Essential Small-Space Living Tips

written by:
July 26, 2014
In our September 2014 issue, we feature compact homes from British Columbia to Los Angeles that make the most of their compact square footage. Here, some of the featured homeowners share their tried-and-tested tips for maximizing a small space.
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  "Light colors make [your space] feel more spacious and airy," says Macy Miller. Miller's compact home in Boise, Idaho, built for only $11,000, is featured in our September issue.

    "Light colors make [your space] feel more spacious and airy," says Macy Miller. Miller's compact home in Boise, Idaho, built for only $11,000, is featured in our September issue.

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  Miller's second tip: "Find storage in unusual spaces—between wall studs of a non-insulated interior wall for example, a rod under a shelf for hanging cups/towels, or storage in stairs which would otherwise be wasted space."

    Miller's second tip: "Find storage in unusual spaces—between wall studs of a non-insulated interior wall for example, a rod under a shelf for hanging cups/towels, or storage in stairs which would otherwise be wasted space."

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  "Windows with a view to the outside open up the space and make it feel much larger," Miller says.  Photo by: Roland HalbeCourtesy of: Roland Halbe

    "Windows with a view to the outside open up the space and make it feel much larger," Miller says.

    Photo by: Roland Halbe

    Courtesy of: Roland Halbe

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  "Skip cupboard storage at eye level, it makes a space feel tighter and more closed in," suggests Miller. "Open shelving reverses that and become usable storage."

    "Skip cupboard storage at eye level, it makes a space feel tighter and more closed in," suggests Miller. "Open shelving reverses that and become usable storage."

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  "Think of ways in which your space can suit multiple purposes," Miller adds. "My table is my desk, my sewing space, my drawing table, etc. You'll only be able to do one thing at a time, so make one space fit you and all of your needs."  Photo by: Raimund Koch

    "Think of ways in which your space can suit multiple purposes," Miller adds. "My table is my desk, my sewing space, my drawing table, etc. You'll only be able to do one thing at a time, so make one space fit you and all of your needs."

    Photo by: Raimund Koch

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  "Keep it clean—and more importantly, keep it neat," advises Karen Kiest, whose compact prefab cabin is featured in our September issue. "It’s easier to clean that it is to tidy. Things tend to pile up, and once that happens, the space turns into a series of clutters."  Photo by: Misty Keasler

    "Keep it clean—and more importantly, keep it neat," advises Karen Kiest, whose compact prefab cabin is featured in our September issue. "It’s easier to clean that it is to tidy. Things tend to pile up, and once that happens, the space turns into a series of clutters."

    Photo by: Misty Keasler

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  "I have been very careful to pare down the furniture requirements, and to make the few furnishings do double duty." Kiest says. "My dinner table is technically an outdoor table, and with the paired side table and chairs it’s easy to set up indoors or out."

    "I have been very careful to pare down the furniture requirements, and to make the few furnishings do double duty." Kiest says. "My dinner table is technically an outdoor table, and with the paired side table and chairs it’s easy to set up indoors or out."

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  "A deck doubles the size of a living space," Kiest says.

    "A deck doubles the size of a living space," Kiest says.

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  "Have a shed for storing stuff," Kiest says.  Photo by: Simon Devitt

    "Have a shed for storing stuff," Kiest says.

    Photo by: Simon Devitt

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  "Use light colored wood for floors," suggest Ned and Brenda Drew, whose New York City apartment is featured in our September issue.  "We chose to use Bamboo primarily because it’s environmentally friendly, but a major side benefit was that it opened up the space and made the apartment feel much larger than it really was."  Photo by: Matthew Williams

    "Use light colored wood for floors," suggest Ned and Brenda Drew, whose New York City apartment is featured in our September issue.  "We chose to use Bamboo primarily because it’s environmentally friendly, but a major side benefit was that it opened up the space and made the apartment feel much larger than it really was."

    Photo by: Matthew Williams

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  "White walls make a big difference," the Drews say. "By leaving the walls white and neutral we were able to create visual interest by hanging quirky or interesting artwork and personal mementos."  Photo by: Adam Friedberg

    "White walls make a big difference," the Drews say. "By leaving the walls white and neutral we were able to create visual interest by hanging quirky or interesting artwork and personal mementos."

    Photo by: Adam Friedberg

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  "'A place for everything, and everything in its place.' It sounds simple enough but this is probably the most important rule we have," the Drews say. "Making sure that things don’t pile up, putting them away as they come helps us avoid clutter and reduces the impression of a cramped space."  Photo by: David Engelhardt

    "'A place for everything, and everything in its place.' It sounds simple enough but this is probably the most important rule we have," the Drews say. "Making sure that things don’t pile up, putting them away as they come helps us avoid clutter and reduces the impression of a cramped space."

    Photo by: David Engelhardt

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  "Storage in ceiling—we were lucky in that we live on the top floor so our ceilings are taller than most," the Drews say. "We took advantage of this by converting space above the bathroom into storage. Also, our architects designed storage spaces above our closet and in the hallway."

    "Storage in ceiling—we were lucky in that we live on the top floor so our ceilings are taller than most," the Drews say. "We took advantage of this by converting space above the bathroom into storage. Also, our architects designed storage spaces above our closet and in the hallway."

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  Ruth True and her husband Bill own a converted garage in Washington that's featured in our September issue. Ruth says that "flexibility" is key in small spaces. "We love to have vintage folding chairs around."  Photo by: Andreas MeichsnerCourtesy of: ©Andreas Meichsner

    Ruth True and her husband Bill own a converted garage in Washington that's featured in our September issue. Ruth says that "flexibility" is key in small spaces. "We love to have vintage folding chairs around."

    Photo by: Andreas Meichsner

    Courtesy of: ©Andreas Meichsner

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  She also recommends creating "room for some movement." Avoid "trying to do more than the space can do," she says.  Photo by: David Allee

    She also recommends creating "room for some movement." Avoid "trying to do more than the space can do," she says.

    Photo by: David Allee

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  "Hidden beds in the floor are one of my favorite features of the garage," Ruth says.  Photo by: Ian Allen

    "Hidden beds in the floor are one of my favorite features of the garage," Ruth says.

    Photo by: Ian Allen

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  "Great lighting" is key according to Ruth. "LED strips are our new best friend!"  Photo by: Adam Friedberg

    "Great lighting" is key according to Ruth. "LED strips are our new best friend!"

    Photo by: Adam Friedberg

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  Another way to maximize a small space: "Large openings to the outdoors," Ruth says. "You can always expand into the outdoors!"  Photo by: Mark Mahaney

    Another way to maximize a small space: "Large openings to the outdoors," Ruth says. "You can always expand into the outdoors!"

    Photo by: Mark Mahaney

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