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
Buying guide: Daybeds
A daybed is a wonderfully versatile piece of furniture to have in your home. Both functional and aesthetically pleasing it can help shape your space, making it more inviting and comfortable. Available for a myriad of price points and made in a variety of styles, a daybed will be a welcome addition to any room of your home. The following five tips will help you choose the best daybed for your space or show you how to make better use of the one you have.
1 The all-purpose daybed
One of the best features of a daybed is its incredible versatility. Placed in a living room, it's the perfect lounging chair for entertaining or cozy evenings and will then make a comfortable sleeping option for overnight guests. It also works wonders in a guest room or lobby area. A daybed is also the ideal piece to accessorize: add a few decorative pillows and a throw by day, and a colourful duvet cover for a good night's sleep.
Photo courtesy of West Elm.
4 Small space perfect
3 Creating spaces
One of the challenges of a large space can be figuring out how to arrange your furniture. A daybed is an easy piece to place and can help solve that issue. Showcase your daybed in the center of your room to act as a divider and create a more intimate feel. A daybed that feels light and open is ideal for that purpose.
Photo courtesy of Crate and Barrel.
A cabin in the woods becomes one family's dream vacation home.
One designer helps a B.C. couple achieve the vacation home of their dreams.
We didn’t have to knock down walls. We had to put them up – and that almost never happens,” says designer Dan Vickery on the transformation of this small cabin on Hornby Island, B.C. A project he took on as one of the hosts of W Network’s new show Love It or List It Vacation Homes, the cottage was far from complete. Homeowners Jim and Lauren Wolf (he’s a city planner, historian and author; she’s the executive director of a not-for-profit organization) purchased the 700-square-foot space on a whim in 2005, and for the next 10 years, the New Westminster, B.C., couple spent vacations lovingly updating and expanding the cabin to suit their family, which includes 16-year-old son Griffin, Felix the Jack Russell terrier and Loonie, “a fat and fussy ginger tomcat.” They raised the existing structure and set it on a new concrete foundation; flipped the blue-stained siding to reveal its natural cedar finish; and added an Arts and Crafts-style porch to suit the artist-populated island. And they didn’t stop there: Jim and Lauren continued to enlarge the cottage, incorporating a full kitchen, extending the main-floor master bedroom (“so it could actually fit a queen-sized bed,” he says) and building a second level for more bedrooms.
“Jim is an artist at heart,” says Dan. “And while he’s great at starting projects, he’s not so great at completing them. When I entered the scene, the only finished rooms were the kitchen, bathroom and living area.” But, Dan clarifies, the flooring was mismatched, and the bathroom had an exposed water heater at its centre. In addition, the master bedroom had no insulation, and the entire upstairs was built only to the studs. The challenge – made even more difficult by the fact that the island is three ferry rides from mainland B.C. – may seem daunting to most, but Dan was in his element. “This was a fun project,” he says. “We just had to fix some construction issues and put up some walls to define the upstairs bedrooms.” (Ha! “Just.”)
“The hardest part,” says Dan, “was hunting down unique items that would speak to the character of the cabin, its artful setting and, especially, Jim and Lauren themselves.” Of the couple’s established style, he adds: “Every part of this place has a story. There are pieces from different vintage shops they’ve visited or vacations they’ve taken. There’s a sense of love and warmth as soon as you walk in.” So to continue the welcoming atmosphere, Dan sourced a lot of items from the Free Store, a Hornby Island spot where people can adopt others’ donated goods and building materials at no cost. It’s where Dan located stuff like the sheet metal (used as a textured wall treatment in Griffin’s room) and salvaged barnboard (turned into a herringbone headboard in the master bedroom, not shown).
The strategy was a success, because when it came time for Jim and Lauren to decide whether they’d keep this freshly renovated cabin or buy a new place (the premise of the Love It or List It franchise), it was a no-brainer: “The other properties couldn’t match the sweat equity that we had already invested and would never have our history so entwined in every corner,” says Jim. “This cottage is a part of our family’s story.”
This cabin may be three ferry rides away from where Jim and Lauren Wolf reside in mainland B.C., but designer Dan Vickery brought the homeowners closer to their ideal vacation property than they could have dreamed.
“Sometimes all that’s needed to define the different areas of a great room is a little bit of extra breathing space in between,” says designer Dan Vickery of the small open-concept main floor that features a living room, dining area and kitchen. In a clever twist on tradition, Dan used a basket as a shade for the dining room pendant light.
The light-filled living room was one of the more finished areas of the cabin when Dan arrived on the scene. Apart from the flooring and a few blue accessories (“I love that the homeowners weren’t afraid of colour,” he says), almost everything else here stayed the same.
The mud room/ laundry room boasts a washer and dryer, open and closed storage and a bench for pulling shoes on and off. It even conceals the ugly water heater that was once exposed in the bathroom (just beyond that white door). “Since the area is open to the main living space, it had to look good,” says Dan. “The result demonstrates how design can be beautiful and functional at the same time.”
“If a client tells me they’re not afraid of colour, I’m going to give it to them,” says Dan, who incorporated bold hues, such as the rusty orange of the master bedroom’s tufted armchair, throughout the house.
The homeowners’ teenaged son, Griffin Wolf, was so thrilled to finally get a place of his own: Until now, his bedroom was just one big unfinished space. “There was no sense of privacy,” says Dan. “Griffin’s room was open to the living area below.” An old paddle offers creative wall art that’s perfectly fitting for Hornby Island, which attracts both artsy and sporty types.
Demarcated by new walls, Griffin’s bedroom is positioned behind this little loft area, which is open to the downstairs living room. The cheerful space features a lounger (not shown) that unfolds into a small bed for guests wanting to spend the night, as well as this tiny office nook for anyone who has extra work to complete.
While a shiplap-look treatment lends texture to three of the walls in Griffin’s new room, corrugated metal roofing provides interest on the fourth. “Colour is obviously critical to great design,” says Dan. “But every space should take a good black and white picture as well, because when you take colour out of the equation, texture is what’s left to analyze.”
How to: Paint outdoor furniture
When undertaking a DIY project, there are usually a few things to consider. Add tempermental weather to the list and suddenly that little list has multiplied. How do you prepare your furniture for painting? What type of paint do you use? How does it differ for different types of material?
Though the process of painting outdoor furniture may seem daunting now, the best way to go about a DIY job is to be prepared. We talked to an expert at Canadian Tire to do just that. Michael Bache, Category Business Manager at Canadian Tire, shares his prepping and painting how tos to help put your DIY nerves at ease.
1 What supplies will you need for prepping and painting?
Depending on the state of the furniture (e.g. new wood, old plastic, painted metal, painted wood) and the type of paint chosen, a variety of items should be considered.
If using brush-on paint, consider using a primer before applying a new fresh coat of colour. When priming your furniture, make sure to use a good quality paintbrush and rags or drop cloths for clean-up. However, if you're using Krylon® Fusion™ no primer is required.
If repainting a metal or wood surface that has loose peeling paint, it must be removed for best adhesion. You can use sandpaper, steel wool, wire brush, scraper, or a stripper. You may require a tack cloth to clean up dust residue when sanding. If sanding a latex paint, a simple damp rag will work just fine.
2 Do these steps differ when prepping different materials, such as metal, plastic, wicker or wood?
Yes. Some products don't require primer, saving you a prep step. Using an aerosol is a benefit, too, as you also save a step in the prep. It generally dries faster and doesn't require clean-up since no paint brushes are involved. Even better, aerosols tend to give a factory style, air brush finish when applied properly, as opposed to a brush-on paint.
Bare wood generally requires a primer to seal the wood prior to painting as the surface is porous. The primer is used to provide a nice, smooth finish. Krylon Dual saves a step on both bare wood and metal since it primes and paints in one easy step. This saves time and allows people to have more time enjoying their furniture and less time prepping it!
3 What type of paint should you use for outdoor furniture?
Always follow the directions on the label for specific product use. This will ensure proper adhesion to your surface.
Plastic patio furniture should only have a paint specifically designed to adhere to plastic and hard-to-bond surfaces. Many general purpose paints can adhere to most surfaces except plastic.
For wicker or rattan, spray paints tend to make a nicer finish and easily gets into the grooves. Muskoka chairs are also easier to paint when using an aerosol as opposed to a paint brush. Now there's even an aerosol wood stain by Krylon. Spray stains make fast work of Muskoka chairs and planters - no brushes to clean up either.
5 What about rust prevention?
Paint designed especially for metal surfaces tends to add rust protection into the paint - make sure the paint says "rust proofing" or "rust inhibiting".
As our climate changes, U.V. rays are also a consideration - they're hard on our skin and our exterior patio furniture! Some paints actually have U.V. protection in their paint. This will help protect your finish to resist harsh weather conditions. We suggest storing patio furniture during the fall and winter months when not in use. If space is a problem, a variety of covers and tarps are available to help protect your investment.
6 What are the best painting methods to use?
Much of this is personal preference. However, some surfaces, like wicker and rattan, have a nicer finish when sprayed versus brushing.
7 What kind of finish, if any, should you use?
Most paint companies offer a variety of finishes to choose from - satin, gloss, textured, metallic, hammered, and more. As long as you use an appropriate paint for your exterior surface and follow the instructions, you should achieve the finish you want. The really nice thing about the variety of paints and finishes available is that people can turn "garage sale finds" into treasures. Mixing and matching old and new creates a different and personalized patio set.
8 How many coats should you use
Follow the instructions on the can, however many paints suggest two coats. When painting remember this rule of thumb: Thinner coats are better than thicker coats. Thinner coats dry faster and produce a harder finish.
9 What should you look for in a brush?
Is it the right paint brush for your paint? Oil-based paints generally have different bristles than latex paints. The brush label will specify this.
Is the paint brush the right size to do your project? If you are painting furniture, smaller brushes may be better. Ensure it fits into your paint container.
A roller can be great for large flat surfaces, like a tabletop. This can help reduce brush marks, too!
10 How does climate affect the painting process?
Weather is a big factor. For the most part, if you're getting a sunburn and sweating, it's probably too hot to paint. This will cause the paint to dry too fast. If it's too windy and you're using an aerosol paint, your paint may dissipate before it reaches the surface. Either wait for the wind to die down or use cardboard to build a spray tunnel. Humidity can affect the paint's dry time, which leaves more time for surface imperfections to take place on your finish. In general, 21ºC and about 50% humidity are ideal conditions for painting.
12 Any last tips?
Remember to protect other surfaces if working outside by using masking tape and drop cloths. Most importantly, regardless of your project, remember to always read product labels thoroughly and follow directions.