Backed Into a Small Corner | Tiny Home Hacks From a Design Expert

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During the fall of 2015, a sequence of events had me feeling like Dorothy in a tornado of change. This funnel cloud arose suddenly, and, due to its unforeseen nature, required rapid response, demanded quick decision making, and gobbled up all sorts of resources. 

First, my residence was swallowed up. Within a week, I needed to find my next home, pack up my current home, and relocate. It was a big deal considering I worked out of a home office. Luckily, the first place I visited —despite its tiny size —was a perfect fit for me and my 12-pound pup Charlie.

I aim to be a conscientious consumer: to buy thoughtfully, buy less, and buy better. I like investing in pieces that are strong and long-lasting, items that won’t generate waste in the future. After all, something worth owning now ought to be worth owning forever, even if ownership changes. But my ideals were confronted by both the pace of the move and the mandates of the new place. Though I wanted to keep every piece of furniture, rug, and lamp from my former residence, a few critical pieces just wouldn’t fit the scale of my new home or meet the demands of my new life. 

Small spaces require careful consideration; there is no room for extra anything. In order to maximize efficiency of both budget and space, while creating a beautiful and comfortable home, very real limitations may exist. I could have scoured every thrift store, vintage boutique, and estate sale for the next few months and not found pieces that met my parameters. There was not an extra week to spare waiting for next Sunday’s flea; no time to wait for the perfect item to appear on Chairish or Krrb. Nor was there an extra few hundred bucks in the piggy bank to buy the handmade, reclaimed and dovetailed dresser I had been dreaming of from my favorite local craftsman. I needed something "off the shelf", something ready-made, in stock, affordable and not an affront to all the values I hold dear. The trouble was, I rarely like those things aesthetically. If I do, the integrity of the product is often questionable. 

Sometimes change instantly requires your full acceptance, demands that you comply so you can find a new rhythm (or the way back to your old), as soon as possible. Sometimes you need to be easy on yourself. Go with the current. So I got to hacking… 


THE DRESSER

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Needs: Many drawers, very shallow and no greater than 34" in width. 
My Pick: I selected IKEA’s TARVA 5 drawer dresser in Solid Pine, knowing I would need to make an adjustment. I liked its simple design and construction in durable, natural material – solid untreated wood. Wood, though incredibly precious, is a renewable material. IKEA is not a beacon of environmental progressiveness, but at least they’re conscientious of their sources, currently purchasing all wood from legal sources and making strides to purchase all certified or reclaimed in the near future. 
Cost: $99 and flat-pack delivery.

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The Hack: The knobs that come with the piece are fine, but just that – fine. They are large, a bit oversized and, in my opinion, a bit childish looking. Because the IKEA Drawers are pre-drilled for the provided knobs, switching up the hardware was a piece-of- cake alteration that transformed the entire feel of the piece. I selected the mid century knobs in satin copper from the Portland based Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. These knobs are handcrafted in the USA using 95% recycled brass. Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. execute beautiful yet practical designs, display quality craftsmanship and urge those in their community to create meaningful spaces.


THE SHELVING

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Needs: Storage for books, an abundance of small, framed artwork, collections of old glass jars, minerals, feathers, bones, etc. Shelving to fill the entire wall. 

Limitations: There is a strange 12" bump out along the living room wall that would prevent any standing shelving unit from sitting flush with the wall.
My Pick: DIY. I needed to build shelving to fit my exact space. 
Components: A lot of reclaimed wood, 10 very affordable and durable brackets and hanging hardware.
Shelf Material: I sourced the wood from Eagle Rock Lumber & Hardware, a local supply store in Los Angeles, which I try to frequent over behemoth alternatives like Home Depot and Lowes. Upon request, the fellas there will cut the wood you purchase to the size you need.
Brackets: I wanted the line of the brackets to rise up along the wall rather than descend from the shelf surface. To lessen the visual impact, I wanted it to be white, and I needed it to look good! I settled on the EKBY LERBERG brackets from IKEA. The best part was they cost only $2 per bracket! 

These brackets are comprised of steel, a ferrous metal and incredibly durable material, which is highly recyclable if that service is available in your community. The metallurgical properties of steel allow it to be recycled continually from one product into another with no degradation in performance. I intend to keep these shelves for a long time to come, but should they not work in my next space or find a second owner, they can, as a last resort, be transformed into something else and avoid the landfill.

The Hack: In order to achieve the vision, I needed to use the brackets in an unconventional way. They were turned upside (180 degrees) and the wood of the shelving slid in between the confines of the bracket base rather than rest atop, as IKEA intended. 

 * * * 

 IKEA is a good example of large companies not necessarily focused on sustainable practices accepting corporate responsibility. They dedicate a large amount of money to positive climate change initiatives and are actively working towards 100% renewable energy (via solar panels and wind-turbines) to power their buildings and operations. I like that they’re committed to innovative and efficient transport, as they are aware of the huge part that transportation plays in the sustainability of securing treasures. They seem determined to lessen their impact on the planet through economy of resources. And their prices are accessible; leveling the playing field in the acquisition of decent design. To learn more visit here. 


Article by Kaitlin McHugh.
Photos by Devin Pedde.