Small Space Lessons: Floorplan & Solutions from Ryan & Alana's Gut Renovation

I didn't notice the title on this 550-square-foot entry from 2013's Small Cool Contest, and assumed the fireplace, bead board, chandelier, and shelving were all original, and that Ryan and Alana had gotten very lucky. Not lucky, it turns out, just blessed with an incredible knack for renovation...

I dream of stumbling upon a home with this much Old World charm and high quality materials — it never occurred to me that you could make your home look like this. Every inch of this place has been done so tastefully, and with such a light hand, the only clue that everything isn't original is that it's all in such pristine condition. In that way, Ryan and Alana's apartment is truly the best of both worlds: the character of an old home without the wear-and-tear that can happen over a hundred years. And they got to choose all the materials themselves, which is a huge advantage.

I adore their choice of dark bead board for the ceilings of the dining room and kitchen. In the original comments, Alana wrote, "And the ceiling is indeed stained bead board (affordable!)", which was a pleasant surprise to me. I would never have guessed that such an elegant, refined element could possibly be affordable, and have filed the idea away for future use. The stain they picked was brilliant, as I can imagine that there are probably a million stains out there that wouldn't have been nearly as effective, and probably another million that would have looked horrible.

A savvy commenter also pointed out that the white walls/dark ceiling combination in these rooms is flipped in the living room, to great effect. In such a small place this stylistic choice keeps things unified, while clearly defining different spaces.

This teeny-tiny bathroom is amazing, and it captures so much of what I love about this home. Ryan and Alana have chosen a few elements to be used consistently throughout, and the bathroom is a super-concentrated dose of two of them: dark wood and tiny tiles.

The dark wood of the sink surround, bathmat, door, and toilet lid can also be found in the dining room shelf and window trim; the kitchen door, countertop, table, stools, shelving, and trim; and the living room bookcase, ceiling detailing, and doorway. It is such a rich yet understated material, keeping things aesthetically clean while adding gravitas.

The tiny tile also makes an appearance in the kitchen backsplash, its petite proportions preventing it from overwhelming the small space. It performs the same function in the bathroom, but there's wonderfully so much of it, it's almost transformed into sequins or confetti or something similarly sparkling. The tile, like the dark wood, is totally timeless without being the least bit dull or predictable.

Beyond revealing the existence of an office, the floorplan gives us a sense of how the rooms flow together. The living room, dining room, and kitchen all appear to be about the same size, creating an elegant L-shape section that proceeds from most formal to least formal. After the kitchen comes the bathroom, followed by the home's private spaces. I really appreciate this layout as well as the fact that the bedroom's (image #4) dimensions have been kept modest to allow the other lovely rooms to have their due.

Of all the Small Space Lessons homes I've covered so far, this is the one that suits me the best. It's given me so many ideas, and even better — so many ideas that might actually be doable. Thanks a million, Ryan and Alana!

(Image credits: Apartment Therapy)