Live large in your small space

“Small Is Beautiful” is the title of a series of books by E. F. Schumacher (1911-1977), German economist

Once again, small spaces seem to be top of mind for a lot of us. I get a lot of questions about how to live happily in small spaces and wanted to address some easy fixes. Now I’m really not talking about the tiny-house movement, although when I see those shows, the one thing that always concerns me is climbing up a ladder to go to bed. Seriously? I don’t think so.

So, I had planned to do a story about all of our collectibles but decided a story on small spaces will touch on that too. Honestly, the largest percentage of us do live in small to moderate-sized spaces.

Those who own the McMansions are clearly not in the majority. And, even those who might live in enormous spaces now are thinking down the road to the empty nest syndrome and how they are going to downsize when their children fly away.

And, trust me, if you have collectibles, you can make them fit into smaller spaces. The one thing I would say about a lot of collectibles is that if you put your space on the market, pack up your collectibles so potential buyers can get a good look at the space. And think about where they would put their collectibles.

Living in small spaces certainly doesn’t mean you can’t live large. Choosing appropriate furniture and space planning can make any small space work.

I was reminded of this recently while shopping for game room furniture. So you can’t live without a pool table in your small space, or maybe it’s poker night you don’t want to give up. Take heart, gamers. Game and pool table manufacturers are on it.

You can easily find these tables with movable or removable tops that quickly convert them to dining tables. Voila. You can have that friendly, or not so friendly game of pool, pop the dining top on and serve your guests a gourmet dinner.

This interchange will work, but you have to have room for the table to start with. Pool tables won’t work in all places, but game tables will fit in more.

Another great option for small spaces is more contemporary furniture. Before you go, “aagh, I don’t like it,” think again, and browse your stores and the internet to see the latest in contemporary design. Contemporary upholstered pieces tend to be smaller: no overstuffed chairs that take up so much room, physically and visually. The cleaner, sleeker lines are perfect for smaller spaces.

If you don’t want the pool table-dining table, choose glass top tables when possible. Again, glass reduces the visual volume making the room appear larger and not weighted down with sometimes heavy wooden tables.

Versatile furnishings can make a huge difference in living in a small space. When space is at a premium, select your furnishings carefully. Make your furniture work.

Buy side tables for your sofa or ones with drawers next to your bed for nightstands. Small cabinets are available with file drawers for office storage. Buy an ottoman with a flip top that can be used for storage. Ottomans are also great to use as pull-up seating.

Buy chairs that work in the dining area but can be pulled into your sitting area when company comes. Round dining tables don’t take up as much space and are generally easier to move around.

And, of course, one of the most versatile pieces in small space living is the convertible bed. Not the convertible sofa, which also works, but the cabinet that opens and becomes a bed. Furnish your room and make it work for you when you’re home alone and have an option to accommodate guests when they come.

If you have other questions about living in small spaces, please send me a note. But if you are careful in your space planning and choice of furnishings, your small space can accommodate all of your interests, your lifestyle and even guests. And your collectibles.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a design consultant and creator of beautiful spaces. Questions can be sent to her at

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