By virtue of its theme (small spaces), Apartment Therapy's 2011 Small Cool contest already has a lot of green cred. By choosing to live smaller and simpler, you're forced to consider everything you buy and bring into your home: Do you love it? Do you need it? How can you use what you already have? We went through all the amazing submissions so far, and we came up with four eco-friendly tips that these small spaces teach us, as well as 12 inspiring examples:
First of all, never underestimate the power of secondhand. Though many of the homes this year don't overtly claim to be eco-friendly residences, the fact of the matter is that the large majority got their furniture and accessories from secondhand sources like Craigslist, eBay, thrift stores, antique shops and fairs, even the street. Not everything was vintage either; for some it was simply more cost-effective to buy a used sofa than it was to buy it new.
Secondly, never underestimate the power of a good DIY. We saw a number of excellent DIYs— custom shelving (for a fraction of what it would have cost purchased from a store), curtain room dividers, revamped street finds.
Thirdly, never underestimate the power of double-duty design. The best way to maximize a small amount of space usually involves making one thing serve two or three purposes. This is not only small design, but it's sustainable design. The more multi-functional a piece is, the less you'll have to buy or bring in to your home. Be smart and simple.
And finally, never underestimate the value of living with what you love. For many people living small meant seriously considering their belongings and what had real value. A number of homeowners focused on high-quality, heirloom pieces—things that had been in their family, something picked up while traveling, one iconic and expensive piece— and though it may have cost more up-front, it will last for years.
Here are 12 ideas we can glean from this year's Small, Cool entrants:
1. DIY Your Own Space-Saving Shelves: To maximize space, this couple DIY'ed their own built-in shelves, and hung the bike on the wall. (More floor space!)
2. Consider Every Purchase: This homeowner said it perfectly when she wrote that the "path of purging the unnecessary eventually led to us adopting a greener lifestyle, asking before every purchase, "Do I love it? Do I need it? Will I use it?" Great recommendations for us all.
3. Buy Local: The focal point of this living room is the wool recliner, which was locally custom crafted specifically for the owner.
4. Utilize Every Square Inch: Small space appliances and furniture tucked into available corners make this 180 square feet home work.
5. Get a View Into Nature: Sometimes a space doesn't feel so small when you have views of the beautiful outdoors. Or as this homeowner says, "It makes living in such a small space feel larger than it is and allows all the wonders of nature to be witnessed from every room."
6. Be Innovative With Your Materials: An old coffee table? A vintage barn door found and refinished? Combine the two and you have a whole new piece of furniture.
7. Grow Something. Anything! Anywhere: there is no need to lament the lack of a back yard. Even a small terrace can be home to an herb garden.
8. Furnish Slowly: This homeowner wrote that after moving in, he had to resist the strong urge to try to complete his home all at once. By being patient and deliberate in his purchases, he was able to pull from a wider range of sources and inspirations, find specific pieces that worked for the space, and save a lot of money.
9. Create Space For Relaxing: A swinging hammock chair clipped into the ceiling creates a mini getaway within the home, the perfect place for reading books in the sun.
11. Reuse and Salvage: This salvaged shelf is made of an old shutter and door.
12. Do Double Duty: This apartment features a DIY pivoting industrial shelf unit for the closet in the living room that doubles as both storage and an entertainment center. It holds not only the TV on a pivoting wall mount but also the surround sound receiver and DVD player, laptops, office supplies, and folding bikes.