Smart Advice from Small Space Dwellers… For All of Us

New Yorkers, thanks to the nature of the usual square footage of the housing stock in their wonderful city, have become experts at living well in small spaces. As we move into our month long look at solutions and ideas on just that topic, I've gathered some advice from some past NYC house tour participants that is wise and worth heeding, no matter what size your home is…

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Paul's Perfectly Suited Studio
• Paul lives in 350 square feet, in Manhattan
• Paul's Advice: As with many Manhattan studio apartments, space is an issue, so you should put an effort into investing in pieces that you truly love and that function for your needs. That way, you’re much more likely to enjoy having a piece 10 or 20 years from now. Once you’ve invested in these essential pieces, it’s easier to go back and make small changes. In studio spaces, those little changes can keep things interesting, and you might surprise yourself with how you can continue to improve your space with little effort or cost.

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Bill Goes All Black
• Bill lives in 350 square feet in Manhattan
• Bill's Advice: We have a rule that unless you can eat it, it does not come into the apartment. I don’t think most people realize just how much junk they accumulate in their lives that is weighing them down and is useless. If the show Hoarders teaches you only one thing, it should teach you that memories are not things.

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Rebecca Colors the White Box
• Rebecca lives in 553 square feet in Brooklyn
• Rebecca's Advice: Don’t buy the first thing you see. Bookmark it in your head and do research online. Ebay, Craigslist, and Google similar items. Sometimes with a little bit of research you can find a better resource, a lower price, or realize it’s not the right item for you. However, if you can’t stop thinking about it, get it!

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Roy's South-to-North Big Switch
• Roy lives in 570 square feet in Manhattan
• Roy's Advice: Go to bed early. Be willing to pay for ideas, not just products. Never use knockoffs and do not support the industry that produces them. Spend at least as much time on planning as on execution.

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Nicole's So Haute Home
• Nicole lives in 650 square feet in Harlem
• Nicole's Advice: Don't be afraid to mix things up! Nothing against chain stores but so many people tend to just go into a place like Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn and try to replicate a vignette in the store which can come across as a bit cookie cutter. There are so many amazing resources where you can find great pieces for your home. Try mixing up those chain store buys with a bit of vintage or combine different patterns. Your space will have so much more personality if you step outside the box.

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Ken's Mixed Media Dream House
• Ken lives in 570 square feet in Manhattan
• Ken's Advice: Spend years looking for the things you plan to live with for a long time. "Buy what you love."

Have any advice to share on living well, no matter what size your home is? We'd love to hear it in the comments…

Images: All from Apartment Therapy House Tours, as linked above

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Janel Laban is the Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy and has been working here, at the dreamiest of dream jobs, since March 2006.

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