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Downsizing to Small Space Living: Tips

Updated on October 21, 2015

Living in a tiny apartment

We found that we were lucky when the recession hit.

Well, some might say otherwise because our 'big' house had to go, but it was one of the best things that ever happened.

You see, we already had somewhere else to live - a tiny apartment.The apartment, which we bought about ten years ago, is designated as 'tiny' by Apartment Therapy. That means that it's under six hundred square feet but over four hundred.

But, I have to say, only just over four hundred.When we first bought the apartment, we lived here for several years but at that time, we were both working long hours out of the home and to be honest, the place was really just somewhere to sleep and shower.

As our financial situation improved, we moved to the 'big' house but kept the apartment which we rented to a friend. Thank goodness we were able to keep it.

When we realised that the big house had to go, it was difficult to imagine being back in that tiny space, especially because the company we both worked for had folded at we'd both be working freelance from home.We thought it would just be temporary. That was three years ago. We love our tiny apartment.



Well, this is it. I think I've stayed in bigger hotel rooms. At first, the floorplan makes it look like a studio but there is a definite bedroom and the kitchen is separated from the living area by a solid wall.Note that although we have both a back and a front door - lovely for fresh air flow - there is only one non-closet door in the apartment.

The bathroom, luckily.We have loads of space. We have plenty of storage too. And please don't get the ideal that we are miniature people in our miniature home - himself is over six feet tall and well over two hundred pounds. (I won't embarrass him by saying how much over).

One important thing that I want to point out is that not one piece of the furniture was bought for this house; it was all bought when we moved to the big house. If any expert tells you that downsizing means having to buy new furniture (they usually say 'smaller scale' and 'multifunctional') then that's simply not the case.Our home is light and airy, we have plenty of space and absolutely no intentions of moving elsewhere.

A great storage solution

This is the most important storage piece in the apartment. Some people have assumed that it's custom-built but it isn't.It's that good old faithful, the Ikea Expedit.It has a low section, that you see here and a taller section (about six feet tall) which have in total thirty three individual cubby holes. Some are open, some have doors and other have drawers.

It's officially a bookcase and yes, it houses a lot books but also clothing (folded t-shirts etc.), paperwork, computer bits & pieces, spare bedding, jewellery, magazines, files ... oh and items that are there just for décor. You can see that the lower section forms my nightstand and holds a lamp, fan, family photographs and plenty more.

There's a 'nightstand' at the other side of the bed too - see the floorplan. But it's actually a small black beverage fridge that we had in the pantry at the old house. It takes the pressure off our smaller-than-usual kitchen fridge and is handy if we want a bottle of cold water during the night.

Here you see part of the tall section of the Expedit. A lamp, also from Ikea, just fits the space. You also see the clothes closet. This had sliding doors (which didn't, not very well anyway) which I replaced with curtain.To the right of the closet is a small wall just the right size for the red abstract painting and below that is one of my two beautiful Bertoia chairs.

Himself was in an arty mood when taking these photographs, otherwise you'd be able to see the back of the chair just sneaking into view.

Learn how to live small and stylishly

Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces
Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces
When we first bought this tiny space, the Apartment Therapy (dot com) site was quite new. I studied it intently.Today, I consider myself an expert in small space living partly through experience and partly because of the website. In this brilliant book, you'll find the best of the fabulous and stylish ideas to make the most of your small home.I can't recommend this highly enough.

Lounge area

You can't really call it sofa but I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it in the store. It has five pieces that can be switched around. One is a chair without arms but with a wooden ledge.

There are two further chairs the backs and arms can be switched, an ottoman and a coffee table.You can see the current configuration in the photo section below.We can easily make the furniture into two single beds and it's very comfortable for four people to sit with plenty of room for putting down glasses, plates etc.


Ah my beautiful small kitchen. I wouldn't swap it and it's so easy to work in. Just click here to read more.No room for a dishwasher? No problem.Even in a tiny kitchen you can do the dishes in five minute. See how.My tiny kitchen works for me because of these four essential items. And if you're looking for extra storage in your home try these ideas.

Tips for small space living

  • Embrace the space.Living in a small area will make you feel good about your reduced carbon footprint and your vastly reduced electricity bills. Be ruthless about getting rid of clutter and items you don't need. When we moved here I found I had seven, yes seven, of those wire balloon egg whisks. Why? I had a toaster that I hadn't used for at least two years. Pop along to your local goodwill store or sell on eBay.
  • In a large space, it's a good idea to keep items close to where you're going to use them. That doesn't count in a tiny space because you're never more than a few feet away from anything. Our bleach lives in the hallway cupboard, not under the sink. Our clothes closet shelf has canned goods. Lightweight items (spare blankets, winter coats etc.) can be wrapped securely and kept in the trunk of your car. Got space? Use it.
  • You'll often hear this advice because it's good - love everything in your home. It's so much easier to live in a tiny home if you're surrounded by wonderful things. I even love my laundry basket.
  • It's also true that you'll be much happier if your place is tidy and free from clutter. And it's easy. When you're in a tiny space, you can clean and tidy in no time.
  • Our dining table is also our work area. It's quite large and has two benches, rather than chairs. At one end though, I have one of my fabulous Bertoia chairs. This means that we can quickly put the two laptops away and seat five adults for dinner. Because we have benches instead of chairs, we can pop a couple of children in there too. Sit-down dining for seven people is pretty good in a tiny apartment
  • I had thought of wall mounting our TV but the wall in question is thick and very solid. So wall mounting it would mean a probably expensive combination of wall mount fixtures, workmen and various power tools. And mess. Actually I prefer the TV on our lovely George Nelson bench. That way, it doesn't look as though we're trying too hard to save space.
  • Let in the light. We rarely close the blinds. We are lucky because the living and dining areas both have two large windows. As well as producing natural light, they increase the size of the apartment visually.
  • Controversial advice but avoid multi functional pieces of furniture with pull-out this and hidden-storage that. Downsizing doesn't mean buying new. We don't have an ottoman with hidden storage or a bed with drawers underneath. If we did, we'd only fill them with clutter that would be better thrown out, or properly stored somewhere sensible.
  • We're not alone. The apartment is tiny and it's in a small complex - just eleven apartments. Eight are exactly the same size as ours. In one, lives a young married couple - it's their first home. In another, a couple of empty nesters. When their children left home, they downsized. The third is occupied by two single women (about my age), three cats and a dog. But (smugly) we're the only ones who live AND work in this tiny space.

Fabulous furniture with style

The furniture that we have that I have referred to in this article.

These two pieces of furniture are completely essential in my small home.Not only that, they are incredibly stylish too.

They are very flexible indeed and can be used for so many different purposes.

Baxton Studio Nelson Wooden Bench, Natural
Baxton Studio Nelson Wooden Bench, Natural
This bench is a Mid-Century Modern classic that suits any décor. It is one of my best ever buys.

More images of my home

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Love everything in your tiny home, they say.  My beautiful Eames chair.Ebay printer's block find, driftwood, coral from the beach, $1.99 vase, palm frond = decorThe current configuration of our lounge furnitureWood floors (well,laminate) throughout. My 'love-everything' laundry basketOrganisation inside the cupboard - his and hers basketsIkea waterproof hanging storage in our funky 1940s bathroomStorage can be beautifulSorry about the small image but it shows the bedroom wellUnderwear & socksTensions bars + 's' hooks. EssentialWho classifies my home as tiny? The experts in small space living - Apartment Therapy.
Love everything in your tiny home, they say.  My beautiful Eames chair.
Love everything in your tiny home, they say. My beautiful Eames chair.
Ebay printer's block find, driftwood, coral from the beach, $1.99 vase, palm frond = decor
Ebay printer's block find, driftwood, coral from the beach, $1.99 vase, palm frond = decor
The current configuration of our lounge furniture
The current configuration of our lounge furniture
Wood floors (well,laminate) throughout. My 'love-everything' laundry basket
Wood floors (well,laminate) throughout. My 'love-everything' laundry basket
Organisation inside the cupboard - his and hers baskets
Organisation inside the cupboard - his and hers baskets
Ikea waterproof hanging storage in our funky 1940s bathroom
Ikea waterproof hanging storage in our funky 1940s bathroom
Storage can be beautiful
Storage can be beautiful
Sorry about the small image but it shows the bedroom well
Sorry about the small image but it shows the bedroom well
Underwear & socks
Underwear & socks
Tensions bars + 's' hooks. Essential
Tensions bars + 's' hooks. Essential
Who classifies my home as tiny? The experts in small space living - Apartment Therapy.
Who classifies my home as tiny? The experts in small space living - Apartment Therapy.

I'd love to hear from you.And finally, see below to discover the absolute best thing about our tiny space.

The view

It's true - if we sold this apartment we would probably have enough money to live inland in a two or three bedroomed house with a garden. But truly, how could we leave this?


© 2014 Jackie Jackson


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