Sunday, January 19, 2014

Apartment Therapy: 15 Tips for Small Space Living

I moved back to my hometown of Las Piñas from Bonifacio Global City a while back. Living in suburbia again is taken a lot of getting used to as things seem to happen at a slower pace than that of The Fort. It feels like moving from New York to Jersey - the vibe just isn't the same. The vibe, and well, the condo space. I moved into a teeny tiny apartment in BF Resort, a little box I could call home for a year or two. Yet even though I'm having second thoughts of staying here for another year, this being be the smallest apartment I've ever lived in - it's also my favorite.

My studio apartment is a wee 40 sq/m big thereabouts (I think), and this includes everything from the tiny kitchenette, to the bathroom, and the bedroom/living area. It can be a bit cramped - and is currently a mess as I'm getting the walls repainted - but it's a snug place for one person. The lesson I'm learning here is to make the most of every square foot.

So if you're just moving out of your parent's place to go at it on your own or are tired of living with flatmates and are looking to find a place you can walk around naked in, here are a few tips I've learned when living in a small space:

1. Map It Out
It's easier to visualize what you need to buy or how to arrange everything in your tiny apartment when you have a bird's-eye view of the place. Sure, taking a look around the space would give you a good idea of what you need (I just need to spin around in a circle to see everything), but sketching it out to assess how big or small the furniture you'd need (and if it would fit) gives you a better approximation rather than spacing everything out in your head.

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2. Love the Light
Drape your windows in a way that allows for maximum light - I love using sheer curtains for this. Also, hanging your curtains close to the ceiling  and all the way down will give the illusion of tall windows, making the room look larger. Another trick is hanging a mirror to reflect light into the room. Or if you have lovely big windows and don't mind the neighbors peering in, don't even bother with the drapes. Oh, remembering to clean the windows helps, too.

3. Buy Multi-Functional Furniture
Get the best of both worlds! Instead of trying to squeeze in a dining room set and a desk in your cramped space, use one table that can serve both functions. Or buy a sofa that is also a pull-out bed. Or a bed with drawers underneath for your duvets and extra pillows.

4. Embrace Open Storage
Closets can take up considerable floor space. If you have a bare unit to furnish that doesn't come with a built-in closet, consider the clothes racks they sell on the shopping channel or look for a nicer version of that. I find having your clothes on display also adds some personality to the small space and looks quite bohemian with all your bags, scarves, and hats hanging off the rack.

5. Keep it Natural
As much as I'd love to have a neon pink wall in my small home, it would just end up looking tinier than it already is. Keeping the wall colors neutral makes the space look a lot bigger. The creative solution to bringing color into your apartment? Paint your furniture instead. A refurbished turquoise buffet table is on my list of DIY projects this year that should add a splash of color to my home. You can also add pops of color with small accessories like throw pillows or artwork.

6. Bring the Outdoors In
Greenery should always be a part of any home, in my opinion. Especially when you're living a few stories up. Invest time and effort on a small herb garden, keep it by the kitchen window, and it will reward you well. Or buy hardier plants like a money tree and keep it on your desk for some of that green juju.

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7. Pretty Cleaning Essentials
With no broom closet to stash away your cleaning materials and limited space under the sink to hide the rest of your stuff, upgrade that ugly plastic dustpan and buy something a bit nicer, since it'll basically be on display. The upside to living in a small space is it's a cinch to clean, so you don't need too many things. All I need is my sleek looking Swiffer and I'm good to go. When it comes to storing it away, it can keep itself hidden behind the fridge.

8. Get Lost in Daiso
I have discovered many a space saver at Japanese thrift shops. Because most of the Japanese live in small spaces, too, a lot of the stuff on sale is perfect for a tiny studio apartment. I especially love those stackable racks that go into big shelf spaces that can easily triple your storage space, which is a cheaper option than getting shelves installed.

9. Throw Out the Clutter
I fing myself weeding out clothes, bags, makeup, and other things I don't really use anymore every three months or so. When dealing with small spaces, it's quality over quantity. Go through your things and put them into three piles: things you use, things to donate, and things to throw away. The nice security guard downstairs has been getting most of the stuff I don't use anymore - towels, bed sheets, and some articles of clothing - so he's pretty happy when I do my quarterly purge.

10. Invest in Art
You'd think that art pieces and books would make your place feel cluttered, but it actually makes it feel bigger. I love collecting books and used to go to bookstores on dates with my ex, so I brought all those good bookstore vibes into my small space filling it up with all kinds of books along with random pieces of artwork and pictures of my dog. It makes my place look homey and spacious all at the same time.

11. Keep the Duvet Design Simple
Bright floral quilts may look nice at the store, but it'll make a tiny space feel even smaller. Especially if said bed is right smack in the middle of the apartment. Keep it simple with either a plain duvet cover or one with a minimal design. I know this isn't exactly a duvet kind of country, but when you're bed is right there for everyone who comes in to see, you might want to put in the effort to make it look presentable. Another reason to have a duvet around  is it helps hide all those wrinkled sheets underneath.

12. Separate Rooms with Rugs
My bed is a few paces away from the kitchenette, which is a few paces away from my bathroom, which is one step away from the entryway.Instead of having your place look like your old dorm room, divide the "rooms" up with the use of rugs. A runner at the entryway, a mat by the kitchenette, a rug underneath your dining room table, and another underneath your bed. Et voilà, each spot has a sense of individuality.

13. Tidiness is Key
I am guilty of leaving a mess in my wake everywhere I go and I blame it on my right-brained artistic temperament. Haha! I've since been trying to have a sense of orderliness before I leave my place. Not only does this make for a nice homecoming at the end of each day, it also makes it possible for impromptu visits from friends or family members.

14. Don't Be Afraid to Show Your Personality
Although the idea of walking into your personal hotel room may seem appealing at first, like most guests who stay at hotels for too long, everything will start to look a bit blah after a while. Pick a room and add your personality to the space so it looks lived in - be it the pictures of you and your dog by your desk or that stuffed peacock you saved from that garage sale in the '70s.

15. Treat the Rest of the City Like Your Living Room!
There's a small cafe underneath my studio apartment that serves a pretty good cappuccino and a computer shop right around the corner for when I need things printed out. I treat both places like an extension of my home office, and can usually be found in a corner with my laptop and a plate of fries when I'm downstairs. I bring my dog up to the rooftop for him to run around away from the cars and tricycles downstairs (an pseudo garden, if you will), and when I'm too lazy to cook anything, I just walk on over to the karinderiya (an extension of my kitchen) a few blocks over for some sticks of barbecue, laing, maybe kare-kare, and an order of giniling, kaldereta, or mechado for my dog. It's actually kind of funny because the guys there know what I buy for myself and what I buy for the dog.

My overall advice when mucking around a tiny apartment? Approach your small space joyfully. I have to admit, I was pretty apprehensive moving from a two-bedroom apartment to a tiny studio unit. The trick is to see it as an exciting challenge and not an impending nightmare. And if you're going it on your own like me, enjoy the experience! It is what it is!

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