7 Ways To Make Your Small Space Bigger

January 14, 2016
small space living

Living in a small home doesn’t have to be as limiting as you think.

Take my house, for example; once you’re through the hallway we have only one L-shaped living space: lounge, dining and kitchen. Upstairs we have a landing, two bedrooms (one with the dream, a walk-in wardrobe) and a bathroom. I’m not sure what this would be in terms of square footage but it certainly isn’t huge.

Coming from a large barn conversion with double-height ceilings it was difficult to envisage how two children and I would fit into this small space. Back then our furniture was large and bulky, as big as it could be to fill the huge floor space and height. I mean, that old kitchen was huge. HUGE. I had three times as much cupboard space as I do now and the worktop areas were just ridonkulous. We had two dining room tables (who needs just one, eh?), two sofas, loads of beds, shelves, wardrobes… just STUFF. Everywhere. So much stuff.

But interestingly I am much happier living in the smaller space, with less stuff and a more strategic approach: “ALL OF THE THINGS” would not work for this house.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last two years of Small Space Living:

1. Fit your furniture to the space

small space living

It’s a struggle to fit big furniture in a small space, that’s just maths and measuring. One of the biggest changes I made once I’d settled in to the house was to consider the size of the furniture I had and swap it out for smaller equivalents, without compromising on storage. This beautiful Hyde sofa from Habitat is the same length as my old bulky IKEA one and only 4cm less in depth, yet it completely opened up the room; I fall asleep on it at least once a week so it’s not compromising on comfort, either.

I also introduced shallower, lower storage for my side board and TV stand – these give a much sleeker, less cluttered appearance than the previous large wooden furniture. White furniture also looks more minimal than dark or heavily textured woods.

2. Define your areas

small space living small space living

We have three definite defined areas within our living space: lounge, dining and kitchen. Having these areas so distinctive from one another gives a feeling of separation when you’re doing the cooking, or relaxation when you’re watching TV. I’m never on the sofa feeling I’m too close to where I cook dinner or eating dinner thinking I’m too close to where I read my books.

There are a few tricks you can use to define your areas and one of the simplest ways to do this is with rugs. I have a living space rug, and when you step off that onto the wood floor you’re in dining space, and from there to the white rug is the kitchen. The rugs are markers, checking off the virtual rooms as you walk through them.

3. Be strategic with the kid’s toys

small space living

Toys, eh? Big, plastic, noisy, flashing toys. They used to be piled up EVERWHERE in the old house but I’ve taken a bit more of a strict approach with them here. The kids have one of these baskets each to store toys in downstairs and one for toys they share – everything else goes upstairs in their room in a big toy basket. They rotate their favourites (luckily Hux is currently into small toy planes and Elfie teeny Shopkins – score!) and know that toys are returned to their baskets at the end of the day.

If Daddy or their grandparents buy them anything bigger than, say, Buzz Lightyear, I strongly suggest the toy lives in their house ready to be played with when they visit.

I might be coming across a bit mean mummy here, but really, at the end of a stressful day the last thing I want to look at is a heap of singing plastic. Sorry, kids. You can have all the books you want, though ;)

4. Make use of dead space

small space living small space living

In a small space it’s key to utilise every little corner. In the hallways this is done with a wall full of hooks for coats and bags. In the kitchen you’ll find my booze area is also a mini-workspace (makes it handy for those really stressful days). And my upstairs landing is storage for every episode of Vice Magazine I ever worked on – I can’t bear to throw them away – as well as toys, books and nappies.

Look at storage that can fit into small spaces in your home. I love the tall and slim Habitat Kubrick, or for a super budget friendly option IKEA’s KALLAX shelving system (£20, as above).

5. Embrace open storage

small space living small space living

The simple fact is that, if you have your stuff on display, you’re way more likely to keep it tidy.

I have a shelf for cookbooks in the kitchen that is always meticulous, my magazines on the TV unit are always as neat as can be and my wardrobe is spotless. It used to be the bane of my existence but, after having the door taken off when my new carpet was fitted, I didn’t put it back on because I liked how neat it looked after a big sort-out. Seeing its contents day-in, day-out is a huge motivator for me to keep it in order.

For motivation to get your shelves and open spaces organized take a look at The Project Girl – there are some great ideas and inspiration here.

6. Make your bed

small space living

U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven says if you want to change the world, you should start by making your bed, and I totally agree with him. In a commencement speech at The University of Texas he said: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”


Making your bed starts the day with a bang; it means you can work around it to complete other tasks. I use my made bed as a station to sort and hang up laundry, to pack my ASOS returns, to organize toiletries. all these things would be much more difficult if I didn’t have a made bed to work from.

It also looks really nice.

7. Enjoy your things

small space living

The old William Morris quote “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” is an oldie but it’s a goodie, and probably the basis of Marie Kondo’s “does this give you joy?” throw-out theories. I like to look around at my stuff – it’s mine, I bought it, I like it – and know it makes me smile.

I never EVER have anything on display that isn’t either useful or makes me feel happy – it goes.

Essential stuff like loo rolls and thrush cream that don’t fit into either of these categories? They’re in a drawer.

How do you manage organization in your home?

Thanks to Habitat for collaborating with me on this post. 

You Might Also Like

  • Reply Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi January 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    I need to take heed of your guru storage methods!

  • Reply Becky | Spirited Puddle Jumper January 14, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Amen to making the bed! My bedroom never feels right unless it’s made *anal* Also totally agree with getting the right furniture for the space- we had to ditch a huge L-shaped sofa a year after we moved to our house, because although it was fairly new and perfect for our old flat, it just didn’t fit the shape of our new living room at all and was doing my head in. The RELIEF when we got a new one was incredible! #firstworldproblems

    • Reply alice January 15, 2016 at 9:56 am

      I know right, Becky?! If I don’t have time to do it before the school run it’s the first thing I do when I get home!

      I was also sad to say goodbye to my old sofa… soooo good for sprawling. But on the upside I now work at an actual DESK more than on the sofa which is WAY better for productivity! x

  • Reply Katie @mummydaddyme January 14, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I am a huge one for no clutter. I know it also sounds like a mean parent but I like to relax of an evening and have nothing except an ikea toy kitchen on display. I want it to feel like my own rather than a toy store so I always put stuff away where it can’t be seen. I am not a hoarder either, I get rid of pretty much everything unless it is sentimental. Love your storage ideas.
    PS Nice flooring too. ;)

    • Reply alice January 14, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Exactly this! If there’s a massive red plastic toy next to the television when I’m watching my precious box sets, that’s what I’m going to be staring at. And I want to be staring at Breaking Bad! ;)
      I used to be a hoarder but have changed drastically these last few years. Once I get rid of something it’s gone from memory and that’s an ACE feeling. x

  • Reply Kathryn January 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I just gave my pig sty of an office a tidy today and chucked out so much crap I’d been hanging on to plus a charity shop bag of books and stuff. It feels so much more organised in there, like I’m not trying to work in a junk room. I love the way you’ve made your family home into a chic, stylish space that still reflects you. Great storage tips! x

  • Reply Claire January 15, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I love this post…and your home and your tips. I also loved the links back to your old home interior posts. I’m inspired to declutter now tonight! x

  • Reply Kelsey January 16, 2016 at 9:39 am

    I love your home; it looks cosy and chic and so homely! I’m getting excited for the time when we have our own place again to put all this into practice!


  • Reply Fritha January 20, 2016 at 11:13 am

    your living room is a dream! I’m so envious, I love the tips about defining each area too. x

  • Leave a Reply