When it comes to buying a home, we often think ‘the more square footage, the merrier.’ But for those of us that live in cities, homes with sizeable square footage just aren’t the norm. And while living in a home or condo that’s 500 sq.ft. or less isn’t without its challenges, there are a lot of benefits to owning a home with a more modest footprint, from less maintenance to the perk of owning in a prime location of the city. To help Quay House residents discover how they can make the most of a smaller home, we asked Samantha Coulombe and Laura Martins of Toronto design firm U31 for their best tips, tricks and out-of-the-box solutions.
Why do you think living in a small space is so intimidating to most people?
Samantha Coulombe: A lot of people think that living in a small space means having to sacrifice luxury and give up all the furniture and possessions that are sentimental or significant to them. And while moving into a small space does mean we’ll have to part with some belongings we’ve held on to for a long time, it also presents the opportunity to reflect on what’s truly valuable in our lives and curate our homes to reflect those values.
What’s one of the greatest benefits to living in a small space?
Laura Martins: Living in a small space lets us acknowledge what in our home environment is working for us and what isn’t. Given the amount of time most of us are now spending at home, living in a small space can be advantageous as it helps us stay focused on only what matters, and it’s also generally easier to maintain.
Light-coloured furniture and floors keep the model suite at Empire Quay House airy and bright.
What tips do you have to keep your home as organized and functional as possible?
SC: Furniture selections are key. When purchasing, be mindful of scale and tailored forms. People often buy furniture that’s too small or too large for the space. Allow for some breathing room around your furniture; it’ll make your space feel more open, and show that you’ve considered your furniture’s proportions in relation to the shape and size of your room.
LM: Be mindful not to over furnish. Ensure you’ve purchased pieces that meet your room’s functional requirements, then gradually add in as needed — you don’t need all the hallmarks of a suburban living room in a small space. And if your budget allows, consider custom pieces. Media cabinets that double as linen storage, closets with integrated doors, or a desk built into a larger bookcase are all great ways to maximize your space.
What other ways can you maximize living in a small space?
LM: A monochromatic palette lets the eye relax and creates the illusion of more space. Walls can also be used for more than art — add in wall shelving for greater storage or as a space for display.
Streamlined cabinets give the kitchen a modern appeal, while ample counter space and under-cabinet lighting makes cooking a breeze.
How have the interiors at Quay House been optimized to make the most of 500 sq.ft.?
SC: A sleek, integrated kitchen was key, not only for wow-factor, but also to show a functional and efficient space with a small footprint. You want your kitchen to blend in beautifully in a small space. From a furnishing perspective, we designed the rooms to show layouts that were conducive to how we felt the space might be lived in; locating where televisions, side tables, dining tables and desks would go ahead of time was an important step.
Are there any double-duty or space-saving furniture pieces you’d recommend for someone trying to maximize their space?
LM: Any furniture pieces that can double or triple its function is great — for instance, a bar cart can be converted into a handy food server when you need an extra surface for dinner parties; fold-out tables offer that extra surface space as well. Be sure to also consider a sofa bed for when visitors are over; nesting tables that can be pulled out for extra surface space and neatly put back; ottomans that can double up as coffee tables; and desks that can also be used as a dining table.
Any other tips, tricks or advice for someone considering living in a small space?
SC: Do an inventory of what you own to compare what you have and what you want to achieve in your new space. Once you write everything down, you’ll be able to more clearly consider what you can and cannot live without.
LM: It’s also a great idea to browse through furniture retailers that specialize in condo-living furnishings, such as Small Space Plus. These retailers are a great resource, as is social media, where you can see how others are furnishing their own small spaces and get an idea for current trends.