A Happy Family of Six Shares a Colorful and Organized 675-Square-Foot Apartment

updated Nov 20, 2020
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Families come in all shapes and sizes, and they don’t even have to be the one you were born with. I firmly believe you can choose who you call “family.” If your type of family involves one or more kids, you know that fitting everyone into a small home is a particular challenge. This month at Apartment Therapy, I’ll be showcasing just that—families finding clever, beautiful, and inspiring ways to squeeze everyone (and everything) into a small space. From RVs to tiny homes to petite apartments, you’ll be able to see how real families organize, decorate, and inhabit real-life homes. This happy family of six lives in a colorful and organized 675-square-foot apartment.

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Jawaria Ansari has lived in this 675-square-foot Pittsburgh apartment for 18 years—a long time for any renter, but even more impressive when you consider how she’s been able to adapt the small space as her life has evolved. “I had just graduated from university, and moved from Florida to Pittsburgh for my post graduate studies. I needed something within my budget and with close access to public transportation,” explains Jawaria of how she ended up living in this space. “Soon my now husband followed suit and with time, our family grew and while we never planned to stay here for so long, here we are!”

For Jawaria and her family—husband Jibin and four children Zayn (almost 17), Sayf (14), Zoya (11), and Sophia (6)—part of the reason they’ve stayed in this apartment so long is because of where it’s situated. “The fact that we are located in the city has been a huge reason we enjoy this apartment,” she says. “Everything from parks, libraries, and restaurants are within a walking distance. The trolley runs in front of our building and the neighbors are kind and friendly.”

Jawaria admits that this is actually the first ever apartment she and her husband have lived in; prior to graduation they had always lived in dorms on campus! The whole rental space is an amazing example of how to continuously update and work on the home you have. The current layout configuration for the family has the children sharing the larger bedroom and Jawaria and Jibin sharing the smaller bedroom.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? This apartment has grown with us, and has gone through many evolutions to represent us in our present, as a family, but also as individuals. We like to see it as a cozy, comfortable space with grown-up elements, but with the whimsy of childhood. Over the course of our stay here, we have rearranged and created so many spaces and given this apartment a life of its own. In return it has taught us to be creative and grateful!

Here are some ideas which have worked for us: Our bookcases also serve as a TV unit and storage for tea sets, some glassware, and china. Our 6-year-old’s bed ends where her wardrobe begins. We used curtains instead of doors for her wardrobe for easy access and a few extra inches of space. A dining table serves as a desk in the children’s room and it turned out to be brilliant! All the kids’ toys are stored underneath their beds. Next to the entrance door is a nook and we put a shoe rack, which is taller than me! But luckily it holds all our shoes and fits nicely.

Describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Just as we grow and evolve in our lives, it only makes sense for our homes to do the same. Home decor is not meant to be completed for the next 20, 10, or even two years of your life. The idea is to feel comfortable and enjoy your home 100 percent in this moment of your life. If your home feels completely done for your current lifestyle, there is no point in thinking about the practicality or functionality of the setup in the long term. If you have objects which you love, they can be used in various places of your home as your style and needs evolve.

A year ago our apartment felt complete to me. Then the pandemic happened and as we speak, we are in the midst of reorganizing our apartment to adjust to homeschooling and working from home! Going with the flow and living in the moment become even more imminent when children are involved. One minute they will beg for a room based around Harry Potter and the next they will be asking for K-pop posters. Be flexible, allow and value everyone’s input, and create an environment that suits your aesthetic and everyone’s interests.

We used our kitchen walls to decorate with posters, knick-knacks, and artwork chosen and created by our children. The bathroom color was also chosen by our children. This way, the children had an input, and luckily the bright peachy orange coral color stays in the bathroom! 2020 in itself is a great reminder to be grateful and live in the present and appreciate even the tiniest space you have, as so many have absolutely nothing.

What’s the best thing about living in a small home with a family? While I can only speak for myself, for us living in a small home has been an incredible experience! Living in a small space has allowed us to see our children grow into loving, confident, and considerate humans. Our small apartment has pushed us out of our comfort zone and forced us to become more appreciative and creative. It’s more difficult to run away and hide in a smaller space and you’re forced to communicate. This forces us to work as a family while still understanding the individual needs of each person. 

I love the fact that I can hear my children from any corner of our home. I love listening to hushed whispers of naughty schemes and the loud laughter that follows often atrocious jokes when they ought to be asleep! I truly enjoy knowing them and their personalities. And all this I owe to our tiny apartment.

Small spaces can get messy quickly. However, once a system is established, it takes a few minutes to tidy up and only an hour or so for deep cleaning a small space. This leaves so much time to enjoy everything else! Involve your children in everything home related (cleaning, decorating, cooking, painting, making beds, organizing) from a young age. This will not only instill a sense of accomplishment, pride, and confidence in the children, but they will actually do the chores responsibly as a routine.

My advice for raising a family in a small space is to communicate often, live in the moment, be confident in your decisions and lifestyle choices, and change the layout of your furniture until it works for everyone. Make your space beautiful to your eyes, so you enjoy living in it. Oh and go outdoors every single day no matter the weather! That will make you appreciate your small home even more. And of course do wear a mask; the pandemic is real and still here!