Tips for max­i­miz­ing every square foot of your tiny Den­ver apart­ment

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Em­i­lie Rusch

With Den­ver rents show­ing few signs of fall­ing back to Earth any time soon, some res­i­dents are find­ing them­selves hav­ing to do more with less. Less square footage, that is. Just ask Tyson Martinez, 32, a Univer­sity of Colorado Den­ver em­ployee who lives in a 620- square- foot stu­dio apart­ment in Lower Down­town. “I hon­estly didn’t know what I was go­ing to do when I moved in,” said Martinez, who chose a stu­dio for af­ford­abil­ity. “How could I make this space not look like a gi­ant bed­room?” You can’t tell he was con­cerned by look­ing at his apart­ment now. Smart fur­ni­ture pieces are strate­gi­cally placed to de­fine sep­a­rate din­ing, sit­ting and sleep­ing ar­eas. Dry goods are stacked in plas­tic con­tain­ers on top of the kitchen pantry, while knives and spices hang from the back­splash. Three mir­rors— of the sort in­tended for the backs of doors— hang hor­i­zon­tally on a wall to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of even more space.

“The size of an apart­ment doesn’t mat­ter if there isn’t us­able space,” said Jo­ce­lyn Durkay, 30, who lives in a pe­tite one- bed­room near Cheesman Park. ” A small apart­ment can be more func­tional than a large apart­ment.”

With just 565 square feet to work with, Durkay has been very in­ten­tional about every item brought in the door, liv­ing by a “one- in, one- out” rule for things like books and clothes.

In the liv­ing room, an an­tique trunk dou­bles as a cof­fee table and catch- all stor­age unit. A plat­form bed con­ceals more stor­age space be­low. A wood­framed jew­elry or­ga­nizer dec­o­rates a bed­room wall and keeps her ear­rings tidy.

“If I lived some­where less cen­tral, I could have more space, but I would trade the things I en­joy,” she said.

So, how can you trans­form your clut­tered cave into a sim­i­larly space- savvy oa­sis? Three Den­ver de­sign ex­perts of­fer their tips for mak­ing the most of how­ever much space you have.

Go ver­ti­cal

In small homes, floor space is a pre­cious com­mod­ity. So look up and re­claim your wall space for stor­age— all the way to the ceil­ing, said Sarah Bergholz, a Den­ver pro­fes­sional or­ga­nizer and owner of XO Sur­round­ings.

“Of­ten, peo­ple stop their shelv­ing at eye level or a lit­tle higher. But they don’t think about wall space above a door,” Bergholz said. “Above a door in a closet is a great place to put a lit­tle shelf or cup­board. Above a door in a bath­room is an­other great place.”

“You al­most have to stand on your head and look at your house in a new way,” she said. “You’ll start to see spa­ces and things dif­fer­ently.”

• Take back your kitchen counter and draw­ers by in­stalling a mag­netic strip on the back­splash to hang your knives.

• Ditch the art print above the toi­let and buy an over- the- toi­let cab­i­net to store items like toi­let paper and ex­tra toi­letries.

• Don’t for­get doors. Add a hook— or two— and you’ve got a place to hang hats, jack­ets, bags and scarves. Over- the- door jew­elry or­ga­niz­ers keep your col­lec­tion tan­gle- free and out of the way. Small shelves on cup­board doors are great for spices and other fre­quently used items.

Neu­trals are your friend

If your land­lord is OK with you fresh­en­ing up the walls with a coat of paint, pick a bright white, said Kylee Trunck, se­nior staff de­signer at Havenly, a Den­ver­based on­line in­te­rior de­sign ser­vice.

Yes, it sounds bor­ing, but es­pe­cially in small ar­eas, “there is noth­ing that opens up a space more than a true white,” she said.

Con­tain, con­tain, con­tain

In the fight against clut­ter, ev­ery­thing needs a home— and a ran­dom pile in the corner doesn’t count, Bergholz said. Start by group­ing like things to­gether and then find each cat­e­gory— shoes, sports equip­ment, books, what­ever— a home­where they can stay or­ga­nized.

“All items need to be con­tained so they’re not spilling over and tak­ing over un­nec­es­sary room,” she said. “Con­tain, con­tain, con­tain.”

• In­stead of just throw­ing things un­der the sink, use stack­able bins to max­i­mize the avail­able space.

• Stor­age bins are also great for ex­tra- deep ( or high) shelves. You’ll have con­ve­nient ac­cess to even the dark re­cesses in back; no rum­mag­ing around re­quired.

• Cre­ate a hang­ing “com­mand cen­ter” where you can keep bills, pens and stamps or­ga­nized ( and off the kitchen table). One pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion: the side of your re­frig­er­a­tor.


When you’re shop­ping for fur­ni­ture, look for pieces that dou­ble as stor­age, Trunck said. That could be a bed frame with builtin stor­age, a bed­side table with draw­ers, or an ot­toman or cof­fee table with stor­age in­side.

“Hide any­thing that isn’t es­sen­tial,” Trunck said. “Clut­ter is a small space’s worst en­emy!”

At the Moxy Ho­tel, cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in Cherry Creek North, Den­ver de­sign firm Johnson Nathan Strohe is max­i­miz­ing space in the tiny 180square- foot guest rooms by in­stalling peg­boards to hang the rooms’ fold­able chairs when not in use and in­te­grat­ing un­der- bed stor­age draw­ers to stash car­ryon lug­gage— or the iron and iron­ing board.

“Stor­age is king,” part­ner To­bias Strohe said.

Right size

Small spa­ces aren’t the place for large or stan­dard- sized fur­ni­ture or ap­pli­ances, Strohe said. Sure, that over­sized sec­tional may be per­fect for the base­ment den of your dreams but you can free up valu­able square footage by choos­ing an equally comfy couch de­signed with smaller spa­ces in mind.

If a kitchen re­model is in your fu­ture, Strohe also rec­om­mends look­ing at smaller, Euro­pean ap­pli­ances, in­clud­ing counter depth re­frig­er­a­tors or 18- inch­wide dish­wash­ers.

Em­brace min­i­mal­ism — but cel­e­brate what you love

There’s no get­ting around it: If you live in a stu­dio apart­ment, you can’t have as many things as if you live in a three- bed­room ranch, Bergholz said. But that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of ev­ery­thing.

If you love books, use books as decor, with floor- to- ceil­ing shelves. If you love cy­cling, hang your bike on the wall. If you love shoes, dis­play your fa­vorite pairs on shelves.

“You don’t need tra­di­tional decor from Tar­get that ev­ery­one else has,” she said. “These are the things that make you and your home unique.”

Hit the RV show

Recre­ational ve­hi­cles and yachts aren’t just for fun— they’re also full of space- sav­ing ideas that can be trans­lated to apart­ment liv­ing, Strohe said.

At Turntable Stu­dios, Den­ver’s first large- scale mi­cro- apart­ment community, JNS cre­ated mul­tiuse coun­ters, an idea that came straight from the RV world. Coun­ter­top in­duc­tion burn­ers can be put away when not in use. The sink faucet swings out of the way and a flush in­sert con­verts the sink into ad­di­tional counter sur­face, per­fect for set­ting out food, of­fice work space or a din­ner table.

“There should be no ‘ dead space’ solely ded­i­cated to one pur­pose,” Strohe said.

Pho­tos by RJ San­gosti, The Den­ver Post

Tyson Martinez uses mir­rors to make his 620- square- foot stu­dio apart­ment in LoDo feel big­ger.

An ear­ring holder is also wall art in Jo­ce­lyn Durkay’s bed­room at her 565- square- foot apart­ment near Cheesman Park.

Pho­tos by RJ San­gosti, The Den­ver Post

Jo­ce­lyn Durkay at her 565- square- foot apart­ment near Cheesman Park.

Tyson Martinez’s kitchen in his 620- square- foot stu­dio apart­ment in LoDo.

Jo­ce­lyn Durkay uses a trunk that dou­bles as stor­age and a cof­fee table at her small apart­ment near Cheesman Park.

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