When I talk about small spaces on Re-Nest, I'm usually singing their praises: Efficient! Minimal! Carbon light! Inspirational! But if I'm being totally honest, every once in a while the exasperated imp inside me pipes out her real opinion: Cramped! Limiting! Frustrating! The fact is that a large majority of people live in tiny spaces not because they choose to, but because they can't afford anything larger. And it doesn't have to be McMansion large; even a few extra feet can mean the difference between carrying a sofa up the stairs into your 2nd floor apartment, or having to haul it in through the window. (Wait, you haven't heard that story? Oh, it's a good one... if by "good" I mean totally traumatizing and the very best example of why I should never be in charge of measuring anything ever again.)
So how do you avoid those vexing spacial problems—mattresses that won't fit through bedroom door frames, for example, or dining tables that leave no room for dining chairs. Here are a few things I've learned along the [challenging, humbling, infuriating] road to small space living:
1. Don't Let Your Optimism [Read: Fantasy] Get In The Way of Reality
The sofa that went through our window? It was the Petrie sofa from Crate & Barrel—that much-loved, ubiquitous mid-century-inspired sofa. I loved this sofa. I hadn't planned on getting it in cream because I thought it'd be too hard to keep clean (and lo and behold, it absolutely was, even without pets or kids). But when I found a gently-used version of the Petrie on Craigslist, in cream, I overlooked that fact because a) it was pretty, and b) it was available! So I deviated from what I'd originally wanted, which ideally would have been something less panic-inducing when anyone sat down with a glass of red wine. I also overlooked the fact that this sofa was actually quite large. Which leads me to my next point...
2. Don't Let a Good Price Get in the Way of Reality
I also hadn't planned on getting the Petrie in the full 86" size. I was going to go for the smaller 76" apartment size. But there weren't any 76" Petrie sofas on Craigslist at that time, and here was one that was in great shape and at a great price. Did it matter in that moment that the staircase leading up to our 2nd floor apartment had a very narrow landing? Nope. Did it matter in that moment that it was very unlikely that sofa would be able to clear the corner in the stairwell? Nope. I was blind to the impending complications. I was simply thinking, this is too good an opportunity to pass up!
3. Measure. Measure Again. Find Someone Else To Measure. Have Them Measure Again
As my father-in-law says, "measure twice, cut once." Another way to say this is: "Measure twice, believe the results, and Step. Away. From. The. Sofa." It's absolutely vital in a small space to know the dimensions you're working with. Save yourself from future heartbreak and sketch out your room's measurements or use one of these online floor planning tools. Carry those measurements around with you, in case you come across something at a store or flea market. Better to know immediately if something won't work than to go to all that effort and expense. Don't forget to measure the width and height of door frames, staircases, landings, and hallways.
4. Wait For It...! That's It. Just Wait For It
Living in a small space means constantly balancing your desire for something and your need for something. This means fighting impulse purchases and instead finding what works best for you and for your space. It means saving up. It means having patience. It means forgoing instant gratification until you find the right piece in the right size for the right price.
* * *
This past Sunday we sold our Petrie sofa, and it went out the same way it came in: through the window. It's pretty terrifying to be on the receiving end of a 7' sofa being hoisted out of a 2nd story window. You just hope and pray that the rope holds, and that you don't fall off the ladder. We have a new sofa arriving tomorrow. It's smaller than the Petrie, but there is some concern that it still might not fit up the stairs. My husband has a stricken look on his face every time I bring it up.
But I have a good feeling about this one.
Except we know where that got me last time...
(Image: Cambria Bold)