Urban Living Series: How to Make Your Square Footage Count

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

The urban lifestyle puts a premium on space. We urbanites tend to drive smaller cars, grow smaller gardens, and cook in smaller kitchens. We’re creative, we’re green, we’re resourceful. And we’re happy to share our tips for making the most of the space you’ve got.

Transitioning to an urban lifestyle might seem confining at first, but if you play your cards right you’ll find that doing more with less is not only possible, it’s satisfying. Here are seven tips to help you make the most of your home’s square footage:

1. PURGE

More stuff won’t make you happy. In America we’ve allowed ourselves to become consumed with consumption. Any time is the right time to purge. Whether it’s one drawer a week or a complete overhaul of your home, reducing the amount of material possessions in your midst frees up square footage as well as entire cubic feet of space.

Sell, donate, recycle, and (as a last resort) send to the landfill anything that no longer serves you. Don’t fall for the marketing hype that says you need to fill every nook and cranny of your home with manufactured what-nots. Consider this: Every paper grocery bag you fill and remove from your home frees one square foot, or approximately two cubic feet of space for you to enjoy.

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2. GET DELIBERATE WITH DESIGN

There are some simple things you can do to make small rooms appear larger. First, use white or very lightly colored paint on the walls. We all know that black clothing is slimming. The same color illusion applies to home design. Darker colors will make your rooms appear smaller, so stick with white or light neutral palettes.

When furnishing rooms, hang mirrors as wall art and use full-sized furniture. Mirrors give the illusion of more space and full-sized furniture actually makes the room look larger, not smaller. Tiny couches are for doll houses.

3. TRANSITION TO MULTI-FUNCTIONAL FURNITURE.

When it’s time for a new piece of furniture, go the multi-functional route. Sofas, chairs, and ottomans can include built-in storage space. Some sofas and loveseats convert into beds for an instant guest room. A well-made kitchen cart can multitask as a wine rack, cabinet, and portable butcher block all-in-one. Joss & Main sells an adorable kitchen cart for around $250 and it only takes up five square feet of space. This video showcasing transforming furniture will make you rethink furniture as you know it.

4. TREAT YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE LIKE ANOTHER ROOM

When a home is listed for sale, the square footage on the listing sheet doesn’t include any yard space, but it’s part of your home, too. Why not enjoy it? Furnish your deck, porch, or yard with a table and chairs for entertaining. Consider hanging tasteful outdoor lighting and investing in a fire pit if your space safely accommodates one. Most outdoor locations can be enjoyed for at least three seasons out of the year.

5. FACE THE INEVITABLE: SMALL CLOSETS ARE PART OF YOUR LIFE

Minimal closet space is a fact of life in most urban homes. You can make the most of closet space in three easy steps. First, flash back to Item 1 of this blog (PURGE!) Once that’s done, measure the space you have and consider purchasing an organization system. Wayfair.com offers a variety of freestanding closet systems for small spaces. Baskets and storage cubes also help organize small spaces. Finally, if you have attic space, use it. Keep one or two seasons of clothing in your closet and the rest in the attic until you need it.  When it’s time for the “big switch,” purge again. I enjoy switching-out clothing when the seasons change and I consider it my exercise for the day.

6. GET CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN

Small, galley kitchens are a hallmark of urban homes. Get creative with storage to maximize countertop and cabinet space. Pots and pans can hang from a ceiling mount and cabinets can be outfitted with organizers. National retailers like Bed, Bath, & Beyond have a ton of options in this regard.

And here comes the one big change that will make a world of difference…get rid of your microwave. It takes up too much space on the counter. If it’s not taking up space on the counter then it’s probably hanging over the range where cabinets could hang. Microwaves are so 90’s and completely unnecessary to the urban lifestyle.

7. THINK VERTICALLY

Think vertically when hanging art, mirrors, or shelving. Drawing the eye upward creates an illusion of bigness. In addition, floor-to-ceiling shelving makes excellent use of space and can also serve as a design piece. If you’re not sure about vertical art start with Gustav Klimt – he’s the classical/trendyish authority on vertical reproductions. If you need a place to start for shelving ideas, check out the formally functional offerings at Restoration Hardware

The urban lifestyle naturally lends itself to doing less with more. Many people feel having less stuff is liberating. Make the most of your space and use your square footage for the things and activities that make you happy.

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