14 Genius Tips for Living in a Small Space

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

Erin Boyle, of Reading My Tea Leaves and the new book Simple Matters, lives in a 500-square-foot Brooklyn Heights apartment with her husband and one-year-old daughter. Two years ago, she shared 15 tips for living in a tiny apartment. Since having a baby, she’s learned even more about navigating a small space (and staying sane along the way). Here are her tips…

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

1. Don’t be afraid to move furniture around. When we moved in, we initially shared the (one) bedroom with our 19-month-old daughter. In order to get more privacy (and read in bed again!), we recently moved our bed into the main room of our apartment, and our 19-month-old daughter now has the bedroom to herself. There’s nothing like welcoming a baby into a house to make you realize your space holds all kinds of opportunities for change.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

Erin Boyle House Tour

2. When you can’t be with the room you love, love the room you’re with. We joke that the main room of our apartment includes a kitchen, office, dining room, living room and bedroom. But we’ve found ways to make them feel distinct. We carved out an “entryway” by hanging a horizontal mirror with a bookshelf below. In our new “bedroom” set-up, we created a room-within-a-room by orienting the bed to face the dressers. That way, when we’re in bed, we’re looking at our bedroom furniture and not… the fridge.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

3. Get a magnetic thingy for your knives. The funny thing about getting married is that suddenly people want to give you knives. Really nice knives. Instead of taking up limited counter or drawer space, your knives can live on this strip and be right there when you need them.

Erin Boyle's House Tour

4. Indulge in a moment of solitude. While getting out of the apartment is a pretty good bet for clearing your mind, sometimes it’s staying inside that feels just as good. Let the people that you live with know when you need a few minutes to yourself. I’ll ask my husband to take a walk with the baby so I can pour a glass of rosé and relish in the time alone. It’s important to steal a few quiet moments and feel everything reset.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

5. Have friends over. You might be worrying about where everyone is going to eat. And the answer is on the floor. Or on a cushion. Or on the sofa. Place coats on the bed, or otherwise away from the “kitchen.” Guests love to hang coats on the backs of chairs and dear lord if that doesn’t make things crowded, fast. Cover your couch with a sheet (especially if one of your dinner guests is a year old and flinging penne across the room…). I know it sounds grandmotherly, but upholstery is a beast to clean, and this way you won’t have to worry.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

6. Try a new position. People wondered how our sex life fared while we were sharing a bedroom with a baby. As Faye got older, we sometimes found ourselves in the mood after we’d gotten into bed — but by that time we were afraid of waking her up. So we learned to embrace a slightly more “now or never” approach pre-bedtime. That being said, I don’t think it’s ever hurt anyone’s love life to get a little creative in the bedroom (or lack of one). Turn on the sound machine and go crazy.

7. Keep it down. Speaking of sound machines, whether you have a baby or not, using white noise — or quiet — to create a bit of private space can be helpful. We use our compact sound machine as a way to get sleep, as a way for one of us to hole up and work on a project while a certain toddler is playing the harmonica in the next room, and as a way to minimize the sounds from our Netflix habit when that same toddler is sleeping.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

8. Call a spade a… salad server. Get creative and repurpose things to fit your needs. Surfboards become artwork, dressers become TV consoles, stools become plant stands. A cast-iron skillet can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. A baby swaddle can serve as stroller sunshield, play mat and lightweight blanket. Sturdy glass tumblers can hold water, milk, wine and cocktails.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

9. Curate mini exhibits. Sometimes we have more things to love than we have room to display them. Opt for a seasonal display instead! Maybe you’re like me and are sentimental about a collection of glass bottles. Keep some tucked away, and leave a few out. Then swap them when you’re ready for a little change.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

10. Cover your ugliest books. I’ve been known to cover offending book covers with brown paper. I can see where you might think that’s a little excessive. Or obsessive. Or both. But maybe you have not also been stared down by Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Have you seen the book? Our edition is large and bright red and for two years its brashness beamed down on us from our one measly bookshelf. Until, of course, I covered it.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

11. Be the boss. When you find yourself overwhelmed, remember that you’re in control. For me, that’s keeping a straw market basket by the front door, in which I immediately stash junk mail, or recycling, or other things I don’t want to have hanging around. I bring it downstairs when I leave the house so that nothing lingers for long.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

12. Do a toy shuffle. Limited by space and my incapacity to cherish large plastic things that make noise, we’ve kept Faye’s toys constrained to what fits in these wooden wine and fruit crates. If you have more toys than feels manageable in a small space, storing some of them away and periodically swapping the toys you leave out is a game-changer. When we reintroduce a new toy (even one that she’s seen many times before), joy abounds and a sense of novelty is regained.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

13. Skip curtains. Window dressings aren’t always necessary. More than that, the wrong curtain can make a room feel cluttered or stuffy; grimy shades can feel downright gloomy. In our apartments, I’ve had the best luck hanging simple curtains made from cutting up old tablecloths or linen shower curtains, or lengths of plain white cotton. Or skipping them entirely.

14 Tips for Living in a Small Space

14. Enjoy it. There’s something about the proximity of everything in a small space that I find really comforting and, honestly, easy. The other day we had friends over for dinner and James and I got into pajamas as soon as they left. Our dressers are right next to the kitchen table, so we hadn’t even cleared the dishes yet. It occurred to us that in a larger house you’d likely stay downstairs, cleaning up dinner and getting the house back in order, and then get cozy. We were in pajamas before our friends made it down to street level. I’ve said this before, but I think the most important survival tip for living in a small space is to embrace it joyfully, every last square inch.

Erin Boyle House Tour

Thank you so much, Erin! Your home (and book) are beautiful.

P.S. Erin’s former (250-square-foot!) apartment and 13 brilliant tips for decorating a small space.

  1. Glenda Miller says...

    Hi: I’m on the other end of the majority of commenting folks: I’m 70. I’ve lived in 3500 SF and 600 SF and found both were great at different times. However, I loved sharing a bedroom with my sister in the 600 SF home. As well, I think there was a closeness along with a real need to solve issues in the smaller space. …………..who wanted to live next to anyone with fire & smoke coming out their ears! AND this was lived in a small town, the great advantage being that on the other side of the door was the great outdoors.

  2. Lola says...

    Is Erin still living in this apartment??

    • Mary says...

      I’ve followed her for years and yes she is still living there. She even has a second baby added to the family.

      Check her out.

  3. Love this! Last year we moved into a little over 800-sqft place in Queens, and added a third child two weeks later. I am definitely working on the balance of keeping things minimal and still having all the things a newborn needs (I probably need a konmari refresh). My most exciting new pieces of furniture right now is an Ikea shoe organizer and Lack shelving we hung in two really long rows along the living room wall. Both items freed up much-needed closet space, but I was having a hard time displaying my husbands collection of ugly work-related books on our living room shelves. I’m so glad someone relates to this, and I love the idea of covering them with paper!

  4. Where is that bed from in your child’s nursery???

  5. Vlodge says...

    This made me feel so good. We live in a smaller house (a mansion compared to the apartment here) and I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the lack of space. We have tons of space to work with and it really is a matter of changing your perspective. Thank you!

  6. This is so creative and helpful! Such a great use of space.

  7. I love love love this post! First time here but I plan on coming back to read more. My husband and I are trying to start a family soon but first we’re downsizing big time. We realized our priorities don’t include a large house – but it will be tricky as well. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  8. Lolly says...

    Lovely home, lovely ideas. First question that came to mind: How do you keep the surfboard from tipping over? What is holding it in place?

  9. Wow this is amazing and inspiring!
    I live with my sister and mom in one room LOL so yea it can be very cramped most of the time.

    I love what you did with your small apartment though!

  10. Hey!

    This post could not have come at a better time. My boyfriend and I are currently expecting a little girl due in May and we live in an adorable one bedroom/railroad apartment in Brooklyn. Being in the 6th month of my pregnancy, the nesting phase has hit me hard and we’ve been working to rearrange and throw out anything that we no longer need. We’ve thrown out bags of stuff! We’ve also made our bedroom space an office and the living room a baby room. I really admire Erin’s aesthetic and her take on minimalism for her and her family. Her and her blog have been such an inspiration to me!

  11. RM says...

    Thank you for sharing your tips! I live a a half-bedroom apartment with my husband and 7-month-old and space is an issue. It’s also my office and studio, so living with less is less of an option… but i’m curious: where do you keep your important files, your winter clothes, or your old family photos? Those things that you don’t need all the time, but you do need to keep? When I see a space with so little, I wonder, do you keep a small storage or have a walk-in closet you can’t see in the photos? Would be really helpful to know.

  12. Irene says...

    Liked reading this a lot, but couldn’t ever do it.

    Please don’t equate people who choose to live in bigger spaces with people who accumulate unnecessary stuff / are “materialistic.” You can live a minimalist lifestyle in a place that is more spacious and therefore, in my mind, more comfortable.

    I also keep thinking that most people who embrace this lifestyle must be in big cities (NYC, San Fran) with high rents (so including CA outside of the big cities)… I don’t like NYC to start with, but I would hate having to live there AND having to live in a personal space this small. Everyone (strangers and close family) constantly on top of each other… eeek!

    • Trish O says...

      I am in Peoria, IL . NOT a big city, but for my family small space makes us happier. I think it really is just a matter of personal preference. Not a matter of right or wrong. I could buy almost any house in Peoria I would want, but we stay where we are.

      I once read an NPR report about space and people. They talked about how some people enjoy private space over public space. So think a playset in the backyard or a public park. Some would rather do the park most of the time. Sure, we all like to shake it up from time to time, but in general. Or meet friends out most of the time or have them over for a party. Anyway, I think it is just what works for your family.

    • Hi Irene! Definitely not equating larger spaces with materialism or accumulation! I think you can live as successfully with less in a larger space as you can in smaller ones! While living in a small space doesn’t bother me—and while living in New York City is a particular joy for me—I don’t either things are necessary for embracing a simpler way of life.

    • Anna223 says...

      I think it depends on what people like. Some people prefer to live in a big house in a smaller town, others prefer to live in a small apartment in a big city. I have lived in a huge mansion in a small town in Missouri and it didn’t make me particularly happy. I now live in a small 1 bed apartment in LA and I am loving it!

  13. dear joy & erin,

    i am adoring this very real look into a very real small space. i live in a small house and often compare it to living on a ship: everything needs to have a dual purpose; hooks and tension rods everywhere! on the flipside it’s as easy to tidy as it is to mess.

    great post. fresh style!


  14. Kim P says...

    My husband and I live in a one bedroom condo and his son is with us for half of the week. We have tried so many different configurations but have finally settled on our bed in the living room. Now that we have finally done it, I really do like it. A bigger place would be easier to deal with but at the same time, I appreciate the closeness with both of them and there is a built in reason not to have too much stuff. Your apartment is much more beautiful than ours. I am inspired to make ours better. Thank you so much for this! I am making room for your book :-)

  15. very refreshing attitude, i love it

  16. Nicky says...

    I find it extraordinary that people who are apparently successful and solvent would live like this. Where are their books? Their pots and pans, cookbooks, plates? Their child’s toys, crayons and, just, things? Why would you live in two rooms with nothing in them unless you were destitute? I honestly find this mind blowing

    • Missnicoleo says...

      You know what I love about people? We all want something different. Respect that.

    • Tara says...

      Success shouldn’t have to equate to having more things :)

    • helen h says...

      I think the whole point is that they do more with less. When I think of all the books, pots/pans, cookbooks (especially!) and plates that sit untouched in favor of the tried and true items we gravitate to on a daily basis, I can absolutely understand how this works for them. Great post, Joanna!

    • Shelley says...

      It now costs more money to live in Brooklyn than NYC. People are attracted to living there. I could go on a Spike Lee-like rant, but this is not the forum for such. I truly admire this woman’s use of simplicity. It gives the impression of calm, which, everything considered, is more important than possessions.

    • Never fear! Books, pots, pans, cookbooks, plates, toys and crayons are all there! They’re just tucked into closets, boxes, drawers, and cabinets!

  17. Love these tips, especially #8 “Call a spade a… salad server”. There are so many great versatile baby products that help cut down on clutter and make small space living more manageable. Can’t wait to read this book!

  18. I was raised in a family of 5 and my mom has always said that some of the happiest times in her life were in our smallest home. It was a two bedroom house but it was as little as can be. It almost forced us all to be together and to learn more about enjoying each other’s company. After we moved, we would all retreat into the privacy of our separate bedrooms. I’ll always have a sweet spot for the previous, little home!

    – Laura //

  19. ah… small living! we are in 700sq ft in london. i used to sing the praises of simple/small homse… but now with a second baby, i am officially raising the white flag. we are moving to a bigger flat so i can have an extra room to separate the kids (they wake eachother up and then we are all awake!) and have more closets to shove their clothes/my coats in. after all day with two, I have to pick between sorting items to get rid of to maintain sanity or feeding that netflix habit. so, netflix wins.

    but, the aesthetic of this is so easy on the eyes. i love it! enjoy it!

  20. Love Erin’s blog! I’ve been wondering how her space looks with the bed in the living room and of course I’m not surprised that she’s made it work. I want her to be my interior decorator!

  21. We had to do a Family Bed even though our son slept on his own in his bed since he was born.. The reason is that he was big enough to climb out of bed now and open the doors and run to us in the middle of the night so now he just sleeps with us.

    We too love living in a small space and the toys are kept to a minimum so that we have a large open feeling space.

    Baby Bun likes playing with stuff like my contact holder so you don’t even need toys

  22. These are all so great. We have been in our new home for coming up 2 months now and at first I was so over whelmed because its ALOT smaller then I’m used to living in. It doesn’t bother my husband because he has lived in this very house before, his was his dads for 19 years, and now its ours. But I’ve definitley had to find ways to move things around and set up in a much smaller living space.

  23. Anna says...

    I personally find the cover of How to Cook Everything bright and cheery, especially when arranged in a color-coordinated row on a shelf with the rest of my small cookbook collection. But to each their own! Lord knows I’m very particular about other strange things.

    • Ha! Totally. (For the record: my daughter recently happily ripped the brown paper cover off my copy of Bittman. I think she’s in your color camp ;)

  24. love this post! especially the comment about the toys! we were doing pretty well until our son’s 2 year old party in which we requested no presents – turned into everyone bringing him large plastic toys and our small space is now overwhelmed with them! I need to purge and rotate, thanks for the reminder :-)

    • Yes! You can do it!

  25. I lived in an apartment of similar size with my husband and our baby, years ago. Since then, I’ve lived in larger homes with 3 bedrooms but am ready to size down again. I love the tiny house movement. These a great tips and I love how crisp, clean, and uncluttered her space is! It’s hard for me as a working artist…my whole house is pretty much my studio!

  26. Is there a source for that bench? Looking for something just like it!

    • The bench was my sisters—I know she bought it from a local shop in Austin, TX, but I’m not sure the name! The cot is vintage, found on eBay!

    • sister’s*!

  27. Elizabeth says...

    I love the rug in the nursery! Would you mind sharing the source?

    • MissEm says...

      It’s from Joinery

    • Yes! Someone beat me to it, but our rug is from Joinery—a really lovely resource for thoughtful home goods!

  28. I love her blog and her Instagram account. I also live in a smallish space, 900 sq ft, and these tips are spot on.
    I also like her decor. Very nice post.

  29. As a owner of a tiny condo, I so appreciate everything in this post. Thanks for sharing her tips!

  30. I love this! Erin is one of my favorite bloggers and it is lovely to see a more detailed tour of her beautiful, subtle apartment.

  31. Jill Palumbo says...

    I love the idea of this and love her apartment. I’ve recently downsized into a 700 square foot apartment and I’m having a heck of time paring down. I have too many books, quilts and quilt supplies, clothes and ironstone. Plus I have a huge storage unit of antiques and more books. Sigh……………………

  32. This hits all the right notes for me. Thank you!

  33. Kate says...

    This kind of makes me miss living in the little loft I had after college! My tricks were to not even acknowledge the bed until it was bedtime, and then at night I’d turn off all the lights on the kitchen side and then go to the ‘bedroom’ and it honestly felt like I was in a house with multiple rooms. I loved that apartment so much.

    • Yes! Totally. The bed is made while the sheets are still warm;)!

  34. Amanda says...

    Thank you for posting! My husband and I are welcoming a little one into our tiny one-bedroom apartment. We’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether we’re planning to move to a larger space. Nope – we’re happy and very comfortable where we are, and I’m sure baby will be, too.

    • Agreed! You guys will be great!

  35. We are currently embracing the ‘less is more’ attitude and I really enjoyed your article. Especially the knife thingy. I was just thinking about getting one. It will give me almost a whole kitchen drawer back! What will I do with all that space? lol

  36. What a smile on that baby! Too cute.

  37. I love Erin. She has so many great tips for living in a small place.d A lot of people can talk about it but she lives it!

  38. kelly says...

    Could you please share what type of hanging plant that is in the nursery? It’s lovely and I need one.

    • It’s an air plant! It’s hanging in a tray made by Pigeon Toe Ceramics in Portland, OR!

    • Dinh says...

      Looks like an airplant you can get at any greenhouses (Tillandsia).

  39. Trish O says...

    Beautiful home. I have recently found Erin’s blog. It is a lovely read. My husband and I have also chosen to live smallish. I actually don’t think it is small at all. We have a lovely 1,800 sq ft 115 year old home. We are in our 40s and in our city get a bunch of questions as to why we don’t get a bigger “forever” house (whatever that is. I have lived in my home for almost 20 years. Half my life.). My middle school boys even ask sometimes. I tell them (and my parents. Lol) that we are smallish city house people. In any other place our house would be HUGE. Anyway, different people have different needs and this house fits us well. I will use many ideas from here.

    • Ha, perspective :) almost can’t believe it :)
      We live in the centre of Rome, Italy, and our 800 square feet “forever” home would be considered medium size here – and was called a whopping “grand” by our Parisian friends! :)

  40. Ramona says...

    This is the loveliest small space I’ve ever seen. The soft hues of all the items within the space create a warm, cohesive vibe. I just added her book to my wish list. <3

  41. Love this… I have much admiration for people who can decide what they do and do not want and make it beautiful.

  42. How incredible. It’s hard to imagine living in such a tiny space so it’s incredibly inspiring to see someone embracing it and just making it work for them!

  43. Marie says...

    It never ceases to amaze me how “small space” posts actually concern 500+ sq ft flats! But of course, space is in the eye of the beholder! By most European standards, we’d kill for 500 sq ft…(I live in 139 sq ft with a cat and a lot of climbing gear).

    • Kudos! Our last place had a footprint of 173 square feet (total 240 if you counted the loft where we kept our bed! I agree that 500 feels palatial by comparison!).

    • MissEm says...

      But to be fair, it’s a totally different ballgame to have kids in a small space – I’ve lived in small spaces with and without kids and it’s amazing how they change things once they hit toddler years – mostly bc of their energy and your own lessening control of the space and the stuff in it. It also matters a lot how the space is arranged. I live in 900sf with two kids but the wasteful way it’s arranged it might as well be 600.

  44. Prudence says...

    It’s so important to exercise creativity when living in a smaller space as shown by these examples! Thanks for sharing these interesting and practical tips.

    Giveaway now at

  45. Lisa says...

    My biggest problem with small apartments is not the small living space, but the lack of storage! Like, where do you keep your christmas decorations, out of season clothes, extra coats and shoes? Blankets and linen? Suitcases?! I live by myself in a poorly planned (its a furnished apartment) apartment with about zero storage and it is driving me NUTS. I lived in a 18 square meter apartment (about 190 square feet) for a year in college, and it wasn’t an issue as it was so well planned with storage space under the bed and build in floor to roof wardrobes + an extra storage unit in the attic. But this apartment I have now is driving me mad, and the landlord has for some reason decided to put in the BIGGEST armchairs and wonky furniture you have ever seen. ARGH.

    • Totally. We keep a pretty pared down collection of these things for that reason: A shoebox-full of holiday decorations, just two sets of bed linens, only collapsible bags for traveling, etc.!

  46. Jennifer says...

    What are those toys? They look great! I love wooden toys for my kids❤️❤️

    • Thanks! We have a bunch of different things but in the shot of me and Faye, you can see Faye’s current favorite: a set of colorful felted balls that I found at a stationery store and a set of 12 colorful wooden bowls (handed down from her cousin) with matching painted people. She loves sorting and pouring the balls. Eventually she’ll be able to match up the colors. It’s so much fun to watch her work at it!

  47. Enjoyed her approach –versatile and resourceful! We are a family of 6 (soon-to-be-7!) in a 850sq ft cottage outside of Los Angeles. Can totally relate to less-is-more.

  48. Ashley says...

    I LOVE this. Such an inspiring and beautiful lifestyle. And please do more listicle style posts, Joanna & Co! They are great to read! :)

  49. I’ve read Erin’s blog for years! I’m so excited to get her book!!! =) She is a true inspiration!

  50. Colleen says...

    Reminds me of the 400 sq ft studio apartment I had just out of college.

  51. “When you can’t be with the room you love, love the room you’re with.” This line definite resonated with me most. My apartment isn’t even that small (just around 800 square feet) but I still struggle to make the space my own and feel happy in it. Things always feel cluttered and the space can be made into so much more. Great post! I really took a lot away from it.

    XO Jillian
    Cup of Charisma

  52. Love this! Like others if love to know where her white sweatshirt/sweater is from too!

    • Hi there! Erin, here! It’s a sweatshirt from Everlane (from a year or two ago!).

  53. alex says...

    Loved this article! Living in (and still adjusting to) a <600sqft studio, I'm always looking for small-space tips! I've been looking for a decent blanket to protect the couch, would you care to share where you got yours? Thanks!!

    • We used an old length of linen fabric that I found at a thrift store and used as an impromptu tablecloth for a project in graduate school! (I guess it can be helpful to keep *some* extra stuff around;))

    • Ah! Just realized you might be looking at the photo with the blanket currently on the bench! It’s a wool blanket from MacAusland Woollen Mill in Nova Scotia!

    • Trish O says...

      Another idea is to use a large fabric paint drop-cloth from the hardware store. They are very inexpensive and usually neutral in color, can hold their shape, and easy to replace.

  54. I live in a dorm room that is basically like a shoe box and will live in a small apartment with three others next year, so these were some great tips to hear and ones I definitely need to start living by! Thanks so much for sharing.

  55. Katie says...

    I loved reading this so much! Thank you for shining a light on minimalist living and its merits, aesthetically and environmentally. What an inspiration Erin is! To live happily, we need so much less than we believe.

  56. Aw yay! I love Erin and her blog. I’ve been following along since I was in college, and now live in a tiny NYC apartment myself. I always look to her blog for inspiration. Can’t wait to read her book soon!

  57. Oh my goodness I love the point about Mark Bittman’s book; so true! Hilarious.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i know, that made me laugh out loud, too!

  58. I love the idea of living a small space but I can never do it. I have way too much stuff.

  59. I was really hoping for more details on how to successfully entertain… as another small-space-dweller my #1 issue is how am I gonna have guests??

    I can see floor seating working fine for close friends, but do they honestly do that for every visitor? If so, I’m impressed and request an additional tip on having that level of nerve lol (I can hear my mother clutching her pearls now….)

    • Hi there! There are more specifics about entertaining in my book, but I think the overall key for me is just to embrace it. If the food is yummy and the guests are happy, everything will be just fine. (But this is coming from someone whose parents had guests eat off their laps at their wedding…;)

    • Trish O says...

      We don’t live that small, but not a huge house and had the entire street over at Christmas for the dinner part of a progressive party. I was worried as it would be 50 people including older people to kids. How would we all eat. I decided on a stand-up dinner. So cocktail party like (I usually host the cocktail part). We had tacos and it worked out great. I set the counters as a taco bar and some chips etc. I had seating for kids at the play table, out dining room table for folks who needed to sit. I did cover the couch for others. Many stood. We had a ton of fun. Anyway, just an idea.

    • Love that idea!

  60. This gives me so much anxiety. Happy this works for her, but this makes me feel like lighting my hair on fire and screaming.

    • So fascinating! Cluttered spaces do the same thing for me (…well, maybe not the lighting my hair on fire…but definitely the anxiety;)!)

  61. LaSaunda says...

    Great article! Where’d you get your headboard? I love it!

    • Our headboard is an antique! It was in the attic of my parents’ house when we moved in! (Full story in my book, of course ;))

  62. Sharon says...

    It would really be great to have a blueprint of the space — I can’t figure out how it all works together when I’m seeing bits and pieces of it. Can you provide mini-blueprints for future small-living features? Thanks!

    • Hi there! So hard to capture a complete picture of small spaces! There is a little (very roughly drawn) layout on my blog if you do a little search for it. Basically it’s one large room with a tiny bedroom off to the side!

  63. My husband and I live in a 650 sq ft apartment with our 2 toddlers. We actually downsized this year. Everyone assumed when we moved out of our townhouse that it was for more space to accommodate our growing family, but we went in the other direction to make things simpler! I love not having to deal with a staircase with the babies, having my washer and dryer easily accessible, having an open room where I can watch my children play a few feet away while I make dinner or clean up, there’s only one bathroom to clean and its not a big trip to make (its crazy how something like going to the bathroom becomes an ordeal when you’re home alone with 2 babies!) I have found that I get a lot more done each day in this small space, and having less home to clean and care for frees up A LOT of our precious time. (And obviously, its more affordable, so there’s that) Our children co-slept with us anyway so now we use a king and double mattress together on the floor with lots of pillows along the walls and have one big bohemian family floor bed <3

    Our best small space living lessons have been to utilize our walls well for storage, get a standing desk that attaches to the wall (part of the ikea closet shelving unit) and switch to turkish towels because they are flat and take up less space!

    • Trish O says...

      Turkish towel idea is a great one!

    • we do the turkish towel part, too! so much more space-efficient!

    • This sounds exactly like our situation! 625 sq. feet with two little ones. I too love the simplicity of it, how it’s easy to keep track of everyone, and that it prevents us from collecting more stuff than we would in a bigger place.

  64. Mere says...

    Wha? Oh no, girl no – I’m glad putting the bed in the living room works for them but that is not a “genius” tip, it is a last resort! And 500 square feet is not that small. I do think her tip to Embrace It is key – I’ve lived tiny (2 adults + dog in 375 sq ft), and wishing for more space never ever makes it easier…embrace it until you can’t take it anymore and then MOVE!

    • A says...

      this made me lol ;-)

    • Ha! It’s been a surprisingly awesome change. The main room is really spacious and it honestly feels like a much smarter use of the space than all of us crammed into the tiny bedroom. Agreed on the danger of wishing for more space—better to embrace what you have!

  65. Wow. This is super inspiring and amazing that this family has figured out what works for them and turned what could have been a negative into a major positive. It also seems to make a big difference that the color palette is pretty consistent – neutrals and a bit of black and blue here and there

    Thanks for sharing!

  66. Caitlin says...

    So happy to see Erin on Cup of Jo! I love her blog and find her refreshing and comforting at the same time.

  67. Alice Quin says...

    Great tips! The bed in living room blew my mind but they seem to be making it all work out well for their sweet family!

  68. I LOVE this. Our family of 4 lives in about 1200 sq feet and I think the size is wonderful. However, I sometimes fantasize of moving back to our smaller 700 sq ft. one bedroom that we had when we were just married. I love the efficiency that comes with being in a small place. Everything has a purpose and you can fill the space with fewer and nicer pieces.

    • MissEm says...

      Oh, I feel like a well arranged 1200sf is the perfect size for a four person family!

  69. CindyLou says...

    Bravo! I’ve seriously considered turning our bedroom into my studio, buying a good sofa bed or futon, and using our living room as the bedroom. Number 11 is so true. It’s important to remember that we are the boss of the way we live.

  70. Susan says...

    Does the child sleep on the cot?

    • Lydia says...

      Did you notice the crib in the bedroom :)? She’s still a toddler.

    • She’s in the crib! We just do lots of reading on the cot!

  71. Alyssa says...

    I love all of these and can’t wait to buy Erin’s book! I’m also wondering though if Erin would mind sharing where her white sweatshirt in these photos is from?

    • Everlane ;)

  72. Emily says...

    Love this! When my husband, and 1.5 year old daughter moved from Brooklyn to Ojai, we also downsized into a 500 sq. ft. cottage. It was a fun exercise to go through all of our stuff and only bring the things that were really important or the most useful or made us the happiest.

  73. KT says...

    It’s a nicely lit, orderly, sparely decorated home, well done. I just can’t help but comment: I hope that surf board does not fall on the baby’s crib. Possibly a dangerous place to store it.

    • Eleanore frank says...

      I thought the same thing!

    • It’s secure! No worries.

  74. What an incredibly charming space! My fiancé and I have been thinking of making a move to San Fran, but due to the EXTREME housing prices there, he is hesitant about what we can afford. It is delightful seeing people not only making it work in a small space, but thriving! So inspiring and beautiful!


  75. Great tips! Will have to check out her book!

  76. this is perfectly incredible and inspiring. I live in plenty of space (1600 sq feet) but all of these tips will help make that space homier!

  77. Anna says...

    My copy of the book is on the way! I definitely agree with #3. I didn’t have room for a magnetic knife holder on the wall but I got one that goes on the side of my fridge and I love it!!

  78. shawn says...

    oh your tips are so good! my tiny apartment has gained what feels like HUNDREDS of square feet by a) replacing my tables’ regular wooden legs with thin hairpin legs and b) mounting bookshelves about seven feet high continuously around my room (except over my bed so I don’t die during an earthquake).

  79. Tovah says...

    Lovely! I’m so curious about the cot (?) in Faye’s room. Where is it from?

    • The cot is vintage! I found it on eBay! There are always a lot of cots on there—search for “vintage army cot”. You might just have to do a few searches until one in good condition and with a reasonable price tag shows up!

  80. H says...

    I used to share a very small apartment with my boyfriend (now husband) in Boston. One long weekend we were dog sitting in a beautiful house with an upstairs and finished basement. I remember commenting to him when we went to bed that night that I felt like I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him all day, despite being in the same house. I really loved small apartment living. Now we have a small house and can’t imagine ever needing anything bigger.

    • CindyLou says...

      This reminds me of the time I housesat for my niece who has a gorgeously huge kitchen. I was so looking forward to cooking there, but it turned out there were too many steps between fridge, sink, and stove. In my own tiny galley kitchen I can reach everything from one spot. Also, less storage space means having the essentials close at hand.

    • Ha, so true! I love the efficiency of tiny kitchens!

  81. This is such good advice! For the first 6 months of our marriage we lived in a studio apartment in LA and I have to admit-it wasn’t the best. It made me appreciate our current apartment which seemed huge, even though it’s not. I was just thinking about getting a magnet strip for our knives for more counter space, that’s what’s needed the most in our kitchen.
    Thanks for sharing!

  82. After moving into our LA, studio apartment last month, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read these posts from Erin about small spaces. Great tips, as usual! I’ll definitely need to check out her book.


  83. These are actually amazing tips, even if you don’t have a baby and are just trying to make the small space you have feel as big as it can feel.

    Your space has an amazing layout and is quite inspiring, really.

    x //

  84. I have so much love and admiration for simple living. Posts like this make me want to start throwing everything away.

  85. Clare says...

    Love seeing Erin here!!

  86. Jess says...

    Love this!! Any idea where Erin’s sweater is from? Obsessed.

    • Parker says...

      She’s replied a bunch of times that it’s from Everlane a few seasons ago. :)

    • It’s a sweatshirt from Everlane!

  87. Jane says...

    She’s lovely and the tips are great, but definitely not for me. I grew up in a one-room apartment in Moscow (sadly, my parents never knew the meaning of curating possessions and even our one room was stuffed to the gills). So now, I revel in the fact that each member of my family has our own space and that I can comfortably host a large dinner party.