This is part of the series Enjoy Small Space Living, With a Family! Here are all the articles in the series:
- How to Eliminate the #1 Cost of Kids
- How 6 of Us Live in 2 Rooms, and Love it!
- 8 Ways Small Space Living Saves Big Money
- Creative Ways to Fit the Whole Family into a Small Home
- 5 Ways to Make Any Room Bigger
By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
When you feel you don’t have enough space, you can make your existing rooms BIGGER, both by using the space you have more efficiently, and by carving out actual new space within the room.
Try one or more of these tricks to make your current space bigger:
1. Remove Furniture
Want more space? Need breathing room? Then give yourself more space – open space. Take away some furniture.
I know, it seems like you need all that furniture! You use it! Of course you need a couch, chairs, coffee table, bed, end table…desk? Filing cabinet? More chairs? Oversized dog bed (guilty, guilty)?
We have 13 pieces of furniture in our home (that includes 2 kitchen island stools and 2 high chairs), and that seems like too much. Wow, yeah, that’s a lot of furniture!
We’re thinking to donate at least two of them: a couch and a cabinet with file drawers we use for storage. Decluttering guru Marie Kondo says to get rid of (or move into closets) any furniture used specifically for storage, and I see her point.
It might seem like you need everything, but just give it a try. Take something away. Maybe you can do with one less chair. Do you really need a desk, or can you streamline your operation to a box or a zip-up file that you can take out when working?
I used to have a desk – before kids. I had a whole office nook. And I loved it. (I also spent 8 hours a day there.)
Now…I’m writing this in my pop-up office:
My chair is an exercise ball.
The “desk” is two stacked storage tubs.
When it’s time to work, I grab the tubs from the closet right next to me. One holds arts & crafts supplies and one…let’s see… vehicles. It takes me about 10 seconds to set up, and when I’m done, the office disappears.
If you’re not ready to go whole hog and purge furniture, perhaps you could move a couple pieces of furniture to the garage or basement (if you have those luxuries) or even to the side of the room to try it out for a while.
You knew this was coming. Less stuff = more space.
Whenever my husband gets an idea to build more shelves, I argue that we just need to get rid of some stuff. Otherwise, we could close ourselves in like a submarine.
Maybe try the Konmari method – she swears by purging in categories, starting with clothes and then books. (Which is how far I’ve gotten in a year!)
When we needed a “toy closet” to store and rotate toys, art supplies, etc., we purged 80% of our clothing, took down the two closet rods, put back an 18-inch closet rod, and Bob built shelves in the closet. We still have plenty to wear, and now have “another closet.”
Purge. It works.
3. Go into the walls
Oh, you have space you didn’t know you had! Construction is wasteful – it generally encases space in the walls and ceiling and around cabinets that could otherwise be used! Explore these areas:
Between the studs:
Walls are generally made by screwing drywall to studs spaced about 18 inches apart. Between the studs is encased SPACE.
You can remove the drywall between the studs to access this space.
Space between the studs can be used for some shallow open shelving, a spice cabinet, a pantry for canned goods, an ironing station, a broom closet, or what we did: a shower nook for soap and shampoo.
Above the ceiling:
Raising the ceiling – or getting rid of it and exposing the beams – makes a room more spacious. Sometime dramatically, as in our bathroom.
We used to have a tiny bathroom. Claustrophobic. No window. It was the worst part about our apartment.
Then Bob cut a hole in the ceiling one day and looked up. Oh! Why hadn’t we realized before that there was about 4 feet of empty space that had been entombed?! Sure, it was a messy operation to take down the ceiling – but oh was it worth it!
We installed a skylight, added lighting and a tall painting, and then put in a whole wall of cabinets – sunk half into the wall, where more wasted space awaited.
Our bathroom is now my favorite part of the house! It’s light and airy with tons of storage – but the footprint is still tiny as ever. Amazing!
4. Find More Untapped Space
It’s not in plain sight, which is why you didn’t know you had it, but you do have even more unused space!
Next to Built-in Cabinets:
Cabinets have room on the side against the wall so the door with its handle can open all the way. But why waste 3 inches of useable space? We used Rev-a-shelf pull-out cabinets in our kitchen and bathroom to install secret cabinets. In the kitchen, we hang our cookie cutters; in the bathroom we have a soap & potions cabinet.
Under Built-in Cabinets:
You’re also likely to find wasted space beneath cabinets, between the floor and cabinet. This space can be used for toe-kick drawers!
We put toe-kick drawers in our bathroom and kitchen, using Ikea drawers. They can be used to store overflow or seldom used utensils, kitchen towels, trays, or as a busy box for the kids to play with while you’re cooking.
Under the Stairs:
This is one we haven’t done, but there’s often wasted space under a stairway, even under each step, that can be used for drawers, cabinets, or a special nook for the kids.
5. Go vertical
Even without physically going into the walls and ceiling, there’s usually wasted space at the top of a room or stairway.
From air space to laundry room!
When we started having kids, and decided to cloth diaper, we invested in a washing machine/dryer. A washing machine? In a 620 sqft apartment? How?! Well, we looked and looked until we figured it out. (Same way we found space for a deep freezer!)
You know when you walk up a stairway to the top floor, above you is usually a very high, open space? We used that space for our washing machine!
Yup, we turned air space into floor space. We took down the banister and Bob extended the bedroom floor a few feet over the stairway. Voila, space for a washer!
Hook, nooks, shelves
As we talked about in the previous article, “Creative Ways to Fit the Whole Family into a Small Home,” vertical space can be used for both things and people:
- hooks, nooks, shelves
- rock-climbing wall, net, swing
- bunk bed, Murphy bed
Just be sure not to go hog wild using up every inch of air space, or you’ll close yourself in like a submarine. (See #1 and #2, above.)
Leave some open space and let the feng shui energy flow. These are just some ideas for when you feel you need some extra space. We all have more than we think! Nobody has to move just because they had another kid. Keep re-working the space you have!
You can do this!