Thinking Big, While Living Small: 4 Design Ideas

Posted February 1st, 2010 by Tammy "RowdyKittens" and filed in Issue 15: Small Space Tricks

January 2010 FunMoving to a smaller apartment has helped us downsize even more. Less stuff and less cleaning lowered my stress level, improved my health and saved an enormous amount of time. My extra time is now spent with friends, hobbies, and Logan.

Even though we have less stuff, I still want my home to be a safe, beautiful and welcoming environment. I think tiny apartment or home can be all of those things and more.

Whether you live in 80 square feet or 1000, the following tips will help you arrange your livings space to perfection.

1. Let your style shine through.

You can still let your style shine through and make room for the necessities. Jessica from Apartment Therapy has a 200 square foot apartment in San Francisco that is functional and designed beautifully. She has a “penchant for vintage” and “tried to blend antique collections with a modern aesthetic–all in a home the size of most people’s guest bedroom!”

You might even consider designing a special nook in your tiny space. :)

2. Less is more.

Less really is more. If you live in a small space, you don’t need to stuff it to the max. A few beautiful pieces of furniture will make your small space appear larger and less cluttered.

3. Use Mirrors.

Consider adding a large mirror to your little space. The use of mirrors will pick up extra light and make your home appear larger. Logan and I have a few mirrors in our apartment. The mirrors are designed simply, but add so much character to our apartment. I considered giving them away before leaving Sacramento, but I’m happy they are with us in Portland.

4. Bring in the plants.

Plants bring life to any small space. If you use vertical space you could even start your own radical gardening project on your balcony or inside your apartment. Creating a small outdoor project is not only fun, but a great hobby.

Do you have any design tips to add?

You can learn more about my downsizing journey by reading my blog, RowdyKittens, or following me on Twitter.

14 Responses to “Thinking Big, While Living Small: 4 Design Ideas”

  1. [...] Journal (SLJ) is out and it focuses on small space tricks. Read my contribution to the journal, Thinking Big, While Living Small: 4 Design Ideas. Moving to a smaller apartment has helped us downsize even more. Less stuff and less cleaning [...]

  2. Chris O'ByrneNo Gravatar says:

    This reminds me of when I was a boy and would go to the barber. The two side walls were all mirror and when he twirled the chair so I could see what a great job he did, I would look into one mirror and see my reflection from the back mirror and then another reflection, then another…

    With enough mirrors, your place would look infinitely large!

  3. Dr Elma RossNo Gravatar says:

    I would suggest large windows, at least to one side of each room. Even sliding doors, which suggest that you could step outside – of course with rails if it is not on the ground floor.

  4. SGSweetNo Gravatar says:

    Another important item people tend to forget is line of sight. If you have a clear shot through your space to the outside, you will have a sense of greater spaciousness. I have my life in one room right now, and it’s very light. I also like multipurpose furniture that I can collapse, rearrange, and reorganize. I’m trying to figure out how to eventually fit into a Tumbleweed house with my computing, cooking and sewing – all feasible. My sticking point is exercise! I need enough room to move from side to side and fling my arms. Rather than storing things offsite, I figure I could purchase some multi-terabyte drives for magazine articles, music, movies, exercise videos, artwork, etc. Printing could be done off-site at a service bureau. I also like the idea of table surfaces that are hinged to the wall with piano hinges and which can flip up or down as needed to give max clear space. And for those who cook, stacking steamers can be a great way to get the most out of one burner. I’d have to give up baking, but that’s probably a good idea anyway!

  5. Tammy "RowdyKittens"No Gravatar says:

    @Chris – That’s a fun memory. And yes, lots of mirrors make a place super large. Although, too many mirrors might be odd too. It’s all about balance, right? :)

  6. Tammy "RowdyKittens"No Gravatar says:

    @Dr Elma – Awesome tip! We have a few really large windows in our new apartment and it makes the space feel so much larger. Thanks for reading the SLJ! :)

  7. Tammy "RowdyKittens"No Gravatar says:

    @SGSweet – Good points. We live in a large studio and I love it. Eventually we want to move into a tiny house, but I keep wondering if we’ll actually fit. We have so much bulk food and love to bake. Then again, if I gave up baking I might lose a few pounds. :)

    Thanks for reading!

  8. Dyana Valent+neNo Gravatar says:

    This is awesome–the photos are so inspirational. I recently donated two couches that I was truly done with and my living room is EMPTY save for three book cases. I’m tempted to leave it as-is and add a yoga mat–but really DO want to make my guests (to be invited) comfortable. I’d love some ideas for interesting and effortless ways to have company AND a sense of spaciousness. (also dealing with multiple doors and french windows on every wall.) Thanks for the great inspirations!

  9. Kerri Fivecoat-CampbellNo Gravatar says:

    If building, I would also highly (pun intended!) recommend putting in taller ceilings. We did this in the writer’s studio and it makes a huge difference in how big the space feels, but little difference in the heating bills (it’s one big room with a bathroom so there still isn’t a lot of space for the heat to escape). This is the main thing I wish we would have done in our little house.

  10. Kathleen D ParkerNo Gravatar says:

    No need to give up baking….., just instal an rv range. They are small and compact. Of course that also means that you’ll need the accouterments to complete said baking! lol

  11. DebbyNo Gravatar says:

    Love reading your posts RK. @SGSweet-I was recently gifted with a new chair for my home and placed it in an orientation I had never had a piece of furniture in before. Instead of a side view out my front window, I am now looking directly out the front window. It makes an amazing difference in my home and I’m sitting in it all the time!
    @Dyana-something I use in my home for versitle seating is foot stools. They are comfortable, can move anywhere in the room I want and allow my friends (most between 50-65) comfortable seating.

  12. Sandy SNo Gravatar says:

    Built-ins are a must.

    I lived in a small 12×48 trailer in college and surprizingly it seemed very spacious due to the layout. But, typical of trailers in that era, it had lots of built-ins. In the end bedroom, the bed was up on a platform with drawers underneath and it also had small closets on either side and a built-in chest of drawers in the wall across from the bed. My roommate had the hall bedroom and her chest of drawers was built into the hallway, her twin bed was also on a platform. While small, we never felt cramped! Wish now I had taken some pics!

  13. Tammy "RowdyKittens"No Gravatar says:

    @Dyana – Sweet! It’s so nice to donate items that you no longer need.

    Hmmm – what about purchasing a few used Poang chairs? They are easy to move around and would probably leave enough space for your yoga mat. Or you could deck out your pad with pillows or bean bags. :)

  14. [...] Thinking Big, While Living Small: 4 Design Ideas – by Tammy “RowdyKittens” [...]