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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Otte

Design for the Tiny Space

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

We've all been there before - it's that tiny space that is just so hard to work with, so naturally it just becomes a danger zone for a cluttered mess! It's in your downtown apartment or your entire downtown apartment, the small nook in the back of your kitchen, that little bathroom under the stair case. At one point we've all struggled with that small space and what to do with it!

So, how exactly do you make it work?! I recently teamed up to work with Kate Gaul and Laurenne McGill, two amazing design students for the Habitat for Humanity Restore project. Our challenge was to create a space out of a 4' x 4' area. Now that's SMALL! How do I create something that is functional, something that I would want to use and a space I would want to be in. Throughout the process I gained insight on HOW to make that small space work and I am dying to share my secretes with you!

Challenge # 1: What do I want this space to be?

Think about where this small space is at and how it could be best utilized. Some spaces are going to be pretty obvious - if it's already a bathroom, then it's going to stay a bathroom. But if it's that tiny little nook in the corner of your kitchen it could be several things: a tinly little office nook to prepare for grocery trips and calendar planning for the family, an extension of your pantry storage, a drop zone, a breakfast nook... etc. Think about your lifestyle and what makes the most sense to you. For the Restore project, our ideas were abundant but we decided on a small office nook for the "working girl"

Challenge # 2: The Design

As an interior designer, the design process came somewhat easily to me. BUT I realize not everyone has a magic wand that they wave and voila, your design idea is complete and flawless! So here are some main tips and tricks to keep in mind when designing out your small space:

  • Draw it out, by hand or a computer generated program. I like to utilize Google Sketchup for space planning and floor planning. Even if you're not a pro at drawing, an idea down on paper can help you visualize what will and won't work.

  • Think about installing custom cabinets, a storage system, or implementing ikea hack ideas. In small spaces, often full size or standard cabinetry will be too large so scaling back the depth of any cabinetry or storage is going to make the space feel larger.

Photo Source: Kate Gaul, Project Team Member

  • Use the height of the room to build upward. Since the space is already small, it doesn't always make sense to build outward with a ton of base cabinets or furniture pieces that extend into the room if space is limited. ( This would not be the case for larger rooms though!) When building 'upward' be careful that what you are installing does not become too top heavy or the room will feel like it is falling in around you. Think about using picture ledges to display accessories and wall art, I bought some for my office HERE. Or utilize open shelving that allows the space to feel more open.

  • Furniture - any furniture piece that you use in this type of space should take up little visual space. This means you aren't going to set your favorite upholstered wingback chair in this space, because it is too bulky and large. Capitalize on visual space by using furniture that is light open - for example, a folding chair has many "holes" to see through so it won't take up a lot of your visual space. I also LOVE using lucite furniture pieces because of their transparency.

That's all I have! But if you feel so inclined to 'Vote' for our Habitat Restore Space, you can do so through the end of July by texting 'RESTORE9' to 50304. See it in person at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska!



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