloured cabinets, open shelves and glass-front doors will help to lighten a space. Too many cabinets, especially made of dark materials, will give the impression that the room is much smaller than it actually is. Lynda
7 Increase accessibility and capacity.
You can do this by adding pullout shelves, rotating inserts and tilt-out bins. Kyla
8 Use cork and magnetic boards.
If new or more cabinets aren’t in your future or your budget, remember that canisters on the counter take up valuable real estate. So cast your eye up to see where you can hang utensils, pots and pans on previously unused space. Lynda
9 Buy wire shelves.
They’re a must in a small space and in the kitchen they can almost double a cupboard’s capacity. Kyla
10 Use the inside of cupboard doors.
If covered with magnetic paint, they can accommodate papers and notes that might get knocked off a fridge in a small space. Lynda
11 Fill a cleaning caddy with supplies that can be stored in the kitchen, but transported around the house. This eliminates the need for cleaning supplies in multiple rooms, like the basement and bathroom, saving space in each. KylaIn the home office
12 Use a wall file system to organize documents.
This will get them off your work surface, but keep them visible and handy. Kyla
13 Consider redesigned wall bed/shelf/desk combinations.
The bed and desk fold into the wall leaving the room clear when you need the space. They also work well in a spare bedroom. Kyla
14 Move all CDs and DVDs into books with sleeves.
I love the faux leather ones at Staples. Then you can dispose of the space-consuming plastic jewel cases. Kyla
15 Don’t throw your coins in a jar.
Buy plastic coin holders that lay open and drop your coins into the appropriate sleeve. You’ll save hours because you’ll never have to sort again. Kyla
16 Get a paper shredder.
And in a small space, make it a habit to shred as soon as mail comes in. That way, there’s no backlog. KylaIn the living room
17 Watch your furniture scale.
You can make a compact room feel much bigger by choosing a few large, bold pieces rather than several smaller ones. And keep the main furnishings in proportion to each other. Lynda
18 Avoid bold patterns or overstuffed furniture with thick arms.
Streamlined pieces, such as armless Parson chairs, are beautiful space savers. Lynda
19 Hang your flat screen TV on a flexible arm.
This eliminates the need for a TV stand or entertainment unit. KylaIn the bathroom
20 Get rid of any visual obstructions.
Trade a frosted-glass bath or shower door for a clear glass one. Better yet, eliminate the door altogether and hang a shower curtain that can be pushed to one side when not in use. Lynda
21 Use pullout drawers in the cupboard below your sink.
These ones from Lee Valley are designed to accommodate plumbing. Kyla
22 Hang shelves above the toilet.
Use decorative boxes on the shelves to contain/hide the clutter. Label the boxes so that everything is easy to find, or so that everyone in the household can have their own box. Kyla
In the hallway and closet
23 Wallpaper isn’t just on-trend. It’s practical, too.
In narrow hallways, wallpaper can draw the eye away from the length of the space and create the illusion of width. Just remember: a small space isn't a place for high-contrast colour or patterns. Go for tone-on-tone papers. Lynda
24 Work the lateral space.
By adding a second rod inside a closet, you can double your hanging space. Hanging cubby shelves attached to the rod can add space for sweaters, shoes and hats. Lynda
25 Go custom.
Made-to-measure closet systems can be affordable. And systems from Storables or the Container Store can be dismantled if you want to take them with you when you move. Kyla
Surprise your favourite caffeine-loving friend or family member with one of these great gift ideas.
Whether they enjoy a morning coffee or an afternoon tea, the caffeine lover on your holiday list is sure to appreciate any of these great gifts. With a wide range of items to help them brew the perfect cuppa, they’ll be happily sipping all holiday season.
This beautiful matte black French press will not only brew delicious coffee, but will also look great displayed on a kitchen counter. Ceramic French Press, CB2, $36.95.
Celebrate the holiday season with a collection of festive tea flavours. This limited edition collection includes tasty teas like Chocolate Covered Almond, Apple Cider and Coffee Cake. Warm & Cozy Gift Box, DavidsTea, $28.
This beautiful stoneware canister will ensure your favourite coffee stay fresh to the last scoop. Also available in styles for storing tea, they'll look great in any kitchen. Utility Kitchen Canister, West Elm, $19 - $39.
Designed exclusively for CB2 by SAIC student Hyunsong Melody Lee, this stackable porcelain teapot and cup will make every stylish sip feel special. SAIC tea for one, CB2, $29.95.
With the ability to brew 18 drink varieties directly from your smart device, the GranBaristo Avanti will ensure everyone in your home is sipping happy this holiday season. SAECO GRANBaristo Avanti, Hudson's Bay, $2,999.
Brew your tea to perfection with the Breville One-Touch tea maker. Not only can it brew tea at five different temperature settings, it also allows you to adjust brew strength between mild, medium and strong. Breville One-Touch tea maker, Williams-Sonoma, $369.
Coffee isn't jusst for drinking. Enjoy a spa-like experience with this luxurious scrub. The scrub's fair trade coffee will improve elasticity while polishing and exfoliating dry, tired skin. Palermo Body Scrub, Anthropologie, $44 USD.
Looking for something festive to add to a tea-themed gift? You can't go wrong with this adorable tea infuser. Gingerbread Man Tea Infuser, Crate & Barrel, $7.95.
You can never have too many mugs, especially when they're as fun as Indigo's Canadian-themed collection. Available for each province, they'll make a great gift for anyone on your list. Canada mug, Indigo, $12.
With flavours like White Chocolate Peppermint and Gingerbread this set of deliciously decadent loose-leaf teas is the perfect treat. Season's Treatings Dessert Tea Sampler, TEAVANA, $40.
Turn your budding barista into a latte artist with the Creatista Plus. Combining Nespresso coffee quality with Breville's stunning design and steam wand technology this machine allows users to create their own latte art at home. NESPRESSO Breville Creatista Plus Coffee Machine, Hudson's Bay, $799.
Enjoy some rest and relaxation over the holidays with Tub Tea. Simply steep this soothing blend of chamomile, mint and Epsom salts in hot water and then add it into a warm bath. Unwind Tub Tea, BRIKA, $16.
Try at your own risk! Said to be the world's strongest coffee, it'll give your caffeine crazed friend or family member a buzz like no other and revolutionize their coffee-drinking experience. Death Wish Coffee, Death Wish Coffee Co., $19.99.
With a wide variety of sayings, these hand-stamped vintage spoons will be the perfect addition to afternoon tea. Hand stamped tea spoon, Milk & Honey Luxuries on Etsy, $24.98.
Anyone who loves iced coffee (even in the winter) will love Hario’s Fretta V60 ice coffee maker. Remove the ice holder and it can also be used to make hot brew at home. Hario Ice Coffee Maker, Indigo, $35.
When brewing loose leaf tea it's important to have the proper tools. Williams-Sonoma makes brewing tea at home easy with the Ultimate Tea Maker's Set. No matter the mug size, you'll enjoy a properly infused tea each time. Ultimate Tea Maker's Set, Williams-Sonoma, $66.43.
What better way to display your love of coffee than with a gorgeous print! Simple and chic, it's perfect for hanging anywhere in the home. But First, Coffee Print, Swell Made Co., $28.
Any tea fanatic knows a good cup of tea starts with a great kettle. Not only is this Le Creuset kettle eye-catching, it also has an innovative heating base compatible with all cooking surfaces, even induction. Classic Whistling Kettle, Le Creuset, $80.
These delectable milk and dark chocolate treats are filled with a coffee-flavoured centre, making them the perfect treat for any coffee lover. Mocha Melties, Purdys Chocolatier, $14.50.
We can't forget about matcha! This kit has everything you need to make perfect matcha every time. The Matcha Essentials, DavidsTea, $35.
Any owner of the Chemex Coffee Maker will adore its matching cream and sugar set. Making it the perfect present for someone who's already got his or her go-to brewer. Chemex Cream and Sugar Set, Crate & Barrel, $54.95.
Enjoying your beverage on-the-go just got a stylish update with the Nespresso limited edition Festive Les Collection Touch Travel Mug by Lorenzo Petrantoni. Festive Les Collection Touch Travel Mug, Nespresso, $32.
Hosting a holiday high tea? Then you'll want to serve these tea-infused treats. They're great for enjoying with friends, or wrapping up as a holiday gift. Find the recipe here.
Not only is this elephant-shaped mug adorable, it also features a tiny compartment to place your tea bag after you're done brewing. Plum & Bow Elephant Tea Mug, Urban Outfitters, $16.
Winter weather means stocking up on hand cream. Why not gift your tea lover with this all-vegan hand cream infused with one of DavidsTea's most popular tea. Forever Nuts Tea-Infused Hand Cream, DavidsTea, $6.
lead image: Crate & Barrel
Tour the set: Grace and Frankie
One of the showstopper rooms of the series, the kitchen in Grace and Frankie’s beach house is a space that dreams are made of. With a giant butcher’s block island, industrial lights and dusty navy hues contrasted against rich creams, it’s the perfect kitchen for a seaside getaway.
Moving into the beach house living room, the set designers have brought together the best of the show’s two design styles. Slipcovered chairs and wicker furniture give the space a beachy, relaxed vibe, whilst the cream panelled walls and rich wood flooring speak to the traditional style of the Hanson’s San Diego home.
Grabbing inspiration from California’s natural landscape, the beach house dining room combines the blues of the ocean, the whites of the sand and the rustic look of raw driftwood. Recreate a tranquil space in your own home by mixing earthy tones with creamy neutrals and sourcing reclaimed furniture.
The den just off the beach house’s kitchen and dining space continues with the muted, natural hues and beachy decor, adding a pop of colour and pattern in the chair fabric. A rope-coiled orb chandelier and netted glass lamp add a nautical touch, whilst the California shutters and French doors blur the lines between indoors and out.
One look at the Hanson dining room and you know this is where many a stylish dinner party goes down. With rich jewel tones in the wallpaper and dining chairs, contrasting cream wainscoting, beautiful brass sconces and an oriental rug underfoot, this dining room is the perfect example of a traditional space with a classic edge.
Robert and Sol’s well-designed bedroom is proof that masculine decor doesn’t have to equal dark and drab. Whilst the coffee-coloured leather headboard is a staple of masculine decor, the bronze wall sconces offer a sophisticated bedside lighting solution and the graphic wallpaper introduces pattern without adding femininity.
The kitchen off the living room in the Hanson’s San Diego pad is another example of how the set designers of Grace and Frankie marry the beach house look with a more traditional decor. Monochrome walls that bleed into the raftered ceiling and farmhouse cabinetry are contrasted against the Hollywood Regency styleof the living room, with its brass ‘n’ glass furniture, velvety fabrics and classic wingback chair.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.