Smart Ideas for Small Spaces

These rooms show you that small spaces can be super-efficient without sacrificing style.

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office in nook
Fabulous Hang-Ups

    Turn a closet or nook into a work zone. In this space, drapery panels slide along a curtain rod to make it easy to conceal the clutter. Even without an architectural niche or bay, you can duplicate this effect by curtaining off an area across the width of a room -- just hang the drapes from a rod or thin wire suspended from the ceiling.

Distinctive Details

    Add storage as well as architectural heft with a built-in. Incorporating a recessed daybed into this cabinet's design maximized limited floor space and eliminated the need to buy a sofa. Cushions covered with fabric remnants make this alcove cushy and inviting.

Hidden Assets

    Don't let the awkward angles of a dormer dissuade you from taking advantage of square footage -- the light-filled alcoves are often the perfect spot to squeeze in a desk. Two 1 x 4s painted white and mounted on shelving brackets create a handy work zone in this second-story cubby. Built-in benches boost the cozy quotient and allow the space to double as a dining table for two.

Slim Down

    Opting for a narrow, shallow refrigerator netted more counter and shelf space in this compact kitchen. White cabinetry, honed black-granite countertops, and a deep stainless-steel sink give the space a tailored look. To lighten up the painted brick flooring, a solid door between the kitchen and laundry room was swapped out for one with a glass inset.

Step It Up

    Reclaim wasted space under a staircase as storage. Wide-trim molding turns these staggered shelves into a strong architectural feature. Baskets add eye-pleasing texture as they keep linens and other kitchen odds and ends corralled.

Nesting Instincts

    Nesting tables are perfect for squeezing a lot of storage out of minimum space. Pull out the lower table when you need an extra surface for holding drinks or reading material, then tuck it away when you're done. Here, a stylish fabric-covered bin keeps DVDs accessible but contained.

Landing Zone

    Transform the often-unused space at the top of the stairs into a destination. Built-in bench seating capitalizes on the sunny window on this second-floor landing, creating a cozy reading retreat. Flip-up lids under the bench cushions provide access to hidden storage.

Ceiling Savvy

    Most people slap a coat of white paint onto their ceiling and call it quits, but creative use of the space can reap room-enlarging results. A tray ceiling lined with beaded board takes this room to new heights.

Hanging Around

    Storage in a play area is a must, and a grid wall unit is a simple way to keep things off the floor but in plain sight. Here, colorful soft-sided bins are secured to the wall between the grid's crossbars, providing instant storage for toys and books. Matching bins below handle the toy overflow.

Open to Change

    Replacing dark upper cabinets with a sparkling wall of pale glass tiles turned this kitchen luminous. A china hutch (not shown) now sits opposite the sink to make up for the lost storage. To free up space for a peninsula counter, the refrigerator sits in a recessed nook -- space commandeered from a bedroom closet.

Great Proportions

    Play with scale to deliver big impact. An oversize mirror balances the heft of the sofa in this space and reflects light, making the room appear larger. A large patterned throw pillow creates a strong focal point. Reaching from floor to ceiling, wispy tree branches subtly pull all of the elements together.

Art Imitating Life

    Home offices are natural candidates for multifunctional spaces. This dining room was too small for entertaining, so it was converted into an artist's garret, complete with a drafting table and a rolling set of drawers. To expand the room's usefulness, the built-ins hold special-occasion dishes, and extra floor space is home to a vintage bike that doubles as sculptural art.

Eclectic Gathering

    Set a casual, family-friendly mood for mealtimes by mixing and matching chair styles. In this breakfast nook, a slipcovered wing-back chair promises sink-in comfort in an easy-to-clean form. The bench is a great space saver because it accommodates multiple people and takes up less space than a group of individual chairs. Also, the pieces around the table could easily segue into the living room for hosting a crowd.


    Tiny rooms need to be deft multitaskers, so this living room features a long sofa that moonlights as a guest bed. And the ottoman gets a helping hand from a tray, allowing it to double as a coffee table.

Keep It Airy

    Get big style from a small space through careful design. This kitchen is just 9 feet square, yet careful choices resulted in both beauty and function. Tall cabinets stretch to the ceiling in a mixture of light woods and reflective stainless steel that keeps the space clean and open.

Light, Sleek & Neat

    Pale-tone walls, unfettered windows, and sleek furniture leave visual "room" for eye-popping pink geometrics. Tall bookcases in the corner display artwork. Dark floors anchor light-colored rooms; the gradation of wood tones helps hide dirt, too.

Go with Style

    Just because a living space is size-challenged doesn't mean it deserves the short shrift. This living room gets the luxe treatment: Good furniture choices, smart lighting, and plenty of bookcases.

Look Under the Bed

    This bedroom uses the space under the bed for storage. But rather than allowing that space to become a tangle of stuff, well-made drawers keep things neat.

Storage Done Right

    Adding too much storage can make a room too snug. This bath is long but narrow, and most of the storage is in bottom cabinets. Not having cabinets above the counter keeps the space open and airy at eye level, making it comfortable in spite of the close side walls.

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