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Living Big in a Small Space – Crow's Nest Cottage – Board & Vellum

Interior Design

How To Live Big in a Small Space

Do you live in a small space? (Or, do you have small spaces in your larger home?) There are all sorts of things you can do to maximize small spaces, to help them “live larger” so-to-speak, so you don’t feel cramped. Here are seven tips to keep in mind.

February 5, 2019

Quick tips for maximizing small living spaces.

Seattle is booming! While we may live amongst old growth forests, the growth we’re experiencing is relatively new. And, this isn’t just a trend in our Emerald city — cities across the world are experiencing an increase in density. As urban areas continue to expand, the spaces we live in become tinier and tinier. So, how do we live comfortably in a tinier space? How do we make these smaller square footages feel like home? Here are some quick tips for maximizing your tiny space!

Think Vertically

Flexible Built-In Furniture – Small Space Solutions – Board & Vellum

What your space may lack in square footage you can make up in what you can do with your walls! Bookcases, shelving, and wall-mounted furniture — such as murphy beds and drop down tables — are great ways to maximize your storage options. We love the idea of multi-function built-ins, as these can also create some architectural interest in your space.

Light, Bright, and Open

Crow's Nest Cottage – City Cottage – Board &  Vellum Interior Design FF&E
Playful Details

A blackboard above a fold-down desk adds a whimsical, interactive feature that lends a fun, nostalgic feel to the space. Crow’s Nest Cottage | Photo by Andrew Giammarco.

Now I’m not saying to have bare white walls that make your space feel like an institutional cell, but having more white walls does give the illusion of more space. White reflects light, which helps to make a space seem larger than it actually is. Some ways to add that bright white into a space without having blah and bare walls is through materials such as tile, shiplap siding, and casework.

Sliding and Pocket Doors

Under the Eaves – Second Story Remodel – Hall with exposed brick chimney and barn doors.
Under the Eaves

Under the Eaves | Photo by Wendy Waltz.

Door swings take up a lot of clearance, and that is space lost! Pocket and barn doors give back that floor space while still allowing for lockable privacy. These type of doors are also a great way to divide a space, closing off larger spaces into more private areas, if need be. Plus you can really get creative with these doors, making them into more of a design feature than just a basic functional element.

Small Scale Furniture

Crow's Nest Cottage – City Cottage – Board &  Vellum Interior Design FF&E
Main Stay

The lower level functions as the day-to-day common space and is complete with large windows and a door that leads to the patio for optimal indoor-outdoor connections. Crow’s Nest Cottage | Photo by Andrew Giammarco.

Heavy pieces — such as large sectionals, club chairs, and canopy beds — tend to be overwhelming in a small space, visually taking up more space, even if the dimensions are the right size. Furniture with slim legs and negative space — such as many midcentury pieces — give the illusion of more space, thanks to their open frames.

Floating Bathrooms

Ten Tips For Designing a Great Small Bathroom – Board & Vellum

The same rule of heavy furniture applies to casework. Floating vanities with space underneath help to give the illusion of more space by balancing the positive and negative spaces of the wall. To further maximize square footage in your bathroom, we recommend wall-hung toilets. This can save you around a foot of space with the water tank hidden in the wall. (Here's a bit more on designing for small bathrooms.)

Furniture with Storage

Backyard Reading Retreat – Board & Vellum
Wallpapered Secret

The wallpapered ceiling is hiding a little secret: a built in, invisible sound system, allowing visitors to listen to their favorite tunes while curled up with a good book, the sound simply falling out of the ceiling overhead. Backyard Reading Retreat | Photo by Andrew Giammarco.

Even though chests, trunks, and armoires take up a lot of space visually, sometimes these items are needed if you have too much stuff and not enough storage. As with the vertical storage, we love the idea of built-ins. Take for example this reading nook bench. It’s a perfect place for some under-seat storage.

Less is More

Refresh on the Ravine – Remodel on a Steep Slope – Board & Vellum
Refresh on the Ravine

Photo by Travis Peterson.

Paraphrasing from the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one way to make a small space feel bigger is to not cram it with stuff. Now I know, Minimalism isn’t a design trend for everyone, but there is something to be said about our society and the amount of sh*t we accumulate. The amount of stuff we acquire may not seem like a big deal at first, but slowly, overtime, we build up our squirrel nests of stuff until one day we pause and ask ourselves, “How the hell did I end up with all this crap?” This is true in many cases, but trust me, when you live in 500 (or less) square feet of space, it becomes a daily mantra, as having even a little clutter can make the whole room feel like a tornado came through a hoarder’s home. A cluttered home = a cluttered mind.

A good set of questions to ask when accessing the ‘stuff’ in your life is:

  1. When was the last time I used this?
  2. Do I really need this?
  3. Does this bring joy and completion into my life?

Doing a purge and reevaluation of the items in your life can not only make your space feel better, but it in return can benefit your wellbeing on a psychological level.

Live big in your small space!

You don't have to follow all these recommendations, of course. Pick the ones that work for you, and if you're working with a designer, bring it up, we are always happy to help. And, hey, even in large houses, there are small spaces within that can benefit.

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