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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Smaller the better?

I love large spacious look at. I owned one once and it was just too much space. We had 3,033 square feet and it was just overwhelming! I have lived in all sizes of homes. But my favorite places were small ones. When first married we lived in a 1923 bungalow and it was perfect. Oh sure, we had a drop leaf table to eat on , that when you put up the one leaf blocked the kitchen door...and we had a Jack and Jill bathroom with ZERO storage...and our closets were more like broom storage size, but it fit us...we had no need for anything more.

When we lived on family property our main living space was just around 1500 square feet, but we had a huge down stairs area for allowed us to collect too much stuff! But the upstairs , for us was just fine. Again a few draw backs , one bath with a family of five, lack of personal storage, and only one way to place the furniture. But it was cozy and welcoming.

The big house we owned in TX as I mentioned was just too much, I never felt cozy and snug in it, which is what I wanted. So when we moved back to CA, it was a 1200 sq. ft bungaloid cottage
( which I have shared in the past with you). I loved too had drawbacks, as far as placement of furniture, we even had to block one window for an entertainment center! But it was just the right size and I was happy there.

Now we live in an apartment, that to me feels spacious at just over 1000 square feet, as I have learned to live with less and less. In fact it is liberating to donate to Goodwill, and keep only what I really need and use and even have empty drawers in the dresser I use for our TV!

The current life situation may mean downsizing yet again and actually I am ok with that. I just simply have learned to be quite happy with smaller spaces. Less to clean, and I do like a tidy space. Less to furnish and decorate , so fits a smaller budget, and yet just enough to provide what we need in this stage of our life.

I have noticed a trend in magazines and blogs that address living in a small space, and doing well with less. Although when flipping through a recent issue of Small Room Decorating , I noticed what I think of small and what their editors and maybe others as well differ. They profiled spaces that are 2000 sq. ft! To me that is quite spacious! And to me I was not seeing cozy. But it did get down to just under 400 sq. ft. , not so sure I could go down to that small of a space, my husband snores too loudly and booting him to the couch I would still be able to hear him!! I do have a friend that lives in something right around that size, and they are now a family of three...I often wonder how they will make that work....I know from chatting with her before the arrival of their baby, she did not mind it too much in the slightest. You learn to adapt.

Anyway, the magazine offers all sorts of tips and hints for living in a smaller space, so thought I would share some. The article I am sharing with you is called " The New Rules design lessons for maximizing diminutive digs" it is written by Barbara Ballinger ( Small Room Decorating Fall 2010) It includes tips from Anthony Stavish, a Chicago based designer and owner of AW Stavish Designs and his work has been featured on HGTV's Small Spaces, Big Style .

#1 Less is more, but make it big.
" Nobody likes a room filled with dinky furniture. Correctly scaled pieces are necessary for comfort....."

* Ok I sooooo agree! When we lived in our cottage I bought two love seats. They were larger in scale, but not over sized. We had a large entertainment center and a large coffee table and even our dining table seated 10 people !! But it all worked, and did not over power the space. It was warm and cozy and there was ample walking space . Everything worked and worked well in the space. Might not have been everyone's taste, but it received many compliments. The entertainment center, the biggest in the room offered loads of storage and display surfaces, and all the accent tables also had storage and THAT is very key in a small space.

In our current apartment, I am using a mix. I have a large couch that doubles as a single wide bed , but I have smaller tables and a smaller scale accent chair. Right next to it I have the large dresser....but I did downsize our DR table to be round and compact, but that was more of a personal style decision than that of not being able to work with a larger table in the space. I use large scale art work for the most part and for me it is perfect and I could go larger if I could afford to. I even dream of a large wing back chair in the me a few good large , comfy pieces are better than feeling you live in a doll house....unless you like that look. BUT I have been in spaces that they have used over stuffed furniture circa 1980 and large TVs that you might as well be at the theater it is so huge ....everything in the space is cramped and overwhelming and just makes you feel claustrophobic, that is not a great feeling, and so you must find a happy medium...enough blank space is key for me...not too much to feel empty, but just the right balance.

#2 Furnishings in small spaces have to offer more than one function, and one of those functions always should be storage.
" I find if something's big enough to sit on, it's also big enough to hide something behind it/in it, and /or in a box underneath it . Store extra linens under the sofa cushions; they get a nice pressing and prop up any saggy springs. "

* Well now I dunno if I would store my linens under the couch cushions. BUT I do buy pieces with drawers, shelves for baskets/ decorative boxes, plan to raise the bed and put pull out bins under for storage and one day want an ottoman for linen or even magazine storage. When you live in a small space, double duty is key to keeping things neat and organized. Which is very important as small spaces quickly look cluttered and messy if you do not store things in the proper way.

#3 Artwork needs to have prominence .
".....if you do not have a single piece that is a number of small pieces that relate to each other to create energy that focuses the room; they can relate by subject matter, matting, frame, or size. If you place just a single small piece of art , or worse, scatter small pieces about the walls that don't relate , it results in a visual mess."

* I so very much agree. I have seen far too many homes that this mistake has been made , and it can a real decor disaster and break the look of the room...especially if you live in an open living floor plan. I used large pieces on two walls that adjoin to each other. They are not the same size, but I hung the smaller one to the center of the larger, and related the two via color and shape and then pulled the same colors over to where I have smaller clusters of art , the clusters creating a larger display to visually be equal with the two large pieces of art. Small space, does not require small art. I promise! Go big, and it will create drama and impact on the space in a positive way.

#4 Color is key to creating a cohesive small space.
"Paint the walls a rich, fresh color to create a dramatic , interesting room background, especially of there is good looking trim"

* I also agree with this, although I can not do that in the current apartment; well I could but it would cost me 200.00 a wall when we move out. When we had our cottage I painted the LR walls a deep terra cotta, and the ceiling a lighter version and the trim dark , tree bark brown! Everyone thought I was crazy! Thought I was creating a cave. But once it all came together, the space was dramatic, cozy, warm and inviting, and certainly not a cave. It made my art work pop, the warm woods sing, and the leather couches fit in.

Before we moved I painted the walls a rich mocha , as well as the ceiling, and left the dark brown trim and then for pop a dark teal accent wall in the DR space on a bump out. Again, not as dark, but a rich color pallet and one that worked within the space.

I have beige walls and off white trim now, so for me I have added deep teal sheers to the windows and all my art work is very colorful and have shades of the same teal to them , others are bright yellow and still others have rich burnished red and some pinks and saturates the space with color and creates a cohesive color scheme that overrides all the neutrals I have in the space.

#5 Choose your window treatment color based on your wall color.
" In a small space, doing this will make the room look larger and more cohesive.It will flow better. "

* Ok, obviously I disagree, right? Not entirely. When we were in our cottage and the walls were the rich terra cotta, I bought heavy drapes in a rust color that closely matched our walls and it was perfect as it expanded the space, and did not break up the wall as much . I tried going beige, then brown here in our apartment to match the walls and for me it seemed cold and blank, as it rather made the windows seem to disappear. So for me , the teal blue sheers and hopefully soon a deep rich teal or deep rich brown drape paired off with them have created a focal point , an unexpected one , in the space. So go with your gut on this , I would say. I have never been one that follows all rules to the exact letter....and drapery color is one of the ones that I seem to have always broken the rules with.

So there you have it, 5 great tips for a small space ...though I think they can be used in large spaces as well. Hope you found these helpful....and remember they can all be implemented on a budget, no matter what size it is .


  1. Ahhh yes, our 420 sq feet has gotten smaller! But not too bad with the baby...its really just her clothes. We have no place to put them! But we make due..and it's definitely cozy! Thanks for the clever tips!

    Oh and my one brick red wall helps break up the rest of the white in my house!

  2. Great tips! I agree, smaller is better. If I could plan and build a small home, I'm fairly certain with smart planning that my husband and I could live in 700 square feet without any issue (our current house has 1300, which is about as small as we can go if we want to continue to run a business out of the house and still have a dedicated guest room). I adore old houses, in fact always buy old houses, but they aren't always perfect for today's lifestyle. My choice, like yours, is to just have less stuff.

  3. Great tips! I agree I love a cozy home. Our first home was 1200 sq feet. It was PERFECT!! I figured out how to store everything and I LOVED LOVED LOVED that home. However, Mr. Treasures wanted more room so he talked me into moving. Our home now is 2400 sq feet. Any bigger and I'd hate it!!!


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