Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Small-Space Manifesto

Image via Refinery29

I think people are getting sick of small-space stuff. After ages of worshipping at the feet expansive mansions (and McMansions), small homes are finally getting their due from the design world. They’re showing up in mainstream design blogs, getting their own magazine issues, their own TV shows, and their own movements.

But there’s been a backlash a-brewing. Mostly, small space homes are being maligned as twee, hipster, and self-congratulatory. Maybe you’ve rolled your eyes at someone bragging about all their worldly possessions fitting inside a suitcase (guilty), marveled at the lack of self-awareness of small space dwellers who pat themselves on the back for somehow managing to do what people have done for decades, or just plain poked fun at the trend through parody. And along with the cultural equivalent of a side-eye, the trend of tiny homes is facing some real growing pains. Cities debate whether they should be even be built (note: San Francisco did approve the micro-apartment plans), and even if you’re building it yourself, there’s the issue of where your home is going to go.

I get being over it. I also understand the logistical problems. But the fact is, there’s no turning back. Small homes are not only here to stay, but they’re going to continue to take over.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hung Up: Doubling your closet space with clever clothes hangers


If your apartment is the size of a walk-in closet, well, you can forget about having an actual walk-in closet. Finding enough space for your wardrobe can be a challenge, but these clever clothes hangers can maximize what you've got.

The newest hanger on the scene comes from designer Ivan Zhang, who has totally reimagined what a hanger can be. Zhang's design, the Hanger' (yes, the apostrophe is supposed to be there; his studio is named A’postrophe so what do you expect?) can actually change shape as needed. It flexes and twists, then snaps in place to turn a single-garment hanger into one that can accommodate two or more. See it in action over at Wired. (Thanks for the heads up, Trey!)


Beyond Zhang's cutting-edge creation, your average Container Store and Target carry their fair share of space-saving hangers. Above, Apartment Therapy rounds up some of their favorites. I'm pretty partial #6, the velvet-covered slim "huggable" hangers: they take up less horizontal space than wooden hangers, and the texture keeps garments from sliding off.



If you don't want to spend the money to replace your existing hangers, a few household items can unlock the unused space in your closet. You can use the pop-top tabs from soda cans to hook a second hanger onto the first, or you can use a chain to "stack" your hangers vertically.




In other news, I did an interview with Floor Coverings International about design, blogging, and how I got into both. I don't have a formal background in interior design, but through related studies and experience, a longtime enthusiasm for design, and the necessity of pulling together my own tiny homes, I've really come to love and embrace the design and blogging communities that Venn Diagram each other. (Oh yeah, I just made up my own transitive verb.) Check the link for the full interview!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Links roundup: overlooked storage, inspirational tiny houses, studio living tips, and out-of-the-box DIY ideas!



Better Homes and Gardens: 13 Storage Spaces You're Overlooking

Living in a small apartment, you've probably already crammed every nook and cranny with your stuff. But have you missed a potential new storage spot? Some of Better Homes and Garden's tips are for those who can do a little renovation, but other suggestions, like behind the door or on a narrow wall, work for renters too.


CasaSugar: 12 Tiny Homes That Prove Small Is Beautiful

These architectural masterpieces demonstrate how cool and modern a tiny house can be. While the thought of owning one of these small wonders is still just a daydream for broke folk like me, CasaSugar's gorgeous gallery will have you drooling.


House Beautiful: Yes, 400 Square Feet Can Feel Spacious. Here's How.

It should come as no surprise that the head stylist for One Kings Lane can turn a "big white box" of a studio into this banging pad. Andrew Stewart offers his tips for one-room living, including the brilliant idea of using your closet for palette inspiration. By looking at the clothes you already have and love, you'll easily see what colors you'll want in your home.






Real Simple: 10 DIY Home Decorating Tricks

Designer Michael Garvey has some truly out-there DIY ideas. He took a Sharpie and a ruler to his white couch to create a chic geometric print, and he covered his tabletop with duct tape for texture! Hell, if you've got cheap IKEA furniture, why NOT do something crazy with it? If you're wary of doodling on your furniture, Garvey offers more subtle tips, like placing a mirror on the wall and pushing your dining table against it to "double up your decor."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Double up: Using two small coffee tables instead of one

Back when I lived in Los Angeles, I got to tour the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. The rooms of this fantastic mansion had all been converted to small theaters where magicians dazzled us with their acts. The tour guide told us a (probably apocryphal) story about how the owner first toured his new mansion, drink in hand. Every time there was a pause on the tour, he'd go to set his cocktail down, then point to the area and say, "We're going to put a bar there." And yep, there were tons of bars scattered throughout the house. I think some of the dazzle from the shows was more because of the bartenders than the magicians, now that I think of it.

In your tiny home, you might not have room to put a full bar anyplace you'd like to set down your drink. But you've gotta have someplace to put it, right? Whether it's a martini or a mug of coffee, the space in the middle of your living room, that place where couch, chair, and TV converge, needs to have a surface that can hold a drink or two. But the key is that it doesn't have to be big, and it doesn't have to be a single piece, either.

Having two (or more!) small tables in lieu of one large coffee table is a great solution for a small space. Even with two separate pieces, they often take up less space, and they're more easily moved and reconfigured should you need to change things up.

Matched Sets


Having two identical tables is the cleanest, most formal way to try this trend. Surprisingly, it's also one of the easiest. Many side tables come in pairs, so it's pretty foolproof. (Finding complementing tables can be more of a challenge, as we'll see below.) Just be careful of buying any ol' side table, though; they're often higher than a coffee table, which can make it feel awkward. You have to be able to comfortably put your feet up, after all!







Different Sizes

The second-easiest method is to pick two of the same table, but in different sizes. You can nest these tables, pulling out the inner table if you need more surface space, or you can place them next to each other, creating a more dynamic look with their different heights.



Mismatched

If your apartment is already a mish-mosh of Craigslist finds, go with it! Embrace an eclectic, bohemian vibe with mismatched tables clustered together to form your informal coffee table. Finding two tables that work together while retaining their own personalities can be a challenge; try contrasting shapes, heights, materials, and colors – but not all of those at once. A coat of the same paint on wildly different pieces could be just the right amount of cohesion needed to make your room look thoughtful, not messy.




Even More

Of course, why should you limit yourself to just two coffee tables? If you've got the space, fill it with however many you like! This also allows you to use smaller pieces, like garden stools, crates, or even large suitcases.




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little libraries: 23 small-space book storage solutions


One of the biggest tasks in unpacking and organizing my new place was getting the book situation under control. Both my roommate and I are big readers (I gravitate toward sci-fi and horror, my roomie likes her romance), and paring down our collections would just be too painful. I managed to cram most of my books and some of hers onto my one, giant industrial shelf – the pic above is one my roommate snapped while I was dividing my books by genre, author, and chronological publishing date. (I ALMOST made myself organize them by the Dewey Decimal System, but that was too OCD even for me.)

With the shelf full, our remaining books sit in bankers boxes in the laundry room. While trying to figure out how to store and organize the remainder of our library, I came across some great suggestions for keeping books in a small apartment.

If You Can Drill Into Your Wall...


Bookcases eat up space while at the same time remaining limited in the amount of storage they provide. In a small space, it's better to just ditch the standalone bookcase and opt instead for wall-mounted shelving – if that's kosher with your landlord. Wall-mounted shelves are highly customizable without the heavy footprint. Install shelves that run the entire length of the wall and all the way up to the ceiling to maximize available storage.


If you don't want (or can't) dedicate a whole wall for shelving, a shelf running around the perimeter of the room close to the ceiling provides out-of-the-way storage.


Get into those corners! This cool, industrial pipe shelving is a great DIY that makes use of usually-wasted space.


If you want to get some vertical storage but don't have a lot of horizontal space, using spice racks to store books facing outward keeps things close to the wall, not jutting out into the room.


Finally, if you've got some cool hardbacks and want to turn them into works of art, Umbra's "invisible shelf" makes your books appear to be floating midair!

Fake Built-Ins


Built-ins are so classy. They're also a great compromise between a standalone bookcase and a wall of shelving. You'll still have to drill into the wall a little bit for stability, but not as much as with wall-mounted shelves. They're also just that much fancier; you can add crown molding or paint the backs, like the beautiful blue below.


Non-Bookcase Storage Furniture


There are tons of furniture options for bookworms out there; name a piece of furniture and someone's made a version that will store your tomes! Some you can DIY, some you can purchase, and some (like the bookcase headboard above) can be a mix of both (with a little creative arranging thrown in).


Got a stack of books by your bed for when you're winding down at the end of the day? Brookstone has you covered. But available storage space like this leaves you in danger of tsundoku – the Japanese word for buying books but not reading them, and letting them pile up unread on shelves and nightstands!


Prove your small-space mastery by combing an already space-saving loft bed with storage in the stairs.


More for magazines than books, this fun DIY stool gives those old copies of Domino a second, useful life.


If you wish you could just live in a library, you'll be that much closer to your fantasy with an authentic library cart. Purchasing them new is kind of spendy, so check Craigslist or surplus stores for better deals.


With some creative repurposing, a giant wooden cable spool is turned into a wheel-o'-books.

Crates


These repurposed wooden crates are much, much cooler than cardboard banker boxes. You can always just dump your books into an appropriately vintage-looking crate, or you can get more creative by turning them into a coffee or side table. Either way, you'll get an inexpensive new piece with lots of storage.


Unexpected Locations


Don't limit yourself to the living room! Books can be stored anywhere, from the hallway to the bedroom to the kitchen to just any ol' place you can squeeze 'em in!




Stacks and Stacks


They're stacked like this on purpose, see? Magazines always show coffee tables or etageres stacked with elegant, arty books, so pick out your best-looking editions and pile them up! And don't be afraid of stacking them high or using the floor, either. If you say you did it on purpose, it's not messy – it's artistic.




Maximize the Shelves You Have


This is going to be one of my own next projects. My steel bookshelf has very, very deep shelves and I have books in rows two-deep. By elevating the back row, I'll still be able to easily see my complete collection. IKEA's EXPEDIT has quite deep cubes, so if you have one of those, the hack above would be perfect.
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