We’re definitely living in the era of tiny homes and small living spaces. With much national attention on micro-apartments and tiny homes — dwellings that are typically between 100 and 400 square feet in size — they’re becoming a popular choice. As urban housing expands in big cities like New York and Washington, D.C., and in college towns, small living is becoming common.
I can’t say that I’m ready to join the tiny home movement just yet. For starters, many lenders including Quicken Loans don’t finance the tiniest of homes and micro living spaces without permanent foundations. I’m content with my four-bedroom home, despite the laundry list of updates my husband and I have to do. Everyone has different home needs, and I can certainly see why tiny homes suit people’s lifestyle by providing greater flexibility and affordability. Since I don’t have the experience, I asked three interior designers for decorating pointers for small homes. Here’s six of their do’s and don’ts:
Purge Before Moving In
Truly less is more, says Andrea Gould Easton, owner and operator of Creature Comforts Interior Design. She suggests downsizing ahead of time in order to streamline daily life in your smaller space.
“A sense of freedom is often the desired result of living small,” said the Vermont-based designer. “Keep what’s most important, and share what you can with younger family members who might covet or benefit from items of family history. Sell or give away what you are willing to separate from.”
Gould Easton provided practical advice for reducing closet and drawers – limit your wardrobe to 100 items or less if possible.
“Turn your hangers backwards when you wear something and put it back on the hanger the regular way. After three months, ditch what you haven’t taken out of the closet,” she suggested.
When it comes to everything else in your tiny home – like books, videos or newspaper articles – she says keep only your absolute favorite items.
“Do you have stacks of reading that you’ll get to someday? Well, today is someday!” said the 30-year designer. “Use modern technology to consolidate and archive your papers and articles.”
Do Use Mirrors to Open Up Your Space
Invest in big mirrors to hang throughout your space, says CoCo Peterson, director of merchandise for DEQOR. She says that mirrors bring light and depth into a small room, acting as a low-cost home accessory that can finish off your décor style.
“Mirrors are your best friend, said the Utah-based designer. “They open up the space and make it feel bigger. Also, get creative with decals and removable wallpaper. There’s no reason you should have plain white walls with all the fun and funky trends out there.”
Peterson suggested removable stick-on mirror tiles for a modern vibe if you’re leasing and looking for a no-nail wall option. To get the most bang for your buck, hang a big rectangular mirror opposite a window. The effect will be a live display of nature in the room as the view is reflected in the mirror.
Do Not Clutter Your Rooms
Keep your space both vertically and horizontally uncluttered, said designer Pablo Solomon. This means no stacked piles of items and a minimization of clutter around your rooms, too.
“Avoid buying gigantic furniture for your home. Clutter just doesn’t work in a small space,” said Solomon, who has been featured in more than 29 magazines, books and TV programs. “I always advise clients to look at books or magazines about yacht living. There are no better examples of making great use of space with good design.”
You must start with a plan, so you don’t waste money on items that won’t fit your space, said the Austin, Texas-based designer.
“It’s better to have an uncluttered space that is comfortable for you, and then entertain friends at a cafe than to cram your space full of couches and tables that are really just needed for guests,” Solomon said. “In the long run, you’ll save money and your friends will be just as happy.”
Do Not Forget About Rugs
Peterson suggests investing in high-quality rugs. If you have a multifunctional room, an area rug can help define your space and give it an intimate and organized feel. For instance, by placing a sofa around a plush area rug, you’ll instantly create a homey lounge area, clearly defining it from your dining or office area.
“Rugs work well in both carpeted and hard-floor spaces. However, thin and flimsy rugs do not look good on carpet, nor do they stay put on carpet,” Peterson warned. “A tufted wool rug is going to be both heavy enough to stay in place as well as durable.”
She suggests using a rug to customize a space quickly and easily.
Also, consider a round rug to visually open your small room and make it appear larger. The circular nature naturally softens the hard edges of furniture and creates an attractive living space.
Do Invest in Storage Items
Not only should owners of tiny homes go for furniture that is multi-purposed, but seek furniture that can provide storage, said Gould Easton. Visually pleasing and high-functioning storage is most useful in small quarters.
“Don’t forget that small living is meant to be a freeing experience and should enhance your economy, lighten your emotional load and increase your leisure time, explained Gould Easton, who has lived in a small space with her husband.
“Go for items that can act as storage and provide easy access, otherwise you won’t use them,” she said. “Furniture best suited for this includes sleeper sofas, storage seating, and cabinets with accessory organizers.”
Do Not Block Natural Light
Good lighting is so important in small living spaces, said Solomon. He said big windows are ideal — especially corner windows.
“Open everything up to give a more open feeling,” said Solomon, who specializes in environmentally friendly designs. “Keep your lines of sight and views from windows open.”
Proper natural lighting creates a more productive, stimulating and comfortable environment. Utilizing natural light can lead to substantial energy savings, too. Electric lighting consumes more than 15 percent of all electricity generated in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Trimming your electric bill helps to minimize your carbon footprint.
These design tips are sure to help you maximize your limited space and create a comfortable space for you to enjoy.
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