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small spaces: maximize and enjoy!

Updated on February 27, 2012

Maximizing Small Spaces Can Be Super Fun!

When my hubby and I were just starting out, we moved into a very small space that we needed to maximise: a studio apartment that we rented, to be exact, and stayed there until our baby was almost one year old. It was an amazing place to establish our marriage relationship , as it has a balcony where we could have our bonding time while baby was asleep. We also had a lot of fun redecorating every so often just to maximize our space, (and yes, we had our fair share of fights, too) and I'd like to share the things we learned and enjoyed in that little nest we called home.

Now, we've moved up to a two-room apartment, which is spacious enough for our needs, but we still love learning more things about maximizing small spaces! In a sense, this lens is both our work. Hope you enjoy and be sure to share your own experiences, too. We'd love to see your ways of managing small spaces, too!

Living-room-double-with-dining-room - A great idea to maximize a small space!

This was our living-cum-dining-area to maximize the small space in our studio apartment. We had the "seat" custom-made to fit our measurements, and it doubles as a seat as well as a shoe cabinet with sliding doors. Our table is also custom-made, but we bought the chairs from the local hardware-department store. Just throw in a few cushions and it can make for real cozy coffee time talks, either just for me and hubby or with a couple of friends. Yes, we entertained heavily even during that time in our lives!

Oh, and we bought the rug from scratch, too: saved a lot by having it stitched along the sides by a local shoemaker instead of having it done at an upholsterer!

Drop-leaf tables save precious space!

If your small space gives you a limited area for a "real" dining table, drop leaf tables are an excellent choice! You won't have to compromise not having enough table-space just in case you have guests, but you can easily fold it away to keep the area from getting too cluttered when it's just you and the hubby!

I took the liberty of helping you find these drop-leaf tables to buy online for even less hassle.

Mirrors are Our Best Friend - Create the illusion of bigger space!

Having mirrors is the usual tactic used by people to "maximize" small spaces. A wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor mirror is the best option, but since we were on a budget, we opted for the next-best-thing: this widescreen mirror whose frame we had made at the local lumber, and we bought the mirror from the local glass store. It definitely gave our tiny space a bigger feel!

A Makeshift Divider - Maximize your space by effectively dividing up a single area into several!

A studio apartment means all your rooms are actually just ONE space. This includes the dining area, living room, and bedroom! In our case, we found this divider extremely useful in separating the bed from the living area. We had the frame made from the local lumber, and we pasted the paper portions ourselves using recycled paper from the crafts supply shop! Cheap, but a very versatile piece. Its thin profile also made it perfect for the limited space.

(In fact, we still make good use of it several years down the road even as we are now renting a two-bedroom apartment!)

Dividers You May Enjoy

Dividers are a great way to create the illusion of several rooms when you are living in a studio apartment. I couldn't resist compiling these pretty dividers for your perusal. As you can see, there are options to fit whatever theme your small space has, from this modern looking black panels to a divider made with fabric.

Shutter Accordion Room Divider in Brown
Shutter Accordion Room Divider in Brown

Best for apartments or rooms with a wooden theme.


Make Use of Walls - Maximize your small space every way you can!

A key to maximizing a small space is to think of what you've got... and usually what you've got is a few bare walls you can utilize! Here, what is supposed to be just wall decoration is actually dual-purpose, as it can house spices! Then again, this would work if you only have a few spices you patronize for every cooking endeavor--if you're a real cooking addict, there might not be enough space! Of course, that's part of the limitations anyway, as the small space means, technically, that you also have a small kitchen

Will these be of help for your wall-maximizing adventure?

Rearranging in a small space - THINK: Maybe there's another way to maximize the space even more?

This was the first rearrange we did in our studio apartment: when baby was born, we had to move the TV elsewhere and put his crib there. You'll see in a later pic that we did another rearrangement that gave us the illusion of even bigger space.

Items to help you on your space maximizing quest...

Make Space for Baby! - Babies need plenty of space... See how we gave that to him!

We lived in a studio apartment when our first baby was born. When he was still just lying on his back all day, the space wasn't so bad. But when he started to move around, we had to improvise!

Our apartment is in the second floor (see the little balcony? That's our mini-balcony, hehe.) of a common-area garden compound. So we "expanded" our territory---by moving his playpen downstairs to the open area! Helped me get some exercise, too! Of course, we had to pack up the Pack 'N Play everyday or at least move it away from rain, but it served its purpose. And, whenever I needed to breasfeed baby, I just took him back upstairs.

Then again, this may work only if you happen to have access to some common/public area that's safe, but creativity will really get you somewhere.

"Create" Space! - Creativity is a must for small space living

When we moved our bed to the wall, this is what we got: enough space for baby to play around in, and we even managed to fit his stroller! The chair off to the far wall was my mini-office, using a foldable computer desk. (On a side note, I'll try to find a similar one on Amazon to show you, as it is a real space saver.)

The stroller was actually where baby ate, as at that time we could not fit a high chair. As my Squidoo friends suggested, dual-purpose furniture is indeed the way to go!

Don't Be Afraid to Rearrange (Again... and Again...) - There HAS to be another way to organize things...

When our baby was born, we replaced the TV set with his crib. You can imagine how cramped the place was, with our bed still in the middle of the room! About four months later, we had this wacky idea to rearrange everything: moved the bed to the wall (made it double as a daybed), moved his crib to where our bed used to be, and we were surprised at the wide space that came as a result! Thankfully we had a sliding door for the closet, so it was perfectly fine to lean the bed right against it, even saving more space.

Unfortunately I lost whatever photos I had of that time when our camera got stolen, (I'll try to upload a floor plan layout so you can see what I mean) but the principle is simple: don't be afraid to rearrange! (If you want, you can download free home-layout computer programs to check if your idea will work before you actually move stuff around. In our case we used a free download from IKEA hahaha.)

Favorite tactic for maximizing small spaces

When your space feels cramped, what is the first thing you think of doing?

See results

Think Outside the Box! - Organizing creatively is a big help

Sometimes the closet you get in a small space that you're renting won't be suited to your needs. For example, in our studio apartment, the sliding-door closet only had hangers and a very small space to the right for shelves; as such we had a sort-of second-storey "built" by putting a little wooden table inside to multiply the storage space by two! But if you don't have access of a "table" of just the right size, all is not lost: this photo is from our current apartment, with the closet also having too much hanger-space for our needs. We made use of this colorful add-on to add extra shelf-space to organize towels, small blankets, and just about anything!

You can find something similar too, and multiply the storage capacity of whatever closet you have!

Sofa Beds Save Space

The sofa bed is one thing that my hubby and I wanted to get, but we're larger than average so we had trouble finding a sofa bed that was big enough! But if I had it my way, I would've loved to have had this kind of sofa bed, with the frame, and not just the folding foam, as that tends to sag after a while. If you get this for your little space, be sure to invest in some sort of covering or bed sheet in order to keep the sofa cover intact from dust and dirt or damage. This will definitely allow you to convert the space from a bedroom at night to a living/entertaining room during the day: the perfect double-purpose furniture for studio apartments!

Mac at Home Upright Sofa Bed, Mahogany Brown
Mac at Home Upright Sofa Bed, Mahogany Brown

A dual-purpose furniture best for small apartments!


Maximize Walls Part 2

LCD TVs are really a Godsend for maximizing small spaces! Try to be creative with where you mount it! In this photo, the space underneath the stairs (not a studio apartment, but a really cramped two-bedroom house) to put the TV and a glass-topped coffee table.

(I'll show you pics later on with the under-the-stairs area converted into a double-purpose storage-slash-TV mount, just have to upload. Just goes to show that the possibilities are endless, largely in gratitude to the invention of the LCD TV!)

Large Fun for Small Spaces - A review of an LCD HDTV

An LCD TV is just about the best choice for a small space, as it can be mounted on the wall and just barely "there." But an HDTV is even better, as it doesn't require you to have a good distance away---as distance isn't something you can spare in a small space: you can get just as clear a resolution even if you sit so close to your TV!

I like this Samsung 32-inch LCD HDTV as, in addition to its super-clear video and audio output, it even comes with an energy-saving feature, so it will be more practical. I'm guessing you are most likely on a budget, given that you're "stuck" in a small space. But you don't need to be stuck on small entertainment, right?

Think Two Stories - Maximizing small spaces needs you to think in 3D!

Two storeys don't just refer to actual floor space. In our tiny kitchen, we utilized this wooden "stand" to create two stories, with an electric cooker going into the inside of the box and our water dispenser on top. The lack of counter space necessitated creative answers like these.

A few months later we added another wooden box, with the rice cooker underneath and the microwave oven on top. Just make sure you check the requirements of each appliance, as, for example, a microwave oven should not have anything coverings its top vents.

Is it possible?

Is it possible for a family to stay in a studio apartment?

Hanging Stuff is Cool for Small Spaces - Interesting way to keep reading material in a small kitchen

I liked this idea of a rack for magazines, mostly cooking magazines as it was placed in the cramped cooking area in a house I visited. Unleash your creativity in how you store things. This hanging shelf is usually seen in businesses or airports, but it turns out to be an interesting twist when used in a small house!

Another Interesting Place to Hang an LCD TV - Bet you never thought of this!

Now, this is what I call an even more creative way of mounting an LCD TV! It's mounted on a moving panel placed in front of the staircase. With the limited space, this is indeed a fun way to watch TV while having extra storage behind it!

I'll show you in the next photo what it looks like when the panel is opened.

Extra Storage Behind the Moving LCD TV

Now, this is what I call, maximizing the space! I just happen to have a penchant for simple boxed storage solutions, but as you can see, you can actually use the space behind the moving TV panel to hide perhaps a bookshelf or whatever type of closet you would like. In this case, it was more for decorative purposes, but I bet the average household would really put this space to good use in organizing stuff.

Storage solutions for your small space

If you're not that experienced in being organized, having these specific storage solutions may inspire you! It sure inspired me and my hubby!

Storage Solutions 1592S6 12-Piece Organizer
Storage Solutions 1592S6 12-Piece Organizer

This is perfect for just about any wall space!

Storage Solutions 15-Pair Shoe Cubby, White Frost
Storage Solutions 15-Pair Shoe Cubby, White Frost

Great for shoes, but can be used for just about anything, too, perhaps in workspaces or children's rooms?

Office Dimensions Riveted Steel Shelving, 5 Shelf, 500 Series 16" D x 36" W x 72" H, Galvanized Steel
Office Dimensions Riveted Steel Shelving, 5 Shelf, 500 Series 16" D x 36" W x 72" H, Galvanized Steel

Great for small workspaces or even double as a divider for small living rooms


Use All the Organizing Help You Can Get! - There may be a quick answer to your organizing problem!

My hubby and I aren't particularly neat people---which added to the challenge of keeping a small space livable! One thing that helped a lot was organizing helpers like this plastic basket. We used several of these inside our closets and when used in open shelves, they gave the appearance of order even if we just tossed the stuff inside in a last-ditch attempt at order especially if guests were coming and we had no time for a general cleaning!

These baskets are very versatile, and having them helped us sort stuff: we used a couple of these to store our towels and linens one on top of another on a top shelf in our closet, and also used it to hold baby's things on top of his own chest of drawers even when we moved to a bigger space. This photo is actually taken in our two-room apartment, but we still love the overall look it gives!

Reduce Clutter with Matching Baskets

I find this to be a great idea, especially for people who have a hard time getting organized. Instead of having clutter all over the place, you can use matching baskets to sort things and hide away that clutter! It makes living in a small space much more breathable!

Maximizing Small Spaces

This is really creative! Of course, since you live in a small space you probably won't be able to afford these Transformers-type furniture, but, like me, you'll probably enjoy these funny ideas!

Doubling as Storage Space

When you have a small space, you really need to get creative! I like this idea of a bedside table-slash-storage-solution. Its unique stair-like shape makes it stand out while offering storage space!

Bedside storage solutions

A bedside caddy is a creative idea for having extra storage without taking up too much extra space. Or, instead of an ottoman at the foot of your bed, find a bench (like this one) that comes with storage. This way, you hit two birds with one stone, right?

Richards Homewares 6 Pocket Bedside Storage Mattress Book Remote Caddy (Caddy, Black)
Richards Homewares 6 Pocket Bedside Storage Mattress Book Remote Caddy (Caddy, Black)

The perfect stash for your books and other bedtime ritual stuff like moisturizers, glasses, mobile phones.

Aspire Bedside Caddy Bed Organizer Storage
Aspire Bedside Caddy Bed Organizer Storage

Just enough space for your nighttime companions. A smoother color.


Space-Saving Furniture: Guess What?

I found this amusing piece of furniture when shopping at a local shop and I thought it would make you smile as it did me. It's designed to keep into itself so you save space when you're not using it, but I think it looks classic enough for a nice romantic breakfast. Check out the next post to see it opened.

Ta-daa! Dining Space for Two!

Cool, eh? Of course, this only works for two, as it seems too small for more people than that. But if you're just a couple living in a studio apartment, I believe this kind of table will work. When you move to a bigger house, you can always take it with you to be used in a breakfast nook.

Next Best Thing

A Folding Table for Small Spaces

Double-Function Furniture

Seating with extra storage!

Run out of Ideas? Look UP! - A loft bed would've been our last recourse!

When you run out of room in your small space no matter which way you turn, perhaps it's time to look up! My hubby and I were already contemplating the idea of having a loft bed (similar to this photo I borrowed) in order to have space below for dining or perhaps a living area! Unfortunately we're both not really very fit persons and we were a bit worried about how a loft bed would hold up, so we wound up moving to a bigger apartment!

But if you're not too heavy like we are, I believe this is truly a great idea to maximize your small space!

We'd like to hear how YOU made living in a small space fun and functional! Share your tips please! Thanks!

Do you have a story to share?

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    • KillahBabe profile image

      KillahBabe 5 years ago

      great lens, great tips :)

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 5 years ago

      I love so many things that I saw. I had a bed that came out from the wall years ago - loved it. I am looking for something similar for my bedroom now - more space during the day use.

    • profile image

      mymoodswings 5 years ago

      .. just a thought.. yes the mirror does a good job doubling a space.. but i wonder what was behind the divider... i think it is a good idea not to use one and to keep an open space instead.. say dining and living in one .. no dividers .. that will make your room look bigger.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      Great organizational ideas for those living in small spaces.

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 6 years ago

      @JeffMcRitchie1: Wow, I love the bed casters idea! :)

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 6 years ago

      @NC Shepherd: Wow, that ought to be challenging! :)

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 6 years ago

      I'm living in a 12' x 15' room with my two cats this winter. It's a step up from the Astro van!

    • JeffMcRitchie1 profile image

      JeffMcRitchie1 6 years ago

      Wow, you have tons of great ideas!! We lived in a tiny studio when first married and until our oldest daughter was two months old. I was a big fan of putting our bed on casters to create a large storage area underneath.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      I live in an apartment with less than 200 square feet. At one point, I live in a small bedroom in a housing co-op that had a loft and was designed in such a way it seemed spacious.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      I live in an apartment with less than 200 square feet. At one point, I live in a small bedroom in a housing co-op that had a loft and was designed in such a way it seemed spacious.

    • turtleface profile image

      turtleface 6 years ago

      I have a studio but the layout worked great where I was able to put in a floor to ceiling entertainment center to give myself a living room and a bedroom. It may be a studio but sleeping comfort is important to me... so I even have a king size bed... and it doesn't even feel cramped

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 6 years ago

      I live in a motorhome that is less than 150 square feet. It is the most spacious and functional home I have ever had. I'm forced to keep on board only what is practical and beautiful; there's no room for clutter! One of the things that makes my home feel bigger is that it has four rooms with real doors, plus a separate sleeping space. Your lens has great ideas for tiny living, with the most important one being that you should reconfigure your space if it's not working for you.

    • smallfurnish profile image

      smallfurnish 6 years ago

      Great lens. Thanks so much for sharing! I live in a small space and I utilize a lot of my space by using wall-mounted shelving. I have a home office/bedroom and decided to turn my bedroom closet into an area that holds all of my office supplies. I also purchased a computer armoire and use my computer as a television as well. I opted for a daybed since it also looks similar to a sofa and could be placed against the wall rather than protrude outward and hog up space.

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @tssfacts: Thanks, SquidAngel! There must really be something about our first apartments, eh? I actually remember that first apartment much clearer than our second one, which happened much more recently.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 7 years ago

      I remember my first studio apartment. I had so many organizers and wall hooks it looked like a store. I have fond memories of this place. Your story brought those memories back. Great job with lots of ideas of living in small spaces. Blessed by the SquidAngel of Furniture. You are featured on Home and Garden SquidAngel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me. and I want to tell you too, if you need information on high back leather office chair, you can access the site.

    • Kevin Wilson 2 profile image

      Kevin Wilson 2 7 years ago

      Multi-purpose furniture is a great help in a small space, and can move with you as you get bigger spaces and still be useful.

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @chezchazz: Wow, thanks!

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @BestRatedStuff: Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks!

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 7 years ago

      I like this lens and your ideas are a great help.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 7 years ago from New York

      Great lens! Blessed by the home décor squid angel.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 7 years ago from East Central Florida

      Thank you for sharing... and I second the idea of drop-leaf tables. They're wonderful!

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @Wednesday-Elf: Wow, that must be a real challenge for you! But it's fun, I believe! Yeah, we sometimes never notice how much "stuff" we have until there's no more room to put them, eh? Any tips you'd like to share with our readers? :) thanks!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Interesting to read about how you coped with a small living space, especially with a baby. I'm experiencing this a little bit now -- having moved from a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, double garage house to a small townhouse apartment. Downsized before the move, and continue to do so now. Had no idea I had so much 'Stuff' ... and much of it I really no longer need. Amazing how one can 'adapt' as needed. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @Lee Hansen: Wow, I'd love to hear about your eco-friendly house! :) How do you go about things there? Thanks!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 7 years ago from Vermont

      You would probably find living in an Eco-Friendly Tiny House less challenging than some folks ... although with a baby it could get a bit crowded at times. Nice lens - please share more of your tips on living in a small space.

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @knit1tat2: Wow, that's a real challenge! Double-duty furniture is indeed a great help! :)

    • knit1tat2 profile image

      knit1tat2 7 years ago

      I'm learning how to fit myself, grown son, and my fiber hobbies (weaving, spinning, etc) into 733 sq. ft. Not a lot of furniture, since I sleep alone went from queen to single bed, furniture has to be double duty (small hideabed couch, footstool that flips open for storage, etc) and always, when something comes in, something has to go out. We left a big old farmhouse, so you can guess at the downsizing!

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      @howtocurecancer: thank you :)

    • howtocurecancer profile image

      howtocurecancer 7 years ago

      Lovely way to share your experience. I like your lens.

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 7 years ago

      Haha, thanks PaulOnBooks. My hubby and I aren't normally tidy people, and tidiness has been a major challenge for us! I agree, things need to be really organized! I-sparkle, thanks for the compliment! :)

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 7 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Tidiness and more tidiness: each area had its purposes and they were "respected" so there wasn't too much shifting of things.

    • I-sparkle profile image

      I-sparkle 7 years ago

      Unfortunately, no great small space stories to share. I loved your lens. Creativity and imagination are so exciting to see in action. Great work.


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