Past Small Cool Winners Share Their Best Advice for Living in Small Spaces

Past Small Cool Winners Share Their Best Advice for Living in Small Spaces

Nancy Mitchell
May 29, 2015

The best place to get advice for small space living is from people who have actually been there. I've combed back through the archives of our annual Small Cool contest for the best advice from previous winners.

1. Work within the proportions of your space.
From Tiffany & Allan, our 2014 Small Cool Contest winners:

Proportions are key! We knew we didn't have a lot of space, so we learned to scale down. Instead of purchasing full size furniture we took pieces from a set, we chose smaller sized chairs, and saved our oversized items for the walls to highlight the vertical space, of which we luckily have ample amounts.

(Image credit: Jordan)

2. Make your furniture multi-task.
From Jordan, our 2011 contest winner:

There is one closet, in the living room, and one built in in the kitchen. Therefore, everything has drawers or shelves (side table, coffee table, bed, lockers, etc) . It took some creativity, but so far it's worked out wonderfully.

3. Paint your trim the same color as the walls.
From Emily, a finalist in our 2014 contest:

Trim painted the same color as the walls does wonders for the eye in a small room. It reduces all of the visual chaos so that you can keep focused on the decor.

4. Little details can make a big difference.
From Juan Pedro, a finalist in our 2014 contest:

For instance, use floor to ceiling drapery or vertical elements to give an illusion of height; and then use furnishings with legs, transparency and reflection to create an impression of spaciousness.

5. Supplement your existing storage with freestanding pieces (and maybe get a little creative).
From Beth, a finalist in our 2012 contest:

My 6'x2' closet is the only one in the whole house, and our kitchen has an eighth of the cupboards of our last place. But tricky things like this force you to get creative. So, we got my husband an IKEA wardrobe that somehow fits (along with our king bed) in the tiny bedroom, a barrister bookcase for dish storage, a small vintage hutch for the bathroom, all our spices and knives are magnetic, and I stash the vacuum behind one of the living room drapes.

(Image credit: Jess Watson)

6. When it comes to your furniture, think outside the box.
From Beth, a finalist in our 2010 contest:

My living room has a sliding glass book cabinet which houses books and also cleverly hides my flat screen TV behind a painting. A media/TV cabinet now houses my 'bar'. I switched out the TV and installed a large mirror inside, which makes the room feel expansive and elegant.

You can see more of Beth's 365 square foot Sausalito home in her house tour. And for even more small spaces (and great advice for small space living), head on over to the main page for this year's Small Cool Contest, which is underway right now.

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