Tag Archives: ikea

Small Space Solutions (when you both work from home and have a toddler)

I recently started reading the blog 600sqftandababy about a growing family living in a tiny apartment in Canada. They had a second child and stayed put in their tiny apartment. I stumbled upon this site because I was searching for small-space family blogs for interior design inspiration after a particularly stressful freezing day spent inside our small apartment. I was drawn to this blog because our living situation is similar. We are two adults and a two-year-old (with another babe on the way) living in a one-bedroom apartment of roughly 500-square-feet.

The couple and their two-kids-under-three live a super minimalist lifestyle, which I’m trying to implement in my home. Space is functional. I kept poring over their pictures wondering how they made it look so simple…how do they get work done? How does the apartment not look like a goddamn romper room every day? And how is everyone SLEEPING? Sleep is a huge issue in our home. We share a bedroom with our toddler and it kiiiiiinda sucks. (I feel like our whole arrangement might be screwing her up in the long run. Or maybe we are making her the most perfect, well adjusted, supported and amazing person to ever walk the earth. Of course we are.  But let’s get real. No one is getting good sleep…)

I also kept looking around our space wondering why it seemed to jammed in comparison to 600sqft… Aside from a few aesthetic changes that NEED to be made (more wall shelves, smaller dining table, new couch, curtain divider in the bedroom to create the illusion of two rooms and some downsizing) there was something else missing. AND THEN IT HIT ME… Several things hit me, actually. These two parents have thriving careers: outside of the home. And they both seem to be normal sized human beings…

Now take us… My husband, Joe, is an artist/illustrator…he works from home. This is partly by choice because of convenience but also–studio space in NYC is outrageously expensive. To afford a studio he’d have to go way out to East New York or something. I also work from home (I am a freelance writer and I care for our toddler, Emilia). So there you have it: TWO adults and a toddler in 500-squre-feet for roughly 24-hours a day. Save for a few trips to the park, developmental classes and visits to grandma and papa’s (a few blocks away) we’re home a LOT. Like…in each other’s space and up each others butts most of the time. Even when my husband is on a super stressful project with a tight deadline (which is basically every project) he still has to deal with the family circus going on around him. No escape.

Another huge difference is that my husband is roughly six-foot-nine-inches tall. That seems amazing, and it is. But that also means his big clothes and shoes take up a lot of space in our small closet and bigger furniture is required (two major space-saving categories). He will kill me for sharing this but I have to consider everything. The 600sqft couple have a murphy bed. My husband would break that thing off the wall in five minutes!

One major obstacle is the shape of our apartment. The measurements, the construction, weird corners jutting out everywhere…it was NOT designed well. Whoever built our apartment building didn’t imagine that anyone would want to hang things from the walls. There is nary a stud to be found! So my brilliant idea of wall-mounting the TV would be a death trap. The wall shelves are hopefully safe with twenty anchors (Let’s just pray the upstairs neighbors don’t have another flood or the drywall will turn to putty and the screws will just slide out).

Small spaces are always a challenge–financially and visually. Finding easy and aesthetically pleasing items at Ikea or Home Depot is a nightmare. When I see gorgeous small spaces on Design Sponge (like this one or this one, which features 600sqftandababy) or Apartment Therapy (particularly this one) I laugh. Sure you can make a small space look great with a big budget. But if money were no object, we’d have a bigger f-ing apartment, wouldn’t we? Then our small space problems would be solved.

So here goes…

Bedroom: Eliminate two dressers, create a room divider, overhaul the walk-in closet (it is really a step-in and turn). This sounds impossible but with a little imagination and a dozen trips to Ikea and the hardware store I think we can do it.

Living Room: Everything must go. ok not “go” but change. Shelves, new couch, new table (and dining chairs because each one has a 80% risk of exploding beneath my husband every time he sits down).

Storage throughout: I am trying to avoid the urge to turn my apartment into something that resembles a workshop but we need shelves and storage solutions so I’m not tripping over toys and books and shoes.

My first challenge is the bedroom and closet. Stay tuned for posts on our progress.

Ah-ha…good idea

I just saw this great strategy for arranging frames before you put hammer to nail and end up with a bunch holes. Using magazine clippings is less wasteful than using painter’s tape to outline the frames and the images help to better visualize the space. Thanks Designing Main Street, I’m headed to Ikea Brooklyn ASAP… I will probably have to bribe my boyfriend with Swedish Meatballs upon arrival but it will be well worth it.


Now that I really look at my workspace–it is pretty generous and I have a window. Granted my view is another building but in between there are trees and an old fashioned looking lamppost…oh and let’s not forget that annoying guy who smokes pot under my window every day. I’m thankful for the snowy cold weather forcing him to stay inside. What I’m not thankful for is the Victorian looking white desk. Not one of my mother’s better Homegoods finds. It serves the purpose for the time being but I’m holding out for my dad’s old wooden desk. I’m excited to sit and write at the same table he did 40 years ago. (I’ll post a picture when I get it)

What I love about the location of my work-space is that it’s tucked away in the corner so it feels like a separate room. A common small space misconception is that, because you don’t have a door, you have no privacy. There are little (excuse the pun) ways to create your own space in cramped quarters. I grew up in a two-bedroom apartment sharing a room with my younger brother so I have plenty of experience. My desk is in a corner next to the bed–which serves as a makeshift divider. I’m all about furniture doing double duty–you can sleep on it and also use it as a line of demarcation. I also hung a shelf and a cork board to give the corner a cozy feel and to perceive the space as separate from the rest of the bedroom.

Some of my favorite pieces of inspiration (including from the homemade, heart-shaped Valentine’s Day card from my boyfriend last year) decorate the space. I have the beginnings of my illustration projects (I’m thinking of doing a line of stationary with simple object illustrations like furniture, chairs, kitchen appliances, animals…stay tuned!), postcards from Pescara, Italy, where I did a summer semester abroad in 2006, some fashion and home magazine clippings and photographs. My favorite photo was taken in 1981 from my parents’ terrace in Tribeca–notice there are virtually NO buildings on the waterfront…in fact there really isn’t much of a waterfront community at all! I wish it was like that now. NO offense to the thirty-something-transplanted stroller-set…but I hate crowds.

*A cork-board tip, try to avoid using traditional thumb tacks because they leave holes in everything and destroy the cork. Instead, buy T-Pins and binder clips–then clip and hang like I do . They’re available in an assortment of sizes at staples, office max, dick blick, Amazon. I like them because you can move things around and have a cleaner more manageable looking board. (I also used them for my jewelry organization)