Small Space Hacks – Make A Small Space Work for Sleep, Work, and Play

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Posted 06 Jul 2009 in Soulville

This year I’ve lived in a house but for the most part been confined to my 2 private spaces (both approximately 8×10) for everything after living on my own in nice size apartments for two years. Of the last 11 years, I lived in dorms for 8. Next year, I’m getting a roommate in a smaller space so I’m back to being in one room again. So I’ve had my share of small spaces. But how can you take a small space and make it livable without making it unbearably overcrowded and claustrophobic? Very good question. While I am not as drastic as this guy, I think there are definitely some great solutions.

Here are 5 great ways to work it out:

1)    Important things first. You must fit your important things first for the room. I imagine you sleep on a bed or a futon (or a mat or something else besides the hard floor). Can what you have fit in the space? Determine if you really need that California king bed or if a twin bed will suffice. Personally I’d not like to give up my queen size bed (so I didn’t) but a larger bed in a small space can create some difficulties you’ll have to plan around. They take up more floor space and can keep room doors or closet doors from opening, can keep you from standing up and opening windows, etc. How much hassle do you want in your daily life? If you’re sleeping alone, cut it on down to the twin. It’s okay, we know you’re not a kid anymore. If you are sharing, get the smallest bed that you can both comfortably fit in. Do you need a desk in your room? Do you need bookshelves? Does your room have a closet? Dresser? Once you know the big items, this task becomes slightly easier. The things that you could live without you might actually have to live without to be comfortable. So focus on the important stuff that you have to have.

Camp Bed
Creative Commons License photo credit: taberandrew

2)    Map out your space. Be like an architect or an interior designer and draw out a floor plan of your space including where windows, doors, closets and other impediments are. Be as accurate as possible – use those ruler skills from fifth grade and make some straight lines! You could use an online tool if you choose (,,, etc), but I always prefer paper (graph paper works well, print some from sites like this). You decided in the first step what all the big items were that were going in the space so now you have to use their dimensions in this space and see if they will all fit. If you have a long narrow room, you might want to think about lofting your bed – you might not have the width to put the bed and a desk and a dresser in the room AND be able to move around. If you have a phobia of heights, try putting your bed lengthwise across the width of the room and then arranging the rest of your furniture.

Craigslist bed loft Ikea furniture
Creative Commons License photo credit: dombrassey

3)    Elevate the bed and use underbed storage. If you can, get some risers or some concrete blocks and lift your bed a few inches. It allows for taller under the bed storage or you to store big duffles etc under the bed. If you can’t raise the bed but have a few inches, get some under the bed storage that you can easily pull out. Even in a small space, don’t be afraid to buy long storage boxes. There’s always a way to make it work. If your bed is really crammed in a space and you don’t want to put up with a daily hassle of getting things from under the bed, store things that can stay there rather long term – luggage, sheets, blankets, winter clothes, etc. If you don’t already have a bed, think about in investing in one that has built in underbed storage, like a captain’s bed. You can also try to build your own captain’s bed.

Six Mix Modular Cubes at re:modern
Creative Commons License photo credit:

4)    Use furniture and storage that goes up. I already mentioned the captain’s bed as one piece of furniture that goes up, but you can get a chest of drawers instead of a long dresser (example), narrow but tall bookshelves instead of short wide ones, install shelving up the wall (like the container store’s elfa units), etc. If you need a closet (one doesn’t already exist in the space), the modular wall units can really help you go all the way up the wall and keep your clothes organized and off the floor. They can allow you to not have the clothes too far out in the space and are meant to fit whatever space you have available. If you are forced to have a rather narrow desk (or even if you have a wider one) get a filing cabinet to go underneath and use a hutch. This can add space for books, pictures, papers, etc. Ikea has a pretty nice set of modular desk furniture – pick your top, your bottom, your hutch. In addition, if you’re good with tools there are plenty of directions available online for building your own custom furniture to fit the space. One of my favorite things to do is to use 3M hooks on the walls to hold my sporting goods, sweatshirts, backpacks, jackets and hats.

Basement Office - Lights On
Creative Commons License photo credit: adselwood

5)    Make the space seem bigger. If you don’t have a carpeted room, try a throw rug under your bed or one in an open area of the room. This will help offset the visual of the space and can help “divide” your room. This is really helpful if you have only one space to yourself and want to make it seem like 2 spaces.

Some other places to look for ideas:
HGTV <– One of my favorite places to look for ideas for my place

How is your small space? How do you arrange it and make it work? Post pics!

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