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Living large in small spaces

These days, higher property prices could mean that you may have to start your climb up the property ladder with a relatively small space to come home to. With some organization, however, you can survive (and even thrive) - no matter how small your new home.


Conquer clutter

There's nothing that makes a small space feel cramped more than having too much stuff. Curbing your clutter before you move in will keep you from getting overwhelmed on moving day. Take a good long look at what you have and what needs to go. Remember, the less you have to pack - the less you pay to move. Consider donating unsold items to your favourite charity.

Make sure your furniture fits the space

Organizing a small space starts well before you move in. When living in small spaces, it's important to find furniture that is in scale with the size of the room. Start preparing for your move by measuring your furniture to see it if fits.

If you've got bulky furniture you may want to consider selling these pieces through the classifieds and use the money toward buying smaller stuff that won't overwhelm your new space. Tailored furniture tends to look better in a small space than big, overstuffed pieces do. Also, choose furniture with visible legs to establish a more open, airy feel. But don't fall victim to "doll house syndrome" by buying furnishings that are too small to be comfortable or practical.

Figure out your priorities

Because small spaces are very limited, you need to figure out your priorities and allocate accordingly. Some people need a desk area, but not a dining area. Some people want a living area and would prefer a bed that folds up. Make the space work for your needs and don't hold yourself traditional dwelling arrangements. After all, it's your home. Create different "zones" in your apartment by grouping furniture. Pulling the furniture off the wall and creating conversation groups will actually make your apartment seem larger. If you want to make some areas more private, strategically placed shelving or decorative screens can create privacy.

Practical storage

When you're living in a small space, every bit of space matters, so plan your storage scheme carefully to make sure you're using every bit of it. Think about how often you use each item, and draw a diagram that shows where each item will go. The less often you need to access an item, the less accessible it needs to be. Consider using tall bookshelves for a more dramatic effect, or take advantage of the space underneath your furniture to store things you'd love to keep out of sight. Need a place for your out-of-season clothes? Banish the under-bed dust bunnies in favour of a storage container. When Santa isn't in town, store your Christmas decorations on high shelves. Get creative to maximise your storage space. Multipurpose furniture - like a coffee table with hidden storage - is a must for a small room. Instead of having a TV cabinet, mount your TV directly onto the wall.

Use colour

One of the best ways to expand a space is with very clear colors, says designer Mark McCauley. Choose a palette of sharper colours as opposed to duller ones. Sharp as in bright chintzes mixed with colourful plaids or really hot reds and electric blues, yellows and greens. Just as different wall colors can divide your apartment into different work areas, different shades of the same colour can unite all the rooms, as can a pattern that's repeated. In a small space these little touches - the pillow that matches the lampshade fabric - can all add up to a cohesive space. For townhouse or apartment living, you can add colour to walls by painting big canvases, hanging fabric or using wall decals. And when you're ready for a larger space? You can take your colour with you and go.

Make full use of mirrors - large and small - to open up small spaces.


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