8 Ways to Multi-task in Small Spaces

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These eight tips on multi-tasking rooms will help you to maximize your small space.

8 Ways to Multi-task in Small Spaces Image courtesy of Murrye Bernard

When you live in a small house or apartment, every square foot counts, but this is not another article suggesting that you invest in sofa beds or storage ottomans. While these are valid strategies for maximizing space, we present a few fresh ideas for making the most of what you have by multi-tasking.

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Set up Your Inbox

When there’s no room for clutter to accumulate, establish a method for sorting every item as soon as it comes through the door. Former managing editor and Buildipedia contributing writer Kristin Dispenza has turned her kitchen table into a “complete bill paying center.” She uses a wooden desk organizer to stash incoming bills (she suggests one with open shelving and a drawer to conceal office supplies). She also keeps a galvanized metal bin beside it for papers that need to be filed later. “By moving the wooden organizer and galvanized bin onto the kitchen table, along with my laptop computer and checkbook,” shares Dispenza, “I can do a lot of paperwork and then whisk it out of the way by dinnertime.”

Use Old Furniture in New Ways

My first “writer’s desk” was a bargain flea market find that holds a special place in my heart. It was never very practical for its intended purpose (I constantly banged my knees on the scrolls), but I couldn’t bear to part with it. So, I repurposed it as a combination bar/sideboard. Although not great for knees, the space beneath was the perfect size for housing a wine fridge. I placed a lacquer tray on top to hold liquor bottles and added framed photographs for a personal touch. The drawers allow me to organize silverware, napkins, tea lights, and other entertaining necessities.

Reused writers desk

Rethink Room Dividers

If you live in a studio apartment, it’s up to you to define areas in the absence of walls. To screen my “bedroom” from the remainder of the apartment, I placed a low bookcase a few feet from the foot of the bed. This piece of furniture suggests a partition without blocking the apartment’s visual flow, it provides extra storage for folded clothes and accessories, and one of the colorful cube inserts even serves as a hamper. It’s also a convenient place to stash my purse when I come home, and it occasionally serves as a laundry line.

Create Opportunities for Kids to Get Artistic

Architect Sarah Nettleton, who advocates simplicity in residential design in her book, “The Simple Home: The Luxury of Enough,” shared a clever idea with Buildipedia’s Kristin Dispenza: "One client chose a glass dining table so that it could also be used as an art table where the kids finger paint. It’s a high-quality piece of furniture, but it’s well designed and can serve this other purpose, so there’s no need to build a separate area for the kids’ activities." For those who have wooden tables, Dispenza suggests adding a playful plastic or vinyl table covering to create a temporary kid-friendly space.

In home art gallery

Curate Your Own Gallery

When decorating a new apartment, our first impulse is often to distribute paintings or framed photographs evenly between walls; i.e., hanging one above the bed, another above the dining table, and yet another above the fireplace. However, grouping art by creating a “gallery wall” has a much stronger impact than scattering it around. It also preserves clean, uninterrupted expanses of wall throughout the rest of the apartment, making it feel more spacious. In my own apartment, I painted two walls a deep, matte gray and covered them with framed art, canvases, and other sentimental items. Each item tells a story, but together they make a big statement.

Display Your Collections

Jen Chu, a Brooklyn-based interior designer, has a strict rule when it comes to collecting: “One item in, one item out.” She makes one exception: “I’m not big on buying souvenirs, but when I travel I make it a point to buy one pair of earrings.” She purchased affordable lion door-knockers from the hardware store and hung them on the wall to artfully display her jewelry collection.

Garden Vertically

Small apartments often mean you have no outdoor space to call your own, so a garden is out of the question. That doesn’t mean you can’t include a few reminders of nature within the confines of your urban abode. If you don’t have storage space for bags of potting soil and gardening tools, or the window sill real-estate to accomodate bulky pots, then give air plants a try. You can display air plants in a variety of attractive hanging vessels (Tip: go for an odd number and stagger them at different heights). All you need is a spray bottle to mist them once a week or so. Another space-saving option is to purchase a wall-mounted vertical gardening kit.

In home gardening

DIY Storage

Let’s face it—storage is the issue that never goes away when you’re living in tight quarters. Aside from paring down your belongings on a regular basis, you have no choice but to get creative. Why not DIY? Buildipedia’s Rachael Ranney, who hosts Re{habitat}, has several ingenious ideas for transforming everyday items like vintage crates or old doors into cool storage units.

Murrye Bernard

Murrye is a freelance writer based in New York City. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the University of Arkansas and is a LEED-accredited professional. Her work has been published in Architectural Record, Eco-Structure, and Architectural Lighting, among others. She also serves as a contributing editor for the American Institute of Architects' New York Chapter publication, eOculus.

Website: www.murrye.com
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