Decorating and Organizing Tiny Houses and Small Spaces

I’m always watching and collecting the coolest ways to make the most of small spaces for storage and a clutter free existence.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve collected from the web, from friends and family and from my own experience:

  • First, eliminate anything that’s not essential (clutter-bust your life).
  • Store well-labeled boxes in the attic or the eaves with seasonal decorations and out-of-season clothes. Consider an all-season wardrobe to minimize the out of season problem (use layers of cotton and all-season synthetics rather than wools to comprise your cooler weather gear).
  • Store extra quilts and blankets and linens between the box springs and mattress of your bed (but not down comforters — it will crush the feathers and ruin them).
  • Boost the height of your bed (even using cinder blocks if you are on a budget) to enable under-bed storage in copy paper boxes. (Personally, I can’t stand to have things under my bed, but when you must have the extra storage, this is an option).
  • Contact local printers for copy paper boxes and envelope boxes. Both are strong with snug-fitting lids and can be covered (or even spray-painted) for storage options that are cheap that you won’t leave you cringing when they are in plain view.
  • Buy a label maker. Yes, they are pricey, but they are indispensable when you are organizing boxed goods, pantry areas, even dish cabinets and closets. Labels on shelves and boxes keep things tidy and eliminate guess work and the chore of “rediscovering” what’s in every box.
  • Make sure any purchases you make are made with storage and dual-use in mind.
  • Don’t buy an ottoman that doesn’t also have covered storage inside. Use it for additional seating in a small living room. Add a nice tray to the top to create a side table or a coffee table as needed. A wooden folding table can also be “height adjusted” by locking the legs in the “up” position and using the top on a large ottoman.
  • Consider using an antique chest or foot-locker as a coffee table. Add a glass or plexiglass top to create a display area for favorite photos underneath, or add a love-seat sized plush cushion to create extra seating as needed. Store bedding for overnight guests in the trunk to make a night on the couch more comfy.
  • Consider a love-seat sleeper if you don’t have room for a full-size couch, but would like to be able to have overnight guests. Personally, I prefer the love seat size to the couch since (usually) only two people sit on a full sized couch and two people also sit on a love seat. It saves floor space without sacrificing actual seating capacity.
  • Check the outdoor furniture selection in the spring and summer for sturdy, pretty, comfortable folding chairs in wood or wrought iron that can be used indoors as well. You can even create a hanging display to keep them handy for use and prevent “propping” and closet-filling with them.
  • Replace a door with a storage option (instructions for creating a slide-away cabinet to replace a door in a small space).
  • Use the space under chair legs and table legs. I have a chair in the living room with spindle legs (without cross bars) and I unintentionally slid a richly carved box under it when I was moving in — it looked so nice that I decided to leave it there for storage.
  • I also have a parsons-style rattan-top table in the living room between two chairs and I’m either going to find a large, square basket to slide under it for extra storage, or I’m going to store my floor pillows there, stacked. Using baskets or wood that is similarly stained makes the extra storage look planned rather than hodge-podge (and a small can of wood stain and a couple hours work can achieve this on any wooden box or basket.
  • Built-in looks are less cluttered to the eye. If you can, collect all your storage items on a single wall — and take them as close to the ceiling as possible to use all your vertical space effectively. Avoid scattering larger storage pieces here and there against different walls.
  • Install a bracket shelf above all the storage items from one end of the wall to the other to help “collect the pieces” into a unified whole visually. Work around windows (using low cabinets, tables or drawers) and use the space between the windows (even if it’s just large enough for storing paperback books, CDs or DVDs.
  • If you need to divide a room, dual facing storage is the best way, so you can access storage for each “room” you create with the divider. Don’t forget to use the space between the ceiling and the top of your divider (suspended shelves, hooks for baskets, or even a board across two of the highest end units to create additional high storage.)
  • In small spaces opt for one larger, more colorful work of art instead of several smaller pieces to achieve decorating impact without clutter.
  • Elect to have one impressive plant (like a tree or a vine) that doesn’t require table-top space (it can stand on its own in the floor or crawl across a cabinet-top or wall).
  • Use mirrors to create the illusion of space (but be careful that it doesn’t reflect a cluttered area and duplicate it!)
  • If you are using a “curtain” to separate spaces, consider hand-painting a scene or a mural and hanging it straight, without gathering — or find a printed fabric or tapestry of a scene that you like (or shop for shower curtains which often have scenes to use instead). Consider hanging it (tapestry style) from a huge dowel with ornate doorknob ends or a ready-made fanciful rod. Find these at Goodwill or second hand shops for a smaller financial investment.
  • “Paint” a headboard directly on the wall rather than purchasing a bed with a headboard and foot-board (which will visually block space in a small bedroom) — or hang a large framed print, poster, or canvas (six to nine inches above the top of your pillows so you don’t bump it while sleeping).
  • Create a foot-board for your bed with a chest or storage bench to give you a place to store linens, out of season clothes, or other items AND give you a place to sit to put on shoes each morning.
  • Get ideas on ApartmentTherapy.com.
  • View the gallery over at Digs Magazine for more ideas for working with small spaces effectively. (It’s a little cluttered for my tastes, but still has some great ideas!)
  • Shop for multi-use furniture and accessories geared for the tiny lifestyle.
  • My favorite collection of online appliances for compact living.
  • If money is no option, consider Flying Beds (the updated version of Murphy Beds).
  • Step chests are astronomically expensive, but make a great room divider that offers loft access.

That’s all I can think up for the moment. I’m sure I’ll post more later!

For more inspiration: check out all the Tiny House blogs here on LivingSmall, including this article on Tiny House Essentials.

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