Yes, you can live large in a small space

“Small is beautiful.” — E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977), German-born British economist and author of the “Small Is Beautiful” series of books

Once again, small spaces seem to be top of mind for a lot of us. We get a lot of mail about how to live happily in small spaces, and we wanted to address some easy fixes.

Of course, I’m sure those of you who watch anything on HGTV have seen some of the “Tiny Home” episodes. So I know we all have our ideas about them, and I’ve seen some when a family moves in with several children. I’m always wondering: How in the world will that work?

The ones with the sleeping lofts are the ones that make me crazy — and the ones I’m sure I couldn’t live in. At a certain age, you don’t even want to go up steps to go to bed, much less a ladder. And you want to stand up straight.

In reality, the largest percentage of us do live in small or moderate-sized spaces — not the tiny homes. Those who own the McMansions (not my word!) are clearly not in the majority. And even those who may 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 what kind of small space will they find.

Consignment stores and Craig’s List are full of furnishings that once graced larger homes and have been replaced with more versatile, smaller-scale furnishings. We also see here in our valley the emergence of high-rise condos and lofts that offer even the most discriminating buyers a choice of small spaces.

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 so vividly 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 that 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.

Another great option for small spaces is more contemporary furniture. Not your style? You may want to check out the latest in 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 (I admit, it’s not for everybody), choose glass top tables when possible. Again, glass reduces the visual volume, making the room appear larger and not weighted down with 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 a bed with drawers. Small cabinets are also available with file drawers for office storage.

And ottomans have become one of my favorite pieces. An ottoman with a flip top can be used for storage as well as seating, and the larger ottomans are now very popular as coffee tables.

Buy chairs that work in the dining area with your table but can also be pulled into your sitting area when company comes.

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 becomes a bed. A lot of the cabinet companies feature them. They appear as a wall cabinet feature but then fold down and become a bed.

We’ve talked about this many times. It just doesn’t make sense in a small space to have a room just for guests when, in reality, how much company do you have? Furnish your room to 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, send us 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.

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

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