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
Learn how to use everyday materials to create playful winter decorations.
Pull out the string, tape, paper and scissors – with a little creativity, these everyday materials can be transformed into decorations that bring to life a whimsical winter wonderland.
1 Wallpaper: Craft your very own snowfall with these pretty avant-garde snowflakes made by accordion-folding white craft paper into pinwheels and snipping with scissors. Add in one or two bold-hued pinwheels for impact.
2 Wrap stars: A tableau of gifts dressed up in white wrapping will lend an ethereal effect both under your tree and around your home. And don’t skimp on the ribbon – let it trail delicately from the presents in long sweeping curls.
3 Advent honours: Forget brown paper pack- ages – these sweet gift bags embellished with paper cut-outs and “sewn” up with string make a fun Advent calendar. Numbered paper hearts on the ends of the ties indicate the days.
4 Bow beautiful: Rethink the ubiquitous holiday bows this year by making your own signature snowflake gift adornments using white craft paper and scissors. Use contrasting string to attach these beauties to your parcels.
5 Liner notes: Who knew simple white paper muffin tin liners could create such pretty towering trees? Stack them in different sizes and heights for a veritable frost-kissed forest.
6 Branching out: Paper roses have nothing on these fragile flowers made from twists of white tissue. Easy to make and elegant to behold, this simple arrangement is a pure nod to winter.
7 Ball game: Few things are as satisfying as decking your halls with homemade ornaments. These delicate spheres are a cinch to make with strips of craft paper and string. Display them on your table, tree or mantel, or send them off with visitors as take-home treats after a holiday soiree.
8 Clever covers: Dinner guests will love these adorable covers made by cutting patterns into accordion-folded lengths of paper and securing them around drinking glasses with tree candle clips.
9 Snowy settings: Create the perfect holiday table covering by cutting snowflake patterns into a white paper runner. Continue the effect: Use similar stencils to powder the festive treats you serve.
Photography courtesy of Andreas Hoernisch/Living4Media
Learn how to properly de-ice your outdoor steps and walkways.
This winter, transform your outdoor steps and walkway from slippery to safe with these helpful de-icing tips and tricks.
Problem: Icy walkway
1 To remove the bulk of the ice, chip away at it using a long-handled ice chipper. The one you normally use for your car will work just fine. The ice will be thinnest at the edges, so start there, working inward.
2 If any ice is too persistent to loosen with the chipper, melt it using boiled water. Just be sure to have an absorbent rag at the ready to wipe up the water immediately after. The last thing you want is for it to refreeze and add to your workload. Wear thick rubber gloves to avoid scalding your skin.
3 Ultimately, when it comes to ice build-up, the best defence is a good offence. In the future, to prevent snow from melting down and forming into ice, ensure your your walkways are shovelled regularly. To make the work less back-breaking, explore your local hardware store for an ergonomic shovel.
If a bargain-sized bag of ice melter or traction aid is cramping the style of your front entrance, try placing it in an elegant lidded plastic storage bin like the Berkshire from Mayne ( Lowe’s, $178), which looks like an architectural feature. Keep a wood-handled scoop inside it for easy dispensing.
Illustration courtesy of Joanna Kim
Hold the salt
Rock salt has negative environmental and health effects that can’t be ignored. Try these green alternatives for fast slip-proofing.
(From top to bottom)
A volcanic mineral that provides instant grip for your soles, even in freezing rain. Traction aid, EcoTraction, $13.
Pooch-approved and stops new ice from forming for days with an invisible barrier. Safe Paw Ice melter, Pet Valu, $17.
A greener option from a trusted brand. Sifto Safe Step Ice melter, Canadian Tire, $8.
House tour: A traditional red and white Christmas
A festive candy cane-coloured Christmas palette was easy to integrate into the cottage’s existing neutral decor. Red and white drapes and toss cushions were installed in the living room for the holidays and are easily swapped out at the end of the season.
In the living room, a fir Christmas tree is adorned with red and white decorations – many are heirlooms – along with a few rustic ones, which create a look that’s traditional but not fussy.
Stacy reveals that there’s always a fire crackling during the winter season. The original brick fireplace is embellished with a simple garland, matching wreath and, of course, a pair of stockings hung by the chimney with care.
The gifts are wrapped in a similar scheme, using stripes, polka dots, checks and kraft paper.
A craft nook is the ideal spot for a present-wrapping station – complete with Christmas tunes playing in the background. Cedar wreaths are hung from the door frame with long lengths of shiny red ribbon.
A spacious, light-filled kitchen is especially useful at Christmas. “There’s always someone cooking up something delicious in here during the holidays,” says Stacy. She added casters to a small table to create the movable kitchen island, which provides extra countertop.
The family enjoys a traditional Christmas dinner at the dining table, set with natural touches including linen table runners, seasonal place cards, wooden tea light holders and pots, mini birch logs and potted rosemary plants (which resemble petite evergreens).
Personalized place settings make dinnertime feel extra special. Clippings of fir with name tags tied to them are seasonally appropriate.
One of the five bedrooms shows off the classic festive scheme used throughout the cottage. A grey and white checkered duvet set is paired with plenty of cozy linens as well as a woolly red Hudson’s Bay blanket.
The bright entryway houses warm jackets, scarves and waterproof boots for hours of outdoor fun – meaning no frostbite for Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg and her family. During their Christmas vacation at the cottage, the Begg clan enjoys taking post-prandial walks, sledding and going for leisurely skates on Ontario’s picturesque Lake Simcoe.