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DIY Design: Make the Most of Your Tiny Space

Oct 13, 2016
DIY Design: Make the Most of Your Tiny Space

A cozy apartment in a desirable location is how many Millennials live these days. It’s either a traditional studio apartment in the heart of things or newly minted micro-unit in an urban neighborhood that offers an attractive lifestyle of cafes, restaurants, retail shops nightlife and services.  Most of the time living in a confined apartment pulls you outside of your home to conduct both personal and public parts of life. The upside is that it’s truly entertaining and convenient; the downside is that you are cramped into a very tiny place.

So how do you decorate a very small apartment in a way that guarantees both function and achieves a larger look? One key factor is to pay careful attention to something interior designers call “scale”.

What is scale?

Essentially, it is the relationship between the size of a piece of furniture and the space in which it resides. For example, if you have a dining nook that is only seven feet by seven feet, you cannot use a five foot diameter table in the area. Not only will it look silly, you will not have enough room to use the seating around the table. Another example might be that a sofa style with a huge rolled arm that essentially takes up twelve inches will look over-sized in a ten by eight foot living room. The length may work out, but if the styling is too massive the piece of furniture will still appear awkward.

There are many sad and costly stories about buying something costly that is far too long and being stuck with it forever. So exactly how do you get it right without making expensive mistakes?

Verify Your Space:

At the start of your planning, invest in a sturdy tape measure that is at least twelve feet long. This will help you at the outset to verify the space that you do have to work with and note critical dimensions before you go shopping.

Make A Floor Plan:

Pro’s draw up floor plans with paper and pencil or on a computer, but if you lack  the computer skills to master the software for sketching floor plans there are other ways. Cut pieces of twine in the lengths of your major pieces and form the item or make a paper pattern to place on the floor. In this way you can judge the amount of space that a specific piece of furniture will occupy. In some ways, this method could be preferable to a computer drawing because you can see it in relation to the real space.

Let’s look at some specific ways to coax a studio apartment into feeling as large as possible. Often a studio comes equipped with a Murphy bed. These are the beds that fold up into a closet and have been used for over a hundred years in Manhattan, Chicago, and San Francisco. If your place doesn’t have one, your choice could be to use a sleeper sofa. Depending upon the dimensions of your main space, you can purchase queen size or double size apartment sleepers. These would range between 62” and 72” long. However, if you want to employ a good trick that a designer might use to create the impression of more space, consider using a twin-size sleeper or a chair-and-a-half sleeper.

Club Furniture offers two possible options that would work like a dream because the scale is perfect. The Dana Upholstered Chair and ½ Twin Sleeper is 60” wide x 40” deep.

The City Pillow Back Twin Sleeper is a loveseat that is just 53” wide x 35” deep.

By using the 53” wide chair you could save on length, from 10” to 19”, when compared to a typical 72” long sleeper. That’s a substantial amount of extra space created by paying close attention to shaving inches off. Sometimes the saved space should remain as open area; giving the overall impression spaciousness.

While you are taking into account scale, remember that it is not just the length and width that matter. The depth and the height of a piece of furniture are just as critical.  Note the size of the arms and back of an upholstered item of furniture. Avoid excessive bulk in order to construct a light and airy feeling in a tiny room. For example, even if a loveseat is just 54” long, if the back is higher than typical the overall look will be more massive than a piece with a lower back height. Scale might also be influenced by the overall color of the item, so pay equal attention to the lightness and darkness of the fabric covering your upholstered pieces. Remember that in general, a lighter textile will be better in a tight room.

Keep in mind that besides a great sleeper or sofa, other key furnishings are often the dining table, occasional tables and some type of storage unit. Select a dining table with a pedestal base because it will allow more openness and lightness. Alternatively, you could use a drop leaf table that can be pushed against one wall and allow for more open space most of the time. When in use, pull the table away from the wall and bring out either folding or stacking chairs.

Pro Tip: Another slick idea is to use a coffee table with an adjustable height mechanism that allows it to articulate from cocktail level to a full 29” high dining table.

Lack of storage is the primary complaint about living small and it is frequently challenging to create places to put “stuff”!  Before you move into a mini-apartment you will need to purge belongings. There is no way around this. Try to acquire flexible storage pieces that offer dual use. For instance, old suitcases might be loaded up with photographs, books, personal paperwork, or recipes and then stacked as end tables.

Cubbies come in a wide variety of styles from woven baskets that stack high against a wall to wood pieces with a sturdy wood backing. A wall full of cubbies can be used for decorative items and for folded clothing storage, books or electronics.  Even cocktail or end tables might come in a style that offers a concealed storage compartment.

Pro Tip: Be sure to equip a cocktail table with either glides or casters so that it might easily be moved out of the way of a sleeper that must open at night.

If you have a unit that is large enough for a traditional mattress size, try to raise the mattress up off the floor by using risers. There are a variety of styles available that will lift the mattress up by 3” to 6” making it possible to use under-the-bed storage boxes, bins and crates. Often this allows for out-of-season clothing storage, gift wrap, or boxed items. Living comfortably in a tiny space is possible, it just takes a little planning and some creativity.

What are some hacks you have used to make the most of your space?


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