Liv­ing small re­quires think­ing big

Tight spa­ces call for cre­ative decor and a lot of self-con­trol

Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - KIM COOK

For many young people, a first apart­ment might be a cramped stu­dio or just a bed­room in a shared liv­ing ar­range­ment. Jug­gling that room’s liv­ing, din­ing and sleep­ing spa­ces re­quires cre­ativ­ity.

Take Meg Volk, a New York-based pro­ducer and pho­tog­ra­pher who at 22 is a sea­soned vet­eran of the tiny-home trenches: She’s on her third un­der-300square-foot stu­dio apart­ment.

Find ver­ti­cal space, think small and light, and when in doubt, do with­out, she ad­vises.

“In my first solo stu­dio apart­ment, I had about 200 square feet and the op­tion of a twin-sized bed or a fu­ton,” she says. But she was lucky enough to have 10-foot ceil­ings. She built a sleep­ing loft with a port­hole en­trance and stor­age in the stairs. Was it claus­tro­pho­bic? A lit­tle, but worth it, she says.

“While it’s nice to be able to sit up in bed, it’s even nicer to have room for a couch, me­dia cen­tre and side ta­ble.”

IKEA has em­braced this mo­bil­erenter de­mo­graphic with its PS col­lec­tions. Now eight years run­ning, the col­lec­tions fea­ture pieces that are por­ta­ble and in­ex­pen­sive but well-de­signed. The Havet so­fas have wheels; a stool has an em­bed­ded LED lamp.

Peter Klink­ert heads the re­tailer’s spe­cial col­lec­tions. He says this year’s 50 pieces came out of col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween young in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers and the IKEA in-house team.

“Small space doesn’t al­ways mean no space,” Klink­ert says.

Buy fur­ni­ture that’s multi-func­tional, he ad­vises: stor­age cubes that also work as cof­fee ta­bles, or a din­ing ta­ble that of­fers stor­age, so it can be used as a workspace. (www.ikea.ca)

Book­cases can be clunky and cum­ber­some. Con­sider float­ing book­shelves that take ad­van­tage of wall space with­out tak­ing up floor space.

Ikea’s Lack wall shelves come in a va­ri­ety of colours, and there’s also a cor­ner shelv­ing unit in the PS 2014 collection that would max­i­mize a dead space.

Check out Um­bra’s clever Con­ceal wall shelves that give you a steel bar on which to an­chor a hard­cover book; stack a few more, or add a small ac­ces­sory, for a neat com­bi­na­tion of wall stor­age and art. (www.um­bra.com )

Con­sider mir­rored or clear acrylic pieces to give the il­lu­sion of more space. Over­stock’s got side ta­bles and chairs priced a lot lower than high-end de­signer pieces. (www.over­stock.com)

A great cof­fee ta­ble can serve a lot of func­tions. En­ter­tain­ing, din­ing and craft­ing can all hap­pen at a de­cent ta­ble in front of the sofa and tele­vi­sion. Da­nia has the cool Har­wich oakve­neered ta­ble: four stacked slabs, and the top two swivel. Two sturdy lev­els of elm ve­neer and steel cre­ate a work­horse piece in the Mat­son cof­fee ta­ble. (www.da­ni­a­fur­ni­ture.com)

Volk says her spa­ces seem big­ger when she uses fur­ni­ture with legs rather than pieces that squat solidly on the ground. Choos­ing light-coloured woods and fabrics also con­trib­ute a sense of airi­ness.

If you’re strapped for cash, con­sider TV trays for side ta­bles, and park a bin or bas­ket un­der­neath for stor­age. Tar­get sells them in­di­vid­u­ally for around $10, or buy a set of four and use them in both the liv­ing room and bed­room. (www.tar­get.ca)

For good deals, hit the sale sec­tions at your favourite re­tail­ers; dents, torn wrap­ping and scratches of­ten war­rant heav­ier dis­counts, so keep check­ing in. (www.west­elm.com; www.cb2.com; www.homegoods.com)

One good thing about a small liv­ing space is that it doesn’t take much to add a lot of punch. A peace­ful pal­ette may be just right, but if you love colour and pat­tern, in­ex­pen­sive tex­tiles are easy to add. Buy a cou­ple of yards of in­ter­est­ing cot­ton, or use neat tow­els or cute baby blan­kets to cover seat cush­ions or throw pil­lows. You don’t need sewing skills — sta­ple guns han­dle the job on fur­ni­ture, while iron-on tack, Vel­cro, di­a­per pins or knots work on pil­lows. (www.joann.com)

A block-printed shower cur­tain can work in the bath­room or at the win­dow, and be cheaper than drapes. (www. world­mar­ket.com)

Check out www.ap­t2b.com for con­tem­po­rary wall-art de­signs at good prices.

Fi­nally, ex­er­cise self-con­trol when it comes to tchotchke dis­plays and tempt­ing but un­nec­es­sary gear.

“Pil­ing stacks of books on the floor, cov­er­ing your desk with col­lectibles or us­ing your cof­fee ta­ble to show off the trin­kets you picked up in Paris sounds lovely, but gen­er­ally comes off feel­ing as though you had nowhere else to put them,” says Volk.

Pho­tos: IKEA

A wall shelf with lots of knobs from the PS 2014 collection, de­signed for the mo­bile res­i­dent, is avail­able in birch or an­thracite/birch. The piece pro­vides stor­age and hang­ing space in one unit for small liv­ing spa­ces.

The Havet sofa bed from IKEA has cas­tors for easy mov­ing and is cov­ered in a durable cot­ton up­hol­stery, which is avail­able in sev­eral colours.

The PS 2014 lamp stool fea­tures a handy stool em­bed­ded with LED light. A great item for a stu­dio, small liv­ing room, or bed­side.

The Lovbacken side ta­ble is the first flat-packed item that IKEA of­fered. Its reis­sue has pleased young renters.

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