Tips for Making a Small House Work for You

Photo: Posh Surfside/Flickr.comLiving in a small space can sometimes feel suffocating, especially if you like entertaining. It's one reason many people gravitate towards larger homes, even with the tiny house movement in the background pushing for more modest living arrangements. Truth be told, there is a happy middle ground in the huge versus tiny debate; you can live comfortably in a small space, with a few space arrangement tips that will make it feel much more expansive.

The difficulty level of these tips is highly variable, from basic interior design tricks that require very little money (if any at all) to significant remodeling. You can decide how far you want to go to make your home work for you!

1. Use big windows and doors (Difficulty level: ***)

If you're building from scratch or remodeing, get rid of tiny, cramped windows and doors. Think expansive with large windows and French doors or sliding glass doors. The big scale will open up the interior space, giving you room to stretch your wings. More than that, it will create a connection between indoors and out, which will make the home feel like a part of something larger.

2. Be sparing with texture and color accents (Difficulty level: *)

Big spaces can handle big, radical textures and colors. Little ones? Not so much. They can start to feel busy, cramped, and a little bit intense. Go for subtle splashes in the environment, and they'll make the room seem much larger. It's also important to keep clutter to a minimum, increasing the sense of space by reducing crowding.

3. Avoid halls, if you can -- if you can't, make them work (Difficulty level: **)

Hallways can turn into spatial voids in a small house; they eat up room without offering any real benefits. And you don't want that when every square foot counts. Make hallways work for a living if you have to have them, and use the space creatively. An entry can open on to multiple rooms, for example, with space against the walls of the entry to store shoes, jackets, bags, and more.

4. Long views (Difficulty level: ***)

Rooms seem bigger when you can see all the way across them, and through into other rooms. Those long, graceful views open up a space, but they may require some careful design or remodeling to position walls just right.

5. Raise the roof (so to speak) (Difficulty level: ***)

High ceilings make spaces seem bigger. It's an old trick for expanding the size of small spaces without actually changing their footprint at all. For bonus points, add high windows or skylights to increase the sense of light and movement in the space, and paint the ceilings white or cream to bounce light around, making the rooms of your house feel even bigger.

6. Think multipurpose (Difficulty level: **)

One room can serve many functions. A home office can also be a guest bedroom, a kitchen or bath can also be a laundry room (this will save on plumbing, too!), a living room can have an integrated dining area or sunroom (as seen above). Combine room uses to use space efficiently, and to create more space for the areas you really want to isolate -- like your own bedroom. Greatrooms that combine kitchen, living, and dining in one fluid space can be a great choice for small homes.

7. Think outside the box (Difficulty level: **)

Go outside! A small house plopped down in isolation can feel dinky and cheap. Create decks, porches, patios, and gentle landscaping to surround the house with a mix of outdoor spaces, creating even more room. Those spaces can integrate with the home to make it feel larger, and it even works on small lots in urban areas; a small simple deck off the back of a kitchen, for example, can radically open up a house without taking up a ton of room. Don't be afraid to look up if you can't look out; rooftop garden, anyone?

8. Go light (Difficulty level: *)

Interior paint decisions are very important with small houses. Think light colors and neutral tones to open up spaces and keep them light; remember, you can use bold and dark accents sparingly to great effect, but you don't want a home with oppressively dark walls or chaotic colors. A painter can help you choose the best colors for your home; you might find that changing the colors radically changes the feel of the space.

9. Meet pocket doors, your new best friend (Difficulty level: **)

Pocket doors are AWESOME for small spaces. Swinging doors are clunky and require a lot of room. Pocket doors? Slide away neatly when you don't need them, and close beautifully when you do want to close or partially conceal a space. Contact a Miami carpenter about installing pocket doors and get ready to revolutionize your usable interior space.

10. Be like a squirrel (Difficulty level: **)

Small spaces, as discussed above, don't do well with clutter. It's best to display only a few things at a time (think about rotating art and precious items), but you also need to keep all the belongings you use, from plates to toiletry items, under control. Think about clever, innovative storage, from hidden cupboards to elegant shelving to under-bed storage compartments. The more you can hide away, the more clean and open your house will feel.

With a little work, you might learn to love your small space!

Katie Marks writes for

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