Small Space Design: Opportunities, Not Challenges

dollhouse small spacesI’m blessed to be moving into a place from the late 1930s, where there are some funky weird little spaces I have to turn into special places.

After all, most people underestimate the value of small spaces, but I assure you, your real estate agent counts every inch of it.

Small is more beautiful than you think, because it allows you to say This Space Is Specifically For This, And This Alone.

That sense of isolation coupled with usefulness can create added value in both monetary sense and satisfaction.

This one-bedroom space of mine, I’m forking over extra cash so I can have a better, more fulfilling home life, and to do that, I need to make special spaces that allow me to feel like I have more than just a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Fortunately, its brilliant quirky period design makes this easy to do.

Junk room, meet Dream Room

For example, there’s a neat enclosed fire-access staircase that’s become almost a sunroom, filled with massive old bay windows. The last tenants used it as junk storage and a tool area. It was messy and unattractive. When I saw the space, I saw more than just its bones; I saw my dream herb-filled sunroom.

For me, it’ll hold a couple shelving units I already own, upon which an array of edible herbs will sit,  taunting me from my adjacent kitchen. “Cook me! Pick me! I can deliver the tasty thing you’re craving tonight!” From oregano and tarragon to Thai basil, my herbs have just inherited a stunning new little greenhouse.

With a tiny table in the corner alongside my director’s chair, I’ll have the rustic country-style herb-garden sunroom space I’ve always wanted, for newspaper-reading under a south-facing morning sun.

And to think, the old tenants had it as a dumping ground. It’s all about perspective. It’s not what the space is, it’s what it’s big enough to hold, and what you’re creative enough to envision. And it might also be about how hard you’re willing to work to make it happen.

You say storage, I say office

Another small “could be wasted with storage” area for me is off the living room. A tiny alcove sits there, 41” deep and seven feet long, with full-ceiling height throughout the space. It even has its own funky feature window, making it a bright smaller spot.

After going round and round with “Should it be a library? Maybe a reading nook. Hmm, I could use another desk…” I have hit upon the solution and can’t wait to install it. Yes, indeed, I’ll have myself another writing desk. For $12 of birch wood, $12 of Tung oil, a few screws, and some sanding paper, I’ve got myself the fixings for a built-in writing desk. I’ll tell you more about it when I actually do it, as I’ll give you the full before-and-after blog treatment on it.

But that space could be a reading nook, if I had wanted to go that way. For that, I’d have mounted some higher-up shelves for books, put a wall-mounted reading lamp, bought a beanbag chair and a small plush rug, and boom, a reader’s hideaway. With some custom shelves, I could have just filled it with books, too.

Someone else could make it into a crafting nook. Maybe someone else would go the wine-cellar direction, since it’s away from heat sources.

You see? It’s not about how little your space is, it’s about what kind of ideas you have that could be malleable enough to fit it.

It’s all in the perspective, grasshopper

The important thing for both of us to know about our homes is, all the space is valuable space. All of it can be used. If it’s not even as big as what I have for my new writing alcove, then what is it that you can do in a space that size? Wine cellar? Coffee counter? Tool room? Display your collection of Marvel action figures? A spot for your free-weights and other equipment? It’s your life, what does your life need in order to be just a little better?

The space can work if you find the right use for it. You need to keep an open mind, and keep an eye out for other ways people have made stranger, smaller spaces be functional. The answer may not be in your brain yet, but it exists out there, in the great Googletopia. Seek, and thou might find it… in Google images.

When it comes to little spaces where you’d like to extend your world via fashioning a reading nook, workspace, crafts counter, or more, set aside any preconceptions you might have.

If the furniture you have now won’t suit your mental image, why not keep an eye out for things that will fit the bill?

Whether it’s making your own shelving to turn a closet into a kitchen pantry, or finding a little $15 chair at a thrift store with an upholstered milk crate that morphs a boring wasted corner into a “reading corner,” there’s a lot you can do to make tiny spaces something fantastic. Dream big for your little space, and you might be surprised at the huge results it can deliver.

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