Design and decor Out and about

Tips for small spaces

Earlier this month, I caught up with Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan at one of his speaking events. He founded the giant home and lifestyle blog Apartment Therapy. If you haven’t visited his website lately, you should! It’s been redesigned into an even sleeker inspiration destination. Maxwell brought some of that inspiration with him and shared his tips on how to create a home you’ll love. It was supposed to be 10 tips, but he let a few extras out! I’ll also reveal how I implement his tips in my own small space.

  1. Cook. According to Maxwell, Your home has good pheromones if you cook. Smells seep into the walls imparting warmth and homeyness, sure signs that a house is lived in. For those of us who are culinary adverse, take-out and delivery at home counts too. Invite people over more often. This will make you more attentive to the little niceties that make a house cosy for you and your guests.
  2. Don’t supersize. Reenergize. If you’re tired of a space, it’s probably due to the energy not the size. Rearrange your furniture to reenergize your rooms. I like to swap accessories and small furniture between rooms. It’s a fast and free way to revamp and lets you see your belongings in a new light. Copy an inspirational room you love. You’ll learn from it. When you do it yourself it starts to feel like home.
  3. Be negative. Instead of trying to fit everything into a room, try removing items and storing them out of sight. Actively design your negative space. Breathing room allows the eye to rest. I take my cue from high-end stores. They feel luxurious, because they display less and allow a ton of space for their merchandise. I also try to keep things off the floor and away from the walls to expose the base board. It gives you quite a few extra inches of visual space and makes it easier to clean.
  4. Light it up. Invest in good lamps. Bring visual interest with varied shade shapes or different colored bases. Floor lamps don’t need a table so they’re perfect for smaller spaces. Use a combination of table and floor lamps to give three points of lights that are below eye level. Our eyes are attracted to light, so they’ll move between each point making the room feel larger.
  5. Reflect on your space. Mirrors visually extend space and reflect light making your room feel bigger. If you have a table against a wall, mount a mirror behind it and place a table lamp in front of the mirror. You’ll double the light!
  6. Get unhinged. Remove doors from rooms that don’t need them like kitchens and living rooms. You’ll reclaim a lot of space and light. Replace closet doors with curtains and install a light inside, creating a faux window. This also forces you to be more organized, and you’ll be able to access the entire closet space.
  7. Concentrate. Gather all the pieces of your collections in one place. When you have multiples, it looks good. Create a space to honor your collections, and build around it, so it becomes a design moment. Maxwell had a client with a home full of baseball caps. He consolidated the hats hanging them all over the walls of the client’s closet. The hats changed from house clutter to display worthy collection.
  8. Stop it right there. Create a landing strip where you drop the stuff you bring from the outside world. Keys, wallets, umbrellas, coats, and cell phones aren’t necessarily homey. Prevent them from going further than your entry way and cluttering your home. Have a surface to put stuff, hooks to for hanging, a waste paper basket to dispose of things right away, and a charger to park your mobile device. This is also a great place to hang a mirror for more light and final crosschecks.
  9. Disarm. Opt for armless couches, ottomans, and furniture that can be accessed from any direction. I’m a big fan of ottomans and stools, because they function as tables and seating.
  10. Accessorize your kitchen. Make your kitchen welcoming and more usable by investing in nice kitchenware and storing them in plain sight. Hang pots and pans from hooks or pot racks. A nice chopping board can live on your counter top. I like to keep dishware and cutlery that I use daily right on the counter above the dishwasher. If you think you can keep your shelves organized, try removing the cabinet doors. It creates more visual space and makes it easier for guests to help themselves.
  11. Go big! Incorporate one or two oversized decorative elements in your bedroom like a decorative pillow or framed picture. It creates visual surprise that opens up the space tremendously. Check out Apartment Therapy’s post on oversized decor for photos of some examples.
  12. Get the spa feeling. Do little things to treat yourself. Use a nice cup to hold your toothbrush. Put a candle on the toilet. Store cotton swabs in a cute jar. Add more mirrors. Buy a nice shower curtain. It pays to splurge here, because it’s such a big part of the bathroom. Keep your bathroom clean. Put branded bathroom products into plain bottles to de-clutter the shower stall. I keep bottles that I like and just refill them. I also peel the labels off new bottles to get rid of distracting graphics.

Do you have a small home or room? What do you do for to enliven your small space?

3 replies on “Tips for small spaces”

I work in a field where I move often and am forced to rent small spaces. For my bedroom I’ve taken to traveling with some rustic wooden crates. They work great as a small bedside stand/bookshelf and double as a packing container when I move. I also love to stack some of my favorite books on the floor and arrange them so that they form another bedside stand. My bed is stripped down to just the boxframe and mattress, which makes my rooms feel much bigger than they really are.

Those are great tips, Muriel! Wooden crates add quite a bit of warmth and character, but more importantly they are multifunctional. Stacked book side tables hihgly personalizes your space. It’s very true that having a stripped down bed can make the room feel bigger. You can always add a simple bedskirt when you feel like it. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and share your tips!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *