Tips for “living in small spaces” and “furnishing tiny apartments” are all over my Pinterest. Sometimes these articles give you legitimately good tips for living in cramped quarters, like this one about a couple living in a 240 square foot apartment (that’s 22 square meters!) But I’ve found a lot of bloggers and journalists whose definition of small is very different from mine. Case in point: Apartment Therapy’s small spaces can be 850 square feet! That is not small.
I lived behind these bushes, in a 107 square foot (10 square meters) apartment in a basement in Paris back in 2008, and it was fine. Here’s advice for how to make it work:
1. Your space is three-dimensional.
Ceiling height matters, especially when square footage is low. Of course, this is kind of hard to change in your current small space, but it’s worth taking into account when you’re looking for a place to rent or buy. My Paris place had a high ceiling, which gave me more opportunity for storage, more light coming in through my window and more air. Use your vertical space.
2. Hang mirrors
Most of one wall of my tiny space was covered in mirrors, reflecting light and making the space feel bigger.
3. Make your furniture multi-task
I had a chest of drawers under the window, where the bottom drawers had clothing, and the upper drawers had kitchen supplies. I used the top as a kitchen counter. My table was also my nightstand. And of course, my bed was a sofa during the day.
4. There should be space under your bed.
If you can’t put anything under your bed, that bed is a stupid furniture choice for a small apartment. Under my bed, I stored a vacuum cleaner and two suitcases – one filled with the off-season clothes I wasn’t currently using, one filled with dirty clothes waiting to be taken to the laundromat.
5. Make conscious choices about what you need.
My partially furnished basement came with a television, but I gave it back to my landlady in exchange for a microwave. There is no room for excess stuff if you live in a closet.
6. Stick to a color scheme.
In one-room apartments, you will see all your stuff at once. An eclectic, artfully mismatched style will just look like clutter. So I took down the orange and green striped curtains that came with the place, chose one color – a denim-like blue – and made sure everything else I could see was neutral.
7. Keep your space clean and tidy.
Drop one sweater on the floor and the entire place looks like a mess. Everything has a place and everything should be in it’s place. That means making storage options a priority.
8. Location matters.
The smaller the home, the more important the location. I made good use of the park across the street (Les Invalides) and all my local cafés. Living in a smaller space means you might end up spending more money on socializing at bars and restaurants rather than entertaining at home. But it also makes it easier to get up and do stuff on days off – like taking long walks. Spending a lazy Sunday in ten square meters just isn’t that appealing.
My first two weeks in Paris, I bought the following truly useful things:
Pretty storage boxes –I filled these with underwear and displayed them on shelves high up on my high ceiling, so that I could free up drawers for kitchen supplies
A big, sturdy, fairly dark-colored blanket that covered my bed – tossing this onto my bed every morning made me feel ok with people sitting on it in jeans while eating pastries.
Coffee cups and a big plate that matched the color of this blanket – making open shelving in the kitchen look less cluttered and more like a deliberate style choice.
I desperately missed having a full-sized kitchen, but other than that, I am surprised at how easily I adjusted to living in a walk-in closet. When I eventually moved back to 46 square meters in Oslo, it felt like living in a palace.