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Small Spaces, Big Ideas

My husband and I live in NYC with our three young children, and finding space for a growing family has its challenges. When our second son Graham was born, we converted part of our alcove dining room into a small, cozy nursery. To jazz up his room, we hung an over-sized mirror on one of the walls, and not only did it look great, but it created the illusion of a larger space. Instead of a bulky crib, we bought a crib, similar to the one pictured below, that is sleek with enough room underneath for additional storage space.

image from ELLE Decor

The nursery did not allow space for a changing table and a dresser, so we put a changing pad on top of the dresser. Easy. We installed wall-mounted shelves to store books and display mementos.

image from LIfamilies

My daughter Maeve has inherited Graham’s room, and the boys now share a room with bunk beds. In order to keep things organized and to create  more room on the floor for playtime, I got rid of the chest of drawers and had an elfa systems representative from The Container Store revamp the shared closet to create space for both Liam and Graham. They also installed drawers for clothes. Brilliant!

I’ve repurposed a Moroccan blanket box as a storage space for toys, and I used large canvas bins keep soccer balls together. With the extra space I freed up, there is even enough room for indoor hockey. No joke. Here are a few more suggestions to consider when designing a small space:

1. Alternative beds: A co-sleeper, mini crib, pack-n-play or bassinet works well and can be placed beside your bed for many months before the baby needs to be on their own. Whatever works!

2. Buy furniture that can grow: A convertible crib that can change into a toddler bed takes up less space than a twin bed.

3. Save floor space: Hang a laundry bag on a hook behind the door, and use lamps that can fit on a shelf or in my case a window ledge. Wall mount shelves. Save the floor space for playing.

Do you have any clever suggestions for maximizing small spaces? I’d love to hear them.

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  1. avatar Bruce says:

    Thank you, those are some great thoughts on saving precious floor space for playing with the kids.

  2. avatar Rachel says:

    Love these ideas. Just found this site and do happy i did. I’ll be back and I’m calling The Container Store now.

  3. avatar Lynn Sherry says:

    Wow, elfa systems rocks. I wonder if having a closet like this would be appropriate for the master’s bedroom.

  4. avatar Cristen says:

    Great article! Thank you for sharing these handy tips, I’ll be trying some of them out soon.

  5. avatar Susie says:

    Even the closet storage is beautiful. Come to my house please!!

  6. […] Johanna mentioned yesterday, storage is key in children’s spaces big and small. I just completed a major toy purge this […]

  7. […] Johanna mentioned yesterday, storage is key in children’s spaces big and small. I just completed a major toy purge this […]

  8. avatar Lucy says:

    We all need ideas for organizing and these are wonderufl and I love the idea of the big mirrior.

  9. avatar Sue says:

    Great ideas – even after moving into a bigger place it seems there’s never enough space.

  10. avatar wendy says:

    If you move to the suburbs, you can create even more terrific space!

  11. avatar Ilyse says:

    Such great ideas!!!! can’t wait to use them:)

  12. avatar Magaly says:

    Thanks for sharing all of these great ideas for the Mom that is desperately trying to organize and keep finding alternative ways of making things easier and more efficient! Helpful for even this Jersey Mom who is always trying to de-clutter and make more floor space for dance parties with my son:)

  13. avatar Melisa says:

    Welcome aboard Johanna! So great to have you join us and looking forward to getting to know you when I move into my small space in NYC later this year!

  14. avatar Donita says:

    Yeah, it can be a challenge to decorate or set up a beautiful room given such a small space. But the secret is to be practical and minimal when it comes to your purchasing decisions.

  15. avatar Carly says:

    Great ideas! It’s easy to forget that you don’t have to use floor space for storage. Thanks for the tips.

  16. avatar Shea says:

    You’ll come to TO to hep my clients right? You’re amazing.

  17. avatar Sarah says:

    I so love the elfa systems closet. I had to check out the link and I was drooling looking at the photos!

  18. avatar Shawn KJ says:

    I found that bunk beds create a good barrier between kids, despite the amount of space they have. Plus the kids love them. Either way it’s hard living with a small clan in the city.

  19. avatar Fox says:

    Wonderful, creative ideas and the visuals demonstrate the suggestions perfectly. Terrific article.

  20. avatar Amanda says:

    Great suggestions!