We’ve seen it in the last few years - condos are being built everywhere! For young professionals looking to settle in closer to the city, condos can be great affordable solutions (well, not in all parts of town, but you know what I mean!). Or maybe you’re retiring in a few years and it’s time to downsize from the big house with the big yard and settle into something that requires less maintenance so you can spend more time on hobbies.
Whatever the reason, condos usually pose a very specific problem for new owners: smaller and sometimes awkwardly laid out spaces make shopping for furniture and arranging it a nightmare. Doesn’t it seem like furnishings have been getting bigger and bulkier in the last years? Larger screen TVs are becoming increasingly affordable and large sectional sofas are taking over. What’s more, most of these newly built condos have breakfast bars that double up over the dining area. If you’re buying a condo or living in a small space, you know the sinking feeling of realizing something doesn’t fit. But don’t get discouraged! Here are a few tips to help you shop and think differently about small condo interior design.
1. Think before you buy
You want to be comfortable in your home as soon as possible after you move in, I get it. But buying furniture before you’re living in the space can be a big mistake. If your condo is being built, you’ll be given plans ahead of time to help you think about how you want to lay out your space. Those plans will show you dimensions but there are a few pieces of information that you won’t get from them. The same goes if you’re moving into a new place where you don’t have plans. Unless you’re living there, you won't notice where the electrical outlets, light switches, air vents, bulkheads, and all those other seemingly innocuous details are located. But they make a huge difference in what furniture goes where!
So take the time to get used to the space and think about what your intentions are for your furniture. Will you be living there for the long term? If not, you may not want to invest in a custom shelf. If you’re a small family, are you planning on having guests over regularly? If not, maybe you don’t need a breakfast bar with stools and a dining room table. Or maybe you can buy a round dining table that sits less people. Being pragmatic about your furniture choice will ensure you don’t buy something you don’t need or overstuff your space and create clutter.
2. Go with the flow
This is a common oversight when buying new furniture or arranging it in a small space. When you think about placing your furniture or measure available space, don’t forget to take into account navigational flow in between. For example, you’d like to put a console table in the hallway where you can hang a mirror, some accessories and maybe a lamp. It’s a pretty finishing touch and adds a lot of warmth to the space. But there’s a problem: you’ve just narrowed down your hallway quite a bit and you notice that if your significant other is walking toward the kitchen as you make your way to the bedroom… traffic jam. Or maybe you want extra shelving around your washer and dryer for towels, detergent and other cleaning supplies. Open the washer door for a new load and… bump, you can’t open it wide enough.
There are some general guidelines you can follow to make sure you have enough room to move around your new space fluidly. Take into account a full door swing and make sure that nothing hinders it (even if you plan on keeping that door closed at all time, as accidental contact could damage the door and the furniture). The general rule of thumb in design is that you should have a 32 inch (or 81 cm) clearance to allow for a person to pass or navigate around furniture (which is also the standard width of an interior door, coincidentally). Also try to create straight navigational lines for passage. Having to constantly adjust your direction with twists and turns is going to get old, fast.
3. Start big
If you’re buying all your furniture from scratch for a space, start with the biggest items first. In your living room, start with the couch. Decide where it will go, and measure up the available space (tip: don’t max out the space, going for a smaller couch that allows for some room next to a wall or table won’t reduce the amount of seating and will let the space breath better). Next up, the media center and so on and so forth until you only have the accessories left.
Stick to one theme for the first 2 to 3 pieces to create a cohesive look and to anchor your space. This will make it much easier to complete with accessories and accent furniture afterwards.
4. Multifunctional furniture to the rescue
Rule number 1 in small space decoration: make every piece count. That means everything needs a function, and sometimes a double-function. Because there’s more and more demand for condo living spaces, there are so many furniture manufacturers who make double-duty furniture to go with it. Look for credenzas that double up as desk space, or ottomans with extra storage and even mirrors that hide an armoire for your jewelry. These are clever combinations that will make sure you not only have space for all your possessions, but to also keep the mess and clutter to a minimum.
5. Become an organization expert
FIguring out how much storage you will need is a super important step. Before you move in, how much cabinet spoace does your new kitchen provide and will there be enough room for all your things? If not, it may be time to sell, donate or throw things away. If you don’t want to do a purge, you need to become an organization guru! You’d be surprised how much storage you can create without taking away too much living space if you’re a little creative. You could add open shelving under your breakfast bar (instead of cluttering the space with extra seating), add a shelf above a door with baskets to hold extra linens, install a towel bar behind a door to provide out-of-sight easy access. Sometimes you need to be a little sneaky, but having a place for everything really brings peace of mind to any homeowner.
Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or ready to downsize and enjoy your retirement, I hope you feel a little better about making the right decision to furnish a small space and got some good ideas for your home. WHat other tips have you discovered that helped you design the small space of your dreams? We’d love to hear from you!
Isabelle Blondin is our resident Interior Designer at Rustic Furniture Outlet. Backed by an Interior Design degree from LaSalle College in Montréal, Québec and a passion for design, her tips and tricks will set you on the right track to creating a beautiful space. Follow our blog to for her weekly insights, and feel free to comment or ask questions! We'd love to hear from you!