City Living: Live Big in a Small Space

Working in Real Estate I meet and talk to many people about their wants and needs in regards to their home. Lately I’ve been meeting buyers and renters wanting to make the move to the city. Some are young professionals focusing on their career with no time to rake leaves or shovel snow, and then there are empty nesters tired of worrying about leaky roofs, damp basements and racoon in the attic – they’re looking for a change in lifestyle. With the average cost of a Toronto home breaking the $500,000 mark, for many the cost of a move-in-ready 3 bedroom home is just too high, so the alternative is a condominium in a desirable location. Whatever your reasons, moving to a smaller space can be exciting and liberating, but let’s face it – you’re going to have to get rid of some stuff. Whether you’re moving from a house to a condo or a two-bedroom rental to a studio, downsizing can be a bit scary at first, so here are a few tips to help you with your new space:
Edit before the move: Take some time each day or week to go through that jammed coat closet or overflowing filing cabinet. Take a look in the kitchen. Do you really need 5 mixing bowls? What about that waffle maker that seemed like a good idea two years ago…still in the box. It can be difficult to emotionally detach yourself from those items, but once you start decluttering you will notice how little you need.
Use floor plans to prearrange your furniture before the move. This is another useful reality check. To start, draw plans if you don’t have any, and sketch in a furniture layout. Then look at the plans realistically. If you’ve crammed in side tables, armoires and chairs, you need to edit more. Don’t wait until after you move to contend with furniture you’ll just end up tripping over. Evaluate what you need in each room – in a bedroom you only need a bed; in a living room you only need a couch. Add other pieces of furniture after that.
Add storage solutions with built-ins: Built-in furniture can be pricey but it’s a good investment when maximizing space. The costs of custom built-in storage runs from $2,000 and up, so if that’s not in your budget there are other options. With the growing demand for condo furniture, there are many furniture stores in Toronto offering great storage solutions. Remember, the closets in your new space might not be generous, so why not store your out-of-season clothing in a bin under the bed? It’s out of the way, but still easy to get to if there is a sudden heatwave, or if you decided on a beach getaway this Christmas. Also, never underestimate the power of IKEA. I agree that it’s a little too “dorm-ish” to outfit the space in IKEA furniture top to bottom, but you can’t deny that furniture lines like MALM and PAX are plain enough to go with almost any decor and also offer great storage solutions.
Be creative about replacing what won’t fit: So you have a set of side tables and a dresser, but the dresser won’t fit in the bedroom. If you have a hard time letting go of the dresser, don’t be afraid to utilize it in another room. Move the dresser  to the living room, use it as a “side table” in the bedroom and move the side tables to the living room by the sofa, or move it into the closet for extra drawer storage. Also don’t forget to assess the scale of your furniture. Often we try to cram the furniture that worked in a previous home into the current space, even when the scale is no longer a good match for the room. In a small room, you will generally want to avoid the overstuffed and oversized in favor of small-scale pieces. But it is possible to go too far, filling the room with too many itty-bitty things. Strive for balance.
Don’t fight the small: Yes, there are many tricks to make a room look bigger, but sometimes small has its advantages. The bedroom is small, no denying that, so go for it, make it your jewel box. If you like darker colours, go ahead and paint the room dark grey or navy , and cover the bed generously with linens. It will be like sleeping in a glamorous nest. Remember, a simple colour scheme makes small look strong and you can change things up by adding colourful accessories.
 Think big: The big sofa doesn’t dwarf the small room, it makes it look bigger. It’s one of those classic small space tricks that seems counter-intuitive, but it works. But if you go for the sectional, scale down on other furniture in the room that might take the focus off the sofa otherwise.
 Say No to Packaging and E-Everything: My husband is a big music fan and has collected over 300 CDs. We also share a love for movies and collect DVDs and BlueRays. It’s good to have a hobby, right? But when we moved from a two-bedroom house at The Beach to a 680 sq.ft. downtown condo, our hobby presented a bit of a problem. This was a good time to put our computer to work. We use our iMac to store a lot of our music and  our photos. All our bills and bank statements are paperless, and most of our books and magazine subscriptions are on a Kobo and the iPad. Since we didn’t want to part with all our CDs and DVDs, we bought several CD binders and used them to store the CDs/DVDs and the cases are now in a storage bin in our locker.
Whether you’re moving into your first tiny apartment, downsizing from a larger space or just taking a stroll on the leaner side of life, it can take a little finessing to make a small space work.
Have you had to downsize? What were some of your favorite parts of the process? Did you have a hard time figuring out what to do with all of your things?

2 thoughts on “City Living: Live Big in a Small Space

  1. Pingback: Emerald City: 2013 Colour Trends | My Place in the City

  2. Pingback: Home Staging: How to Tell It’s Just Pretend | My Place in the City

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