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 her 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 cozy 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 a stylist in Toronto who’s created living spaces for magazines and books.
Kyla Rozman, along with her business partner Pamela Ferrari, runs Vancouver-based organizing company In Order To Succeed.
THE FUNDAMENTALS FOR ANY SMALL SPACE:
1 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 also tuck mirrors into corners and hang art in glass frames, which reflect light. - Lynda
4 Ensure window coverings don’t shield 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 arranging 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. - Lynda
In the kitchen
6 Install to-the-ceiling cabinets.
Light-coloured cabinets, open shelves and glass-fronted 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 Use cork and magnetic boards.
If extra cabinets aren’t in your future, 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
8 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
9 Opt for a cleaning caddy.
Stock it 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. - Kyla
In the home office
10 Use a wall file system to organize documents.
This will get them off your work surface, but keep them visible and handy. - Kyla
11 Consider redesigned wall bed/shelf/desk combinations.
Any furnishing that folds into a wall is a brilliant space-saving solution. - Kyla
12 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. - Kyla
In the living room
13 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
14 Avoid bold patterns or overstuffed furniture with thick arms.
Streamlined pieces, such as armless Parson chairs, are beautiful space savers. - Lynda
In the bathroom
15 Do away with visual clutter.
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
16 Use pullout drawers in the cupboard below your sink.
These ones from Lee Valley are designed to accommodate plumbing. - Kyla
17 Hang shelves above the toilet.
Use decorative boxes on the shelves to contain 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
18 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
19 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
20 Go custom.
Made-to-measure closet systems can be affordable. Systems from Storables or The Container Store can be dismantled if you want to take them with you when you move. Kyla