My home was converted from a garage into a house sometime after the 1906 earthquake. The ground level fits a car, storage shelves, laundry, and a little bit of space for a workshop. It's hard to find all that for a reasonable price in San Francisco. The second floor was divided up into three (three!) rooms, accessed through a tunnel-like enclosed stairwell. Now, with an open stairwell and one large room, it’s lighter and more welcoming. I've enjoyed doing the finish work myself, including the built-in desk and more storage under the window seat and in the entry. Everything feels like it has its place now, and I come home to a place that feels truly "mine."
I'm lucky to live in the Mission District in SF—grocers, butchers, bakeries, and a public library are within a ten-minute walk. Books go back to the library instead of piling up, and I can pick up fresh ingredients for dinner on my way home. It's easier to live in a small space when everything around you is so convenient.
Three of My Best Tips and Tricks for Creating a Successful Small Space::
1. Pick low furniture. Everybody says it, and it's true. Better placement of low-profile seating can define areas, and as long as you keep your bed made, you can get used to looking at it.
2. Don't let your refrigerator define your living space. When I settled on an under-counter fridge and freezer drawers, it opened up so many possibilities, and I gained an office area. Even choosing a standard height, counter-depth fridge reduces visual and spacial impact. Appliances are weird status symbols anyway.
3. Trust your gut. Planning is important to a small space, but at some point, you have to pick up the paint roller (or, depending on your lease, the sledgehammer.) Pick the dark color everybody tells you not to. Buy the weird chair at the flea market and see how it looks. Nobody ever compliments a boring apartment. Paint is cheap. Chairs can be sold again.