The Secrets Behind Great Small Spaces

The Secrets Behind Great Small Spaces

Cambria Bold
Nov 30, 2010

Everyone has a bit of a different take on small space living: it's all about purging your stuff. No, it's all about organizing your stuff. Wait, it's all about storing your stuff! But one thing is for sure: you know an amazing small space when you see it. Small spaces are king on Re-Nest. Yes, we love them for their lower energy and heating bills, and yes, we love them because they force us to edit, organize, and reduce our accumulation of stuff. But most of all we love them because they can be so frickin' cool...

A well-done small space is like a cheerfully uttered expletive to all the overstuffed McMansions claiming bigger is better. We will take your style and raise you ten, thank you very much! But the question is... how do you do it? How do you take a standard small space apartment and turn it into something beautiful and functional, the type of place that elicits endless praise and adulation from adoring friends and Re-Nest readers? Let's take a look at a few small spaces from the archives for some ideas.

1. Don't be afraid of drama. Going bold in a small room (a bathroom, for example) gives the eye something else to focus on. Think rich paint colors, or floor to ceiling artwork.

2. Use every nook and cranny. The corner space you see above by the stairs could have been left to the radiator that was its only occupant. But instead, the owner turned it into a mini landing strip, with a floating shelf, large picture, and ottoman.

3. A place for everything and everything in its place. This kitchen set-up kind of blew my mind the first time I saw it. Yes, it's a bit OCD, but it's so functional! This photo is actually a four-punch small space strategy: open shelving, vertical storage, complete organization, and the ability to assess immediately what you don't need or don't have space for.

4. Get off the ground. Every piece of furniture in the photo above has legs that lift it off the ground. This idea works particularly well in small spaces because air (or negative space) provides the visual illusion of spaciousness.

5. Install hooks. Hooks are inexpensive, take up no space, and keep things off tables, counters, and floors. Hang them anywhere.

6. Install wall-mounted shelves. Almost all successful small spaces we've seen have at least one wall-mounted shelf, which frees up floor space and makes use of vertical wall space.

7. Bring in as much natural light as possible. Don't weigh small space windows down with heavy curtains. Let the light in. It does more for brightening and enlarging a space than almost anything else.

8. Use multi-functional furniture. 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— a storage bed, a dining table/office desk, a sleeper sofa.

9. Work with large artwork or groupings. A large piece of artwork or an extended grouping of art keeps things visually interesting.


Above all else, great small space homes exemplify a critical eye. Purchase things carefully and infrequently. Focus on heirloom-quality, durable pieces, even if you have to save up for them. Declutter, and be ruthless. Don't spend your money on things or trends that don't fit you. Buy and keep only what you need and love.

(Images: 1. Robert Wright/Re-Nest; 2. Apartment Therapy; 3. Decor8 via Re-Nest; 4. Dwell; 5. Apartment Therapy; 6. Liz Vidyarthi/Re-Nest; 7. Apartment Therapy; 8. Robert Wright/Re-Nest; 9. Apartment Therapy and Ann Manubay, Dabney Frake/Apartment Therapy)

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