Are you trying to downsize to reduce your energy bills, lower your carbon footprint and lead a simpler life? Are you wondering how to fit that big leather couch into a living room half the size you’re accustomed to? Do you have too many clothes for your new closet? Will the new kitchen counters be covered with your gourmet gadgets?
Downsizing is an art. It takes time, sometimes years, to get rid of things you thought you needed, but can surely live without. It takes planning and organization on your part and furniture and storage solutions that will keep your house uncluttered without sacrificing your lifestyle. And renting a storage unit is cheating!
Small homes, limited space
Over the last few weeks, I have been in two small homes with creative solutions to limited space.
The first was a studio guesthouse about 500 square feet. The floorplan was laid out well, and I could live in it comfortably. The walls were pale yellow, which made the space look bigger, and two big picture windows, one on each side, extended the area outdoors. It didn’t feel cramped at all.
The kitchen/dining area was right inside the front door on the east side. Under the window was a café table with two chairs. They did not take up much physical space, and the slender legs and glass top visually created space. When you can look through and beyond furniture, rooms seem bigger.
Efficient, practical elegant furnishings
Another idea would be a drop-leaf table, which can be enough room for one or two people living here and larger for guests or craft projects. Comfortable folding chairs could free up space when not in use, too.
Cabinets and a counter lined about 8’ of wall. The sink was a single, not a double, which left ample counter space. The refrigerator was a mini that fit under the counter. This was impractical, so in my mind, I replaced it with a small, full-size fridge off to the side between the kitchen and living area with a room divider behind it as camouflage.
I also envisioned a small portable island of drawers and shelves with a chopping block, almost like a small base cupboard. An upper or base cupboard could be upcycled for this purpose, too. Either way, it would extend the food prep area and create more storage below.
Versatile interchangeable spaces
The living area had a small-scale yet full size couch and easy chair, small end tables and a glass topped coffee table. A tall, narrow bookcase and a flat screen tv on the wall opened up floor space. Adjacent to the living area was the sleeping area. It had a Murphy bed, which was up in the wall when I was there. This made the living area twice the size it could be with a bed on a traditional frame!
Bedrooms are funny things. They are so big, yet we use so little of them and while we are not even aware of it! In this studio, it would be possible to have a portable home office, exercise equipment or craft area that could be stashed to the side during the night and rolled out into the sleeping area during the day. A double duty bedroom, or any multi-purpose room, helps the cause of living smaller.
Another solution for this studio could be a convertible futon couch. I recently bought one that makes into a comfy bed, turning my living room into sleeping quarters. A futon would make the sleeping area of the studio into a permanent office, gym or craft area, while the living room was changed at night.
The other home I was in had a few fixes made by the owner. There was a teeny galley kitchen. The owner made a wooden slatted dish drainer that hung over the sink when in use. It was hinged to a cupboard at one end, and there was a hook at the other end. After being used, it was raised and hooked into an eye on the side of the cupboard, out of the way.
The stove was beneath a large casement window at the end of the galley. The owner made a long handle that attached to the hardware on the window, so it could be opened and closed without bending over the stove. I thought that was brilliant, since I am 5’ tall, and things like that are challenging for me!
Get rid of “stuff”
The main thing about living small is getting rid of ‘stuff’ and being creative with storage solutions. Multi-purpose rooms and furniture are helpful, and if you have DIY skills, you can build custom furniture and gadgets. But don’t sacrifice! If you think you’d feel cramped in a tiny home, don’t get one for the sake of living green! Part of any lifestyle is being happy.