Design

15 Tips for Living in a Small Space

Laura Fenton small space house tour

Laura Fenton lives in a 690-square-foot Jackson Heights apartment with her husband, Weston, and four-year-old son, William. “We’ve lived here since I was pregnant,” she says, “It has been five years this spring!” She is also the author of The Little Book of Living Small (Amazon/Indiebound). Here are her brilliant tips for living comfortably in a small space…

ENTRYWAY:
Laura Fenton small space house tour

Sideboard: Paul McCobb.

1. You need to tidy every day. I wish it weren’t true, but a house does not keep itself. The secret to a happy home is for everything to have a place and to do the work to put those things back in their homes.

LIVING/DINING ROOM:
Laura Fenton small space house tour

Couch: Room & Board. Pillows: Rebecca Atwood. Print: Vintage, similar.

2. Just because you live in a tiny space doesn’t mean you have to have small-scale art. I spent years scouring eBay for this huge, vintage Rand McNally star chart. Now it’s the focal point of our living room.

Laura Fenton small space house tour

Chair: Paul McCobb.

3. Don’t rent offsite storage space. I’m really passionate about this! If you already have a self-storage unit, I’d recommend tackling this before you start in on your home. Think of it as a debt that needs to be paid off. And if you’re thinking of renting storage to make your small space work, know that the costs are likely to quickly add up to more than the value of the things you plan to store.

Laura Fenton small space house tour

4. Rooms can multitask. Weston’s ‘office’ is tucked into a corner of our living room. The corner desk unit is a hand-me-down from my sister’s bedroom growing up that fit perfectly into the space. Because it hugs the wall, the desk takes up very little floor space while offering storage and surface area of a much larger desk: I don’t know why more people don’t have these!

Laura Fenton small space house tour

Chairs: Paul McCobb. Bookcase: IKEA. Vase: MoMA Design Store.

5. Have people over. Once quarantine is over, this is one of the things I am most looking forward to. When friends and family come into your home, you get good energy. What you serve can make a big difference, so opt for things that can all be on one plate, so you can squeeze everything onto the table. We also host people more casually, versus a sit-down meal. We’ll place the food on the dining table with a help-yourself kind of set-up. That way, we can invite more people. For dinner parties, you can borrow what you need — a folding table, extra chairs, etc. — instead of having to buy stuff and worry about storage.

6. But throw the big parties somewhere else! This tip came from Alison Mazurek, who refers to this as ‘outsourcing’ space. Yes, hosting in a venue or a restaurant will cost more than having a party at home, but a few hundred dollars a couple times a year is nothing to the larger rent or mortgage payment you’d be making on a home large enough to host big celebrations.

KITCHEN:
Laura Fenton small space house tour

Cabinets: IKEA. Light fixture: Schoolhouse Electric.

7. Don’t be afraid to renovate. We renovated our kitchen on a teeny budget, with cabinets from IKEA. The redesigned kitchen layout has standard 24-inch deep cabinets on the stove side but only 15-inch deep ones on the opposite side. We also added an under-sink dishwasher (the genius Spacemaker by GE) after seeing one in a house we rented.

8. Daylight always makes a space feel bigger. So, consider skipping blinds or curtains. For rentals, I’m a big fan of self-adhesive privacy film: You can obscure the view into your home without losing any daylight. Basic options like a frosted glass lookalike are available at hardware stores and Stick Pretty sells sophisticated patterns.

MASTER BEDROOM:
Laura Fenton small space house tour

Barn doors: HomCom Modern.

9. Get a hard-working bed. Our bed from Gothic Cabinet Craft has six built-in storage drawers where we store all our folded clothes, but a Murphy bed or a loft bed can also be a great way to use your space. Speaking of Murphy beds or other pricey furniture — these may seem too big an investment for a rental, but consider the costs over time. If you could save $400 a month by renting a studio instead of a one-bedroom, and a Murphy bed will make the studio livable for two people, think of an investment of $1,200 as the equivalent of three months of the cheaper rent.

Laura Fenton small space house tour

Custom bedside table: Tim O’Brien Woodworks. Basket: World Market. Lamp: Visual Comfort. Pillowcase: Parachute.

10. Put all lights on a dimmer. Lighting is critical for a cozy feeling in any space, and especially in the bedroom. For bedside lighting, you can save space on your nightstand with a wall-mounted sconce. We bought plug-in models — no electrician required.

11. Sometimes it pays to go custom — and with vendors on Etsy, it’s actually affordable! We had the floating nightstands made for our 8’ x 10’ bedroom by Tim O’Brien Woodworks after we couldn’t find off-the-shelf ones that would fit the space.

CHILD’S BEDROOM:
Laura Fenton small space house tour

Bed: IKEA. Book ledges: IKEA.

12. Get out of your tiny house. The library, the park or grandma’s house are all places we escape when we need a little breathing room. When my husband and I were in the early, sleep-deprived days of parenting, we’d take turns taking our noisy toddler out to a diner in the morning, so the other parent could sleep in our tiny apartment. I also wrote much of my book in the library and coffee shops.

13. Give differently. You can stop the culture of living large by giving experiences instead of things. Museum memberships are great for families, and the gift of babysitting is a big one. One of the best gifts that my parents ever gave me is a theater ticket subscription, where you had tickets to a whole season of plays. Or, if you prefer to place something in someone’s hand, consider something consumable, like food, flowers or fancy soaps.

BATHROOM:
Laura Fenton small space house tour

Fan: Vornado.

14. Choose a clear shower curtain. Our bathroom is tiny, and when we hang a shower curtain it feels downright claustrophobic. Someday we might invest in a glass shower door, but our solution for now is to use a clear shower curtain, which leaves the room feeling more open and airier.

15. Remember the long view. Life’s stages come and go (the space-hogging bouncy seat and the stroller will be gone before you know it, I swear!). If your space has begun to feel too small, take a step back and examine what’s happening now. Don’t let today’s temporary discomfort force you into moving into a space that’s bigger than you really need.

Thank you so much, Laura! Your home is beautiful.

Update: A few people asked to see the layout, so here it is!

P.S. 13 tips for decorating a small space and a 175-square-foot NYC apartment.

(Photos by Weston Wells.)

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  1. I love this beautifully designed apartment. We are small space dwellers, too. Laura, can you tell me where your garbage can and recycling bin in the kitchen are from? Also, the boxes under the bed?

    Thanks!

  2. Beautiful apartment! And some good tips, especially tidying everyday. But if you consider this tiny then my apartment is microscopic. Cut off the living room and foyer, shrink the bathroom a bit, combine the kitchen and dining room and shave off a bit of space and now you’re looking at what me and my partner live in. I’d kill for us to have one more room or even a closet in the bedroom.

  3. Abby says...

    I grew up in a modest 1500sqft house and my husband grew up in a 7,000sqft house so we have had different expectations of our ideal living quarters over the years. We’ve rented in big cities for the last 8 years and we are getting ready to move into our first house (rental) but with 4bd and 2.5 bath, it is a major upgrade in space (still less than 2000 sqft though). We just had a baby 2 months ago and with the quarantine, we realized we wanted our own yard so we can get outside this summer and need a little more breathing room if we are going to be inside so much. I totally love minimalist living though and have for the last 8 years. These are great tips! Trying to apply this to having a child too and knowing that we won’t be living in this state forever helps me keep things to a minimum since I know we will have a cross country move ahead of us in the next couple of years. Moving alot really cuts down on your stuff!!

    • Laura Fenton says...

      Good luck with it all! Moving really does keep you honest! The Minimalists bloggers actually recommend it as an exercise for people who aren’t moving: they suggest packing everything into boxes and then gradually taking out what you need to see what you really use. It’s an extreme idea, but could be interesting to try for a challenging space in your house.

  4. Rachel says...

    My husband and I decided to put our three bedroom, two bedroom house on the market today (unforeseen medical bills stacking up and loss of income…we are in over our heads with a big mortgage and lots to keep up with). I am also 5 months pregnant with our first child.

    This has been a very emotional decision, but at the same time, I feel a great deal of peace at the idea of simplifying our space, both in square footage and possessions. This quarantine has me thinking a lot about consumerism, and what I really want and need as a parent.

    Thank you for this lovely post!!

    • M.Nicole says...

      Although I am not done with it yet, I echo Laura’s sentiment about this book. There are some real gems in there. I think I’ll finish it up during this quarantine!

  5. Tess says...

    So funny, my husband and I are looking at two bedroom apartments to purchase in our Brooklyn neighborhood in order to have space to start a family, and I wouldn’t consider this “tiny” at all! Having a true kitchen with full-sized appliances (and a window!) and living space for a dining table and full-sized couch would be a dream for us. All a matter of perspective, I guess! What a lovely home- not too over-designed or cutesy, just elegant and cozy!

    • Maybe you should come look in Queens ;)!

      (Though full disclosure, the appliances are “apartment” sized models, but certainly big enough for us!)

    • Mari says...

      Yep. As a Parisian, this looks pretty normal to me.

    • Same! In London, I live in a 500sqft apartment with a housemate and his girlfriend. Love this place though.

  6. Sarah says...

    Super Tips!
    My partner and I have been living and working in our 600 square foot STUDIO apartment since the Quarantine hit…. so far so good!

    The only separate room is the bathroom so my tips are:
    1) Close all doors all the time (including cupboards, drawers). It helps the space to feel less crowded.

    2) Make art nooks wherever you can. Paintings, prints, sculptures, whatever you dig. Making corners pretty helps to keep a small space interesting

    3) Noise Cancelling Headphones. Duh!

    Keep well everybody!

  7. My husband and I were married in North Devon, England, and on the side of one of the homes in the village where we wed, was a plaque that read, “It is better to have a home too small one day a year, than a home too big all the rest.” We loved that, and my husband and I ended up designing and he built (with his own two hands!!!) our own little home on an infill lot in our hometown. I spent three years of my childhood living on a sailboat so a lot of the “dual purpose” features I remember were used in our design as well (think, booth seating with storage build into the benches). It’s nice to always be in eyesight of our children — we feel lucky to be so involved in each others lives in this way.

    • I LOVE this quote! What wise, wise words. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Kate says...

    Thank you, Laura, for all your helpful & gracious responses to the comments! How lovely!

  9. Lauren says...

    The best organizing tip I have is to postpone buying new baskets and boxes, and first use recyclables that you naturally accumlate (cardboard boxes, berry baskets, plastic tubs etc) as you play around with different configurations. No more trying fit items into containers you feel obliged to use! It’s cheaper, more fun, you get a better result, and of course some of the recyclables end up being just right by themselves.

  10. Kristie says...

    Thank you for the beautiful tour and the thoughtful advice! My husband and I packed our life into a van a few years ago, and travelled halfway around Australia. I loved the tiny living with just one of the essentials each. We ended up in the Northern Territory and as our lives changed, we rented one place after another, each time they got bigger and bigger. We were in a big 4 bedroom house with a huge yard for 2 years, and we accumulated so much stuff. Just this week we downsized to a smaller house even though we now have two kids. I was just over the bigness & stuff. This has reassured me of the joy in smaller simpler living.

  11. Liz says...

    We have plenty of space, but not a lot of furniture, so our Thanksgiving dinners have a strict BYOC policy – bring your own chair! It works great and is kind of fun as we jigsaw the seating into the available table space!

  12. Toray says...

    This was a really enjoyable read. I’ve lived in my one bedroom apartment going on sixteen years. I now have my small family (husband, daughter and yorkie) here with me as well and we don’t plan on moving anytime soon. We share our bedroom with her now but will eventually give the room to her and transform our living room into a studio-like space. Reading this helped me realize I’m already doing what I dreamed regarding small living and the confidence to continue. Thanks!

    • Toray, I’m glad to hear it. When the time comes to make the room swap, you should definitely consider a murphy bed! More than one family in my book had them and my sister used one in her one-bedroom with two kids—and I had one in a long-ago apartment.

  13. S says...

    Beautiful space, though where I live, and in many European cities, this is a fairly standard size for a young family home.
    After many years of small space living, we just purchased a space about double the size. I would not have given up a central, walkable location in our city, but we’re lucky that we don’t have to. I so look forward to a break from the constant tidying and effort that goes into keeping organized. We have a lot of visitors, many who stay at least a week and while we have discussed the option of putting them up nearby, it’s so special to share our home with friends and family. We will be paying more, but for us it’s worth it to have a space that is comfortable for our visitors and for us. Also, my office has a door!!!! I can’t wait!

  14. cg says...

    I’m confused. Even with the blue print. In one picture, the master bedroom is to the right of the kitchen. In another picture, I can see the front door from the angle the picture is taken of the master bedroom, which also puts it in the room that is across from the living room. Did they switch bedrooms from the one across the living area to the larger one at some point? The picture of the room for their son looks the smallest which should be the area across from the living space (that could double as a dining room), yet it doesn’t match up with the images of their master. And the dimensions don’t match up to the house owner’s stated dimensions. I’m just trying to get a better sense of the space, and how they used it.

    • Hanna says...

      Hi CG,
      It all lines up to me. The master bedroom is the room that is across from the living room (and yes, it shares a wall with the kitchen).

      I think their son’s room may look smaller (in photos) compared to the master bedroom when the blueprints state the opposite. But looking at the pic of the master bedroom v. the son’s room, the angles of the camera are totally different so it’s hard to compare.

      By the way, beautiful home! I aspire to live this way! :) I’ve had some success, and am finding ways for it to work with my lifestyle.

    • CG, if you look at the photo of our “bedroom” (the former dining alcove) you can see the arched entrance to the kitchen to the left. You can see the front door in the background because the apartment is not very large. We gave our son the “big” room, but as you point out, it’s not really very big either. It was actually funny: When my husband and I were photographing our son’s room we were like, “Wait, this room is tiny too!”

    • cg says...

      Thanks for the replies!

  15. Sarah says...

    I live in a relatively spacious two bedroom apartment (I don’t know the square footage, we don’t really do that whole thing in Australia!) and had to buy a lot of mostly second-hand furniture very quickly when I first moved in. It’s only two years later that I’m finally getting around to selling some items that are just completely wrong and impractical for the space and replacing them with better (still second-hand) versions. It’s amazing what the right sized table or couch can do for a space.

    • 100-percent! We buy and sell secondhand furniture all the time and move things around. We used to have a bigger storage piece in the entryway and it made that space feel so cramped–just a few inches less depth made a world of difference. And since we took these photos, we gave the chair in my son’s room to his grandpa to make more room to play.

  16. Katey says...

    Love that you featured a home in Queens! I live a few neighborhoods over from Jackson Heights in Forest Hills and honestly don’t know why more people don’t live out this way. Buying (or renting) is much more affordable than many other areas of NYC, it is a quick trip into midtown (we even have the added benefit in Forest Hills of the LIRR that gets you into Penn in less than 15 minutes), and super easy to get to the beaches in the summer. I could go on and on, but all this to say one can easily grow to love life in this borough!

    • Katy, shhhh! Let’s keep lovely Queens a secret. Kidding aside, I totally agree: Moving to Queens totally reignited my love of New York City and made it possible for us to afford being here with a child. Jackson Heights is the most wonderful community–and we love Forest Hills too!

    • Hah also came to say so happy to see a Queens home – especially right now as we’ve become the global hotspot for Covid, it’s nice to see something positive involving our borough.
      xx
      Life-long Queens resident (and also in Forest Hills <3)

    • Laura says...

      Yay! Another forest hills resident here. Nice to know there are other COJ readers so close. Stay safe everyone!

    • Katey says...

      Hi everyone! Cup of Jo Queens readers unite :-)

    • Kay says...

      Yay! Queens love! I was raised in Corona and now live in Elmhurst. It’s one of the best neighborhoods to raise a family. I couldn’t be more happier here!

  17. Elissa says...

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and small house tour! And enjoyed reading all the comments. My family is downsizing from an almost 3,000 sq ft house to a 2,000 sq ft house and it’s an adjustment I’m excited about! I will truly use and need everything we have. Our expenses are so much lower that it will allow for travel and saving and just simply not living at the max of what we can afford (which we did for the last 5 years). I can’t wait to close on my “new to me” 1923 four square style stucco home in 2 weeks!

  18. Jessica says...

    Funny, my partner and I live in about 650 feet and I wouldn’t consider our apartment to be “tiny” or even “small!” I wholeheartedly agree, though, that keeping things tidy is a necessity. We make the bed every morning (something I’m especially grateful for now that the bedroom is my husband’s office), wash the dishes after every meal, and always put away anything that is not actively in use. We have about 1,000 vinyl records, several hundred books, and a healthy dose of art and pottery, but everything is meticulously organized and has its place, even in just three rooms. My #1 rule is that anything we bring into our home must be beautiful and/or useful—that’s how I want to live.

  19. Joanne says...

    Looking at how people use space is so much fun! I remember living alone in a 400 sq ft studio, and it was plenty of space for me, but I relied so heavily on the outside world for sanity. Now I’m in the biggest house I’ve ever lived in — nearly 3000 sq ft if you count the basement. I am so, so grateful to have all the space at this very moment – I don’t feel cooped up the way so many do right now, and despite multiple attempts to downsize our things, we manage to fill the space for the most part. (Camping/backpacking gear, two home office nooks, suitcases, record players, subwoofers & speakers, photography gear… we have hobbies that take up space, I suppose!)

    Also, I don’t mean to be terrible and contrarian… but for the people who don’t want to live in a small space or don’t feel it’s sustainable for them personally — I think a larger space is brilliant! Obviously there are tradeoffs and environmental factors to consider, and I’m not talking about a mansion here, but having room to breathe feels really important to me. It’s a privilege, yes, but also a choice to live somewhere where it’s more affordable to have space. Granted, this just isn’t financially possible in most populated cities. (I live 30 min outside of a smaller city.)

    I’m having a nice time window shopping on Gothic Cabinet Craft now. Thanks Laura! And thanks COJ for continuing to produce content and paying your employees. I’m clicking all the ads. :)

  20. Karin says...

    I love the peacefulness and ‘old fashioned-ness’ of this home. Thanks for the floor plan, too–it’s always difficult for me to visualize the flow of the house tours.

    Curious: what is in the foyer? It’s so big–almost the size of the bedroom!

    Also love what she said about renting a celebration space once in a while as opposed to paying a bigger mortgage or rent every month. Eye-opening idea.

    • There’s a big sideboard/storage piece that holds a ton of our dishes, table linens, glasses, kid art that we’re saving, and more. We might put something else in there someday, but because people are always passing through there, it’s nice for it to be open. Plus, there’s also currently a kid’s trike and before that there was a stroller–so, parking!

  21. K says...

    I loved this so much! I’m in the toddler stage and toys taking over our life! Any tips on toy storage/organizing in small spaces? Even from other tours. Thank you so much! Lovely as always

    • Chitown says...

      I’m a fan of tall cylindrical storage baskets, height is important – you can still dump stuff in there at a moments notice, but it won’t peak out the top and look messy. You can have them in the bedroom, living room (they’re so pretty) and it makes it easy to clean a pile of toys up.

    • Bea says...

      Same here! I would also love a post like this! You organization, particularly in living spaces for small NYC apartments!

    • Anna says...

      Baskets, crates, and ruthless purging! We raised our first in two apartments, 560 sq ft and then 700 sq ft, both one bedroom apartments. I watched to see what toys he played with and which fell out of favour quickly and either rotated those out or straight up gave them away/donated them. He had a small wooden crate of books, like a tiny bookcase, and on the top of it we kept a few favourite stacking toys – a ring stacker, one of those Grimms rainbows, a set of stacking cups. All other toys lived in two big baskets: one of blocks, the other of all other toys (if the basket hit full, it was time for something to go). Toys that come in sets or pieces (a set of toy food, for example) went into a little bag before going into the basket. The baskets could be tucked in next to a piece of furniture at the end of the day, and hauled out for play come morning!

  22. Sarah T says...

    Love this! I have just purchased a one bedroom apartment and am so excited about moving in and scaling down. I especially love this comment from Laura – “but a few hundred dollars a couple times a year is nothing to the larger rent or mortgage payment you’d be making on a home large enough to host big celebrations” – SO true!! A lot of people tried to convince me to buy the 2 bedroom for an additional nearly 90K and I am glad I didn’t – I would rather continue to go out more. In Australia, people really like large houses and are happy to go into significant debt for them; not me. My new place is tiny by Australian housing standards but it’s over 850 square feet inclusive of the courtyard – plenty of room for me and my tiny dog!

  23. Lauren H says...

    I love Cup of Jo home tours! Laura’s space is beautiful and inspiring. I just purchased her book (and I am not a frequent buyer of home design books but I thought it would be perfect reading material for the quarantine). Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Thank you so much for buying a copy!

  24. Anna says...

    Oh, thank you for adding the layout! I love to see those included!

  25. Daniela says...

    Yes to all of this! What a lovely read.

    Some things I totally agreed on: storage units (when we had one I felt energetically weighed down knowing we had all this junk sitting in storage and also guilty about the cost we paid for items we rarely used), giving differently, and having a clear shower curtain. When we put in an actual shower curtain after having just a clear one for awhile, our bathroom felt, well, way cozier (aka tinier). ;)

  26. Elly says...

    Love seeing furniture from Gothic Cabinet Craft on here! We got a dresser from there several years ago and it’s the nicest piece of furniture we own. It’s all solid wood, made in the U.S., comes with a lifetime warranty. I swear I don’t work for them, I just love the product! We priced similar dressers from places like West Elm that cost the same and were made out of particleboard. I’m so glad we stumbled across GCC.

  27. Laura says...

    I love this! I recently purchased my first home- an 1875 terrace 1 bed cottage in N.Ireland. I adore my tiny space, even if I have to duck through the front door ( I’m 6ft, y’all) and my 2 sisters moved in, as we are all essential workers. I’ll look back on these times in my wee cottage as wild and wonderful, I’m sure.

    • Megan says...

      Love this comment–and thank you to you and your sisters for everything you’re doing!!

  28. Abi says...

    I adore this apartment! But it’s not that small by some standards.

    • Kath says...

      Yeah, I thought the same thing! I also agree it’s a beautiful home.

    • J. says...

      Yes I live in norway and its much bigger than my apartment that I’ve bought with my boyfriend. I wish I had a living room and bedroom that was as large as that! We can’t walk around our bed.

  29. Eliot says...

    Now I want to paint all the doors in my house black. Such a gorgeous home!

  30. Allison says...

    This is almost my exact house layout. I’m wondering how she manages to keep out the influx of kid’s toys. Especially right now…Also, what about seasonal things like holiday decorations? That’s the one thing I feel like we need extra storage for.

    • Curious too !!

    • Maria, what kind words: Thank you! Would love to see some pics of your place!

    • We are pretty minimalist with our son’s toys, but those boxes under the bed are filled with LEGO, magnatile, and blocks and there are a few Pehr bins that you can’t see in these shots at the foot of his bed. We also, ahem, relocated a few of the trucks for the photoshoot. I read Simplicity Parenting pretty early on in our parenthood journey and it’s message of
      “less is more” when it comes to toys really resonated with me. Fortunately, our families know this and are pretty mindful of our small space constraints when they give gifts. We’ve got a box of Christmas decor in the clothes closet.

    • Amy says...

      +1 for Simplicity Parenting! I also read it early on and have really appreciated the shift it gave my perspective. I now have a 9, 7, and 4 yo and I’d say they’ve adapted really well to the coronavirus situation partially because of strategies we started using as a result of that book (and others; Simple Families is a good blog/podcast to check out as well).

  31. Issa says...

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful home! May I ask about the rug in your son’s bedroom?

  32. Beth says...

    I live in a very similar sized house to
    this in Melbourne, Australia with our two young children- I envy your living room size though- our kitchen table is the only place we can use as a
    Workspace.
    It’s definitely a challenge and I totally relate to the need to tidy all the time (a few things in a big space look like nothing but in a small space look chaotic). We generally love living very close to amenities, parks libraries, restaurants etc and the kids are happy. I can imagine they will eventually want their own room or we will need an area for them to do homework.
    But quarantine days have made me question if this way of living will be viewed in such a favourable light going forward. It is not easy living room in such a small space when we can’t go out anymore!
    I’d love to hear some thoughts about whether you think there will be a decline in popularity in this type
    of living and the suburbs will have a boom ? Or do you still think it will be popular going forward?

    • Trish O says...

      Interesting? I wonder what people will want. There could be a lot of unemployment I the us after this, so that may make moving hard. I think people may really value private outside space.

    • I wondered about this too. Thankfully, these terrible days will eventually come to an end. Nothing will change about my belief in the value of living small and my love of the city, but I also asked the homeowners/renters featured in my book about it (every person in the book is currently sheltering in place/staying at home). Everyone I talked to is grateful to have the smaller financial responsibilities that come with a smaller home during this uncertain time. How it will impact housing trends in the big picture is an interesting question: For example, I think it’ll make outdoor space and even more valuable commodity in cities. I’d love to hear other ways people think how we live in our homes will change.

  33. Liz says...

    Yes! Love this! More people should consider living like this imo!

  34. clare says...

    hi joanna, i just wanted to say that i’m finding the new ads (both the initial pop up and the embedded ones) very distracting and annoying. i know you’ve got to find ways to increase revenue, but this is the first time it feels like the sponsorships/ads have started detracting from the content and the feel of your website. they feel spammy in a way that is totally at odds with my image of cupofjo. the sidebar ads i think you had for a while faded into the background experience a lot better. Could you at least consider eliminating the moving part of the ads? And/or limiting the bottom banner to only the homepage? Those would both be big improvements. Thanks, I adore your blog and have read for years.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I hear you that the ads are more present than the other ones were — it’s my goal and mission to pay our team their full salaries and rates with health insurance during this time so that means looking for more revenue streams, as you pointed out. We will keep experimenting with placement and see what works best for everyone. Thank you so much for understanding and sharing your thoughts! Xo

    • Kate says...

      Just wanted to leave a counterpoint! I totally get why it would be distracting, but honestly I don’t even notice them. Maybe I spend too much time online anyways so am used to automatically closing ads? I’m happy to deal with some extra pop-ups in exchange for the free content that’s getting us through these tough times :)

    • Michelle says...

      Keep the ads! Pay the people! I am clicking on them all now…

    • Sinthura says...

      Keep the ads! Love that you’re paying your people through this pandemic!

    • K says...

      My first instinct was to agree with Clare – the ads along the bottom are very distracting to this Easily Distracted Reader – but then I read Joanna’s response. I am glad for any innovation that keeps people employed (and insured) these challenging times. Kudos to COJ.

    • Another longtime reader here, and I had the exact same feeling about the ads. But if they’re a temporary(ish) measure to keep the editors paid and insured during these challenging times, they have my support. So glad to see employers doing what they can to retain and support their staffers however possible.

    • India says...

      Yes, I agree with Clare (sorry Joanna :/ ) even before I read Clare’s comment I especially thought the bottom banner was a bit spammy and annoying and not per the usual Cup of Jo vibe. I guess you have to do what you have to do but just my 2 cents worth. Hopefully different forms of revenue become available soon :)

    • SGH says...

      Hi I would like to respectfully remind us all that this beloved blog is absolutely FREE to read for us readers and has been since the beginning. Since we are in the middle of a PANDEMIC and the economy is going to shit, I wouldn’t mind if half the page was covered in ads as long as I still got to read from these incredible women that have made us laugh/cry/grow throughout the years and know that at the end of the day they still had job security and health insurance. I’m going to be clicking on all these ads.

      Thank you Cup of Jo team!!

    • J says...

      Seconding SGH – please remember, folks, that these ads are how you get to pay the creators of this wonderful content. No one likes ads. But my desire to have these women paid and with health care during a pandemic and global recession so far surpasses my dislike of the ads that I’m grateful to be able to do my part for them.

      The bottom screen ad can be minimized with a single click.

    • Claire says...

      I am good with the ads because I support the goal to keep paying all the lovely CoJ writers and staff.
      Related question: if we purchase anything through the links in the “Shop” section does that generate any revenue for you?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Claire — thank you for your note! Some of them will generate a small amount of affiliate revenue. Thank you so much!

    • Charlotte says...

      I feel the same about the ads, hate them. However, I always “accept all” because I understand the reason they’re there.
      What about a Patreon or similar way of doing an optional subscription? I’m a longtime reader and would happily pay an annual fee; if maybe 10% of us did that it would subsidise the content for those who can’t pay and the site would remain free?

  35. Amber F says...

    This was so wonderful to read! I live on a 700square foot house boat with my husband and two young boys! I love seeing how other families do it!

    • Daniela says...

      Sounds like your home would make for an amazing house tour!

    • Jules says...

      A house boat sounds so fun and exotic!

    • Elissa says...

      Tell us more! What is your Instagram so we can follow you ?

    • I wish I’d connected with you when we shot the book: I thought it would be so fun to have a houseboat included!

    • Oh wow! you gals I’am so flattered!
      my insta is ababeafloat

  36. Nicole says...

    My partner and I live in a 563 square foot condo in center city Philadelphia and it works so well or us. These are my tips, including one that contrasts with the advice given by the author:
    1. We rent off site storage. In it we store things like beach gear, bicycle parts and some tools, the christmas tree and two pieces of furniture that are valuable and to be used at some point in the future. Our storage space is an affordable $53/month. At times we have stored things that we’ve needed rather frequently making trips to storage monthly.
    2. Tidying is crucial. We don’t have many items that we do not regularly use and my nightmare is having my home look like a storage closet- if we don’t need it we don’t own it. We are purposeful about everything that gets brought home
    3. Our living room is also our dining room, office, lounge, night club, game room etc. We clean it every day (sweep, vac, wipe surfaces)
    3. Our two many spaces are the living room (/dining/office etc) and our bedroom and we took care to design the decor of each to have different moods. The living room features warmer tones and the bedroom is white and crisp. They suit different moods.

  37. Nadine says...

    Love all the black & white, so clean feeling. Also, my mom comes from a family in New York with the last name Fenton!

    • Thank you! When I got my first apartment in New York City in 1999 I was so excited to look myself up in the phone book–and to my shock and dismay there were six(!) Laura Fentons! One of those moments when I realized how big our city truly is.

  38. Maria F says...

    I worked with Laura when she was our Home/Lifestyle director at Parents mag! Amazing to see a familiar face today on one of my favorite sites. She is so wonderful and has always had so many practical tips we’ve featured in the magazine, it’s wonderful to now get this peek into her own space. It looks amazing Laura! As always, I am taking a few tips away from this to use in my own tiny Brooklyn studio :)

    • Maria, what kind words: Thank you! Would love to see some pics of your place!

  39. Sarah says...

    This is a truly great post.

    I lived with my daughter and husband in a 750 square foot condo for a year and a half and I spent the twenty years prior in tiny apartments. We have a house now. I love having a yard, but I actually miss living in a small space in a busy city.

    I still like to behave as though I live in a small space, LOL. It forces me to stay tidy. I pretend I plan to move in the next year. It make me ruthless about clutter and helps curb unnecessary shopping.

    • Laura Fenton says...

      “I appreciate the folds in the tablecloth” sounds like the beginning of a poem! And thank you for saying so. I’ve worked in magazines my whole career and I know how much “styling” goes into most photo shoots. Often the homes are unrecognizable! For this book, we didn’t bring in any props or stylists and tried to shoot the homes as their best selves on their best days.

  40. I would love to know where the tablecloth came from! What an inspiring space.

  41. Jeannie says...

    Thank you for this! I really needed #15 today. =)

    • We all need a little of #15 right now.

  42. JB says...

    Curious for people living in under 800 sq. ft. – what do you do with golf clubs, skis, holiday decorations etc? Rent every time? Use disposable? I don’t have that much stuff (certainly not enough for a whole storage locker) but enough that basement/storage locker seems necessary?

    • Pamela says...

      Suitcases, too. Where do people put them??

    • We don’t have any sporting equipment like that, but if we need stuff like that we rent it. We also borrow a lot! We do have a ton of photo equipment that uses one of our three closets; another couple in the book gave up one of their only closets to store their bikes, so they wouldn’t have them out all the time; so maybe the tip is to make room if it’s a passion that you engage in often?

      Christmas decorations are in a box in our clothes closet, but we only ever have a small tree. For other holidays, we just have homemade stuff that gets consumed/recycled/composted/trashed after.

    • Hi JB, I lived with my husband in 365 square feet for the first 2 years of our marriage. We had a car and a small storage space that came with the apartment so things like camping and sporting gear stayed in the trunk of the car while the suitcases stayed in our storage in the basement. We also put our bed frame on risers and stored items we rarely used under the bed, including a *very*small collection of Christmas decorations.

      It’s just not worth hoarding single use or rarely used items, so we ended up with some good habits of not buying things like coffee grinders, skis, etc. Turns out a lot of stuff that is being sold to us by stores, websites, etc. really isn’t all that necessary :)

      That being said, I am curious what others did for storage as well in small spaces (I feel like the car and spare storage is kind of like cheating, haha.)

    • Abi says...

      I don’t have golf clubs or skis… and a small space doesn’t need or allow for many xmas decorations.

    • Nish says...

      My partner and I live in ~500 sq ft in the inner city and are very into outdoor activities that need a lot of stuff (climbing, canyoneering, skiing, hiking, camping). Basically all of our storage space is dedicated to this gear – our one cupboard, under our bed (that we raised to fit more gear under), a chest of drawers. We’re very deliberate about what we buy generally and make sure it’s something that will be used a lot and that we can’t easily borrow off of friends and it all works out. Making sure everything has its place is key and we always talk about where we’ll keep it when we’re buying something. It’s wild that you can lose things in such a small space but we definitely do when we break that rule!

    • Jessica says...

      People seem to often ask about where smaller-space dwellers keep holiday decorations. Personally, I am an atheist and don’t do much around the holiday season except hang some antique glass ornaments on my larger houseplants. They get stashed in a shoebox for the rest of the year! We don’t golf or ski, or play any sports that involve any real equipment ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Anna says...

      For us it’s just come down to deciding what we value enough to keep, and then making peace with it taking up space. Bikes can go on wall mounted racks, or just be leaned by the front door – yes, they take up space and are dirty, but as our primary mode of transit they’re worth it. One of our precious closets is devoted to camping equipment, skis, and off season clothing. It is jam packed and does not look Pinterest ready but they fit. To make that possible, we culled our clothing and we store some of it in under-bed crates and some in baskets on wall-mounted shelves. All of this to say… it takes creativity but I think you really can prioritize and make your space work for what you have!

    • Emma says...

      I’m in 580 feet, but have a basement storage unit (lifesaver). Here is what I do:
      – Skis, ice skates, camping equipment, and snow tires (can you tell I live in Canada?): storage unit
      – Horseback riding stuff: permanently lives in the trunk of my car
      – Suitcases: carry-on lives on a shelf in my closet, larger one in the basement storage.
      – Christmas decorations: In a box on a shelf above my coat closet. I get a (small) real tree every year so no need to store that.
      – Seasonal clothing: also in a large box in my closet.

      I also have a bed with drawers (the IKEA Nordli), which is perfect for linens, bulky sweaters, and workout clothes.

  43. Our house is probably twice the square footage of the beautiful apartment (still small by many US standards) and as a family of 4 we certainly don’t need anything bigger. But the ceilings of our cape are very low (7 ft?) — if you ever come across a lovely house tour with low ceilings, I’d love more tips and tricks.

    • That’s a tough one. Our friends have a duplex with very low ceilings downstairs–the architect homeowner opted for super low-slung furniture in the bedroom and it definitely helps with the low ceiling feeling.

    • Christine Porschet says...

      Same!! Lighting with a low ceiling is super tricky and our house is about 1200 square feet.

  44. claire says...

    Really good ideas! I love the star chart. Although my place is not as small, the kitchen is tiny. We cook a lot, so it’s also a busy space, and lately it has started to feel cramped and crowded. I’d be interested in hearing from Laura or anyone else on suggestions for organizing kitchen work equipment and tools in a small space- like cabinets, and a small pantry, and how to store pots and pans and bowls and utensils. Also, I agree that light makes all the difference in a space, but am I the only one who personally does not like bare windows? This is a serious question, not meant to be whine-y, because I see bare windows in a lot of home style posts and I’ve wondered about this. Do people not mind about the lack of privacy? For light, I am partial to white on windows – I find daylight and sun coming through white fabric extra beautiful, and it lets the light in and also allows the option for privacy.

    • Reba says...

      I have a little galley kitchen in a 1200 sf house. It’s enough, since I cook regularly but not recreationally. I did the pretend-you’re-moving-pack-everything-notice-what-you-unpack trick which took a while (and a corner of my little dining room) but really helped me narrow down what I needed vs. what I kept because I liked the look/had a whole set/spent too much $$ on it, etc. When I only had to find kitchen space for what I was routinely using *in the kitchen*, I had more options. Then I repurposed some of the beloved leftovers (storage bowls instead of storage baskets?) and the rest was already boxed up for Goodwill, back in the day when they still took donations. As for curtains, I recently noticed that because I live in a narrow street, my full-length tab-top curtains were blocking out the best of the light–at the top of the window, unblocked by opposite houses. So now I have curtains set halfway down the windows in most rooms, where only a giant standing in the front yard could see. Blinds or slatted shutters if I feel I need a full-window privacy. Like you, I love the white fabric look, usually seersucker.

    • Jessica says...

      I’m with you—I use sheer white curtains in my smaller apartment to both let some light through and have some privacy. I find it really odd when I walk through my neighborhood at night and can see what everyone is watching on TV. No thank you!

    • Amy says...

      I’m an avid cook in a sort-of small kitchen (really, it’s all relative). I store out-of-season stuff in a hall closet (Christmas cookie cutters, grilling supplies, etc). I use command hooks inside some cabinets to hang the attachments for my KitchenAid. Storing pot lids on cabinet doors allows the pots to nest. I found a couple cake pans at the thrift store that fit my cupboards to fill with spices and bottles; I just pull the whole shebang out like a drawer (they say lazy Susans, but circles in rectangles lose a lot of space…)

  45. Martha L. says...

    I loved this feature. We live in downtown Philadelphia in the 1,000 square foot trinity ( 1 room on each floor) house that I bought 20+ years ago when I was young and single. I now have a husband, a nine year old son, a seven year old son, and a pug puppy.

    Normally, it is not an issue for all of us to live in a tiny house because we are at school, work, out and about the city for most of the day. This quarantine has been a bit of an adventure. I have to admit it is fascinating to watch the way we have adapted our various spaces to suit our new quarantine needs. My sons’ room becomes my yoga studio while they are up in our bedroom watching TV. The kitchen is our new office area while our sons work on their school work in the living room. Every space has to serve an additional function during this unique time.

    I have found that adaptation of space the key to keeping us happy and able to function in such a small space. We are always looking at different ways to use our space so that we can meet our ever-changing needs.

    Plus, I have to say that with unemployment and furloughs looming on so many fronts, it brings us huge peace of mind to know that our mortgage is doable, even if we were to lose part of our income. We have both been laid off over the past five years and not having a large mortgage to support was a huge relief both times. So, for us, a small space really works.

    • Martha, your last point is exactly one of the reasons we choose to live small. It is such a relief to know we can afford our home even during this difficult financial time. Glad your family is making do!

  46. Hali says...

    Thank you for the gift giving tip!! I needed to hear that. I used to work in that stationery industry and had obscene amounts of cards and gift wrap. Delivering perfectly wrapped gift is one of my life’s great pleasures so the IMMENSE ribbon stash and the wrapping rolls have been the hardest thing for me to store and to kondo in our teeeeny tiny home. I know it’s bad for the environment, but wrapping is one of those things I just love dearly- the whole process of selecting, cutting, folding, tying, gifting… I went to wrap an easter gift yesterday and realized my supplies are down to a b&w block print and a stash of blue english granny wallpaper- I was shocked but proud of myself. Having nothing for the occasion lead me to tie dye some flour sack towels I have in tumeric and wrap the gifts that way. Took an hour but worked gloriously!

    What do you google for gifting experiences? What’s good in the $30-50 range? Museums are brilliant but usually a bit more than I want to spend on a friend’s birthday.

    I’m going to really look into gifting experiences. And more into dying with kitchen ingredients, hah. As devastating as this pandemic is, quarantine is 100% changing my life in ways that are better not just for me but for my impact on the world :)

    • Hilary says...

      I, too, love wrapping but I finally have accepted that, for me, the environmental cost was just too high. I am steadily working my way through a stash of vintage paper from my 90-year old Great Aunt and when it runs out, we’ll use kid art or fabric.

      To make giving experiences more fun without wrapping, I like to anchor the gift card to someone physical that’s small and still useful. I’ve given gift cards to:

      – someone’s favorite mani/pedi place – attached to a can of champagne!

      – a gift card with enough money for drinks out at a nice bar, attached to a pair of vintage champagne coupes/fancy-looking highball glasses (can usually source these at a thrift store for a buck or two each!)

      – movie tickets, attached to a small bag of fancy caramel corn or even better, boxes of junior mints and red hots purchased at the dollar store (my secret movie candy source, shhhh!)

      – a gift card for a massage or even a foot massage, attached to a small jar candle or nice box of tea. Anthropologie has lovely small Volupsa candles and they are often in the clearance room for about $8 if you’re willing to dig around back there!

      Best of luck in giving experiences!

    • I also love to wrap gifts! We usually use brown paper, white paper, or upcycled newspapers, but I have a whole drawer full of ribbons (my favorites are light-as-a-feather silk ones) and another for cards/stationary!

      For experience gifts: Meals out together or a gift certificate for someone to go to one on their own are a favorite; classes (both IRL in non-quarantine times and online); membership to a cool site like Skillshare or NYT Cooking; gift certificate to a favorite bakery, art store, or garden shop count as “experiences” in my book; a really killer playlist made just for the recipient; membership to The Garden Conservancy or another organization that suits their interests; subscription to a paid newsletter; a credit for a movie to stream.

    • Hilary says...

      Hali-

      I just started seeing more renewable wrapping options such as companies dying recycled newspapers and such.

      I love the gift ideas posted below (I just joined SkillShare, and I’m obsessed), but we’re big fans of edible gifts or plants. If you like to cook, you could always bake something or prepare something more time-consuming like a lasagna. But honestly, a bag full of Trader Joe’s snacks would be amazing! Or chocolates from a local spot, scones with coffee, etc. My friends and I don’t give physical gifts, but we often go out to lunch or out for tea/coffee and the non-birthday person will pay.

    • Hali says...

      These are really brilliant ideas. I have enough ribbon to last me at least 10 years, and that will suit me fine for tying up experiences. A garden shop!! Mani/Pedi/Champ!! NYT Cooking!!!! Plants!!! A bag of trader joe’s treats paired with a playlist would likely make me cry a little…

      Your friends are all so lucky!

  47. Trish says...

    I like this! Very practical advice.

  48. jenny says...

    I haven’t had a real bedroom for almost 10 years, living in 400-500 sq ft studios. Sometimes I think about upgrading – but is that half wall really worth another $500-800 in rent? No. If I ever feel constricted by my space – even now, after 6 weeks in quarantine! – I evaluate my things, reorg, re-decorate. That always works! Everything does need a space, and if there isn’t a space – you probably don’t need the thing!

  49. Rita says...

    I live in one of the smaller countries in Europe and this size of apartment sounds very ok for a 2-bedroom. Over here, nobody would think they live in a small space and need specific adjustments :) So, I wonder, what is “standard” 2-bedroom size in NY?

    • Katie Wood says...

      I think the context here is that this would be “small” for most of the rest of the country (USA).

  50. Chelsea says...

    Laura, have you ever blogged about your kitchen renovation? I’m really interested!

  51. Oh, all these tips are wonderful and very helpful! Thanks a lot for sharing!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  52. Stefanie Farquharson says...

    I love #6. My husband read an article a few years back how Americans tend to buy for the 1% (mini vans for that one annual trip, etc). But in reality renting for that one trip a year and having a smaller car pays off.

  53. Sarah says...

    Love this space! Where is the chair in William’s room from?

    • We got it from a generous neighbor who was getting rid of it; it’s a vintage knockoff of the classic Eames lounge chair. Would love to upgrade to the real thing someday!

  54. Courtney says...

    Are Laura and her family renters or do they own their little gem?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      they own their home. thank you!

  55. Hilary says...

    I love this post! Our house isn’t small by any means, but when we bought it our family and friends were quick to point out “but why not a huge yard? kids love yard!” and such. Like folks, millions (billions?) of kids grow up without a giant backyard. Obviously quarantine me is cursing the lack of huge yard space, but I’m hoping this is a once in a lifetime problem.

    Love the thoughtfulness of their space. Quarantine has tempted me to buy more things- toys for my toddler, clothes that are on major sale, etc. but the IG account LA Minimalist wrote about sitting with the discomfort. Clothes shopping might make me happy for 20 minutes, but we’ll still be quarantined. It will not solve anything. So now I’m trying to sit with the discomfort and not just buy all the things!

    • I 100-percent agree about “sitting with the discomfort,” that’s a perfect way to phrase it. We’re trying to be super-mindful about what we “need,” and waiting before ordering anything, especially with the economic uncertainty right now.

    • Rae says...

      I was just discussing this “sitting with the discomfort” with a friend. So tempting to buy new toys right now – especially as I want to help our local toy store which is delivering toys to the front porch – but….
      I have noticed some wonderful, creative use of what we have. Toys that were long forgotten are out and in use. Cardboard and duct tape and yarn and branches from the yard….there has been some incredibly inspiring reimagining going on here. I am taking it to heart and hoping to be as creative with my needs as my kids are.

  56. I love this home! How are they coping in the quarantine? Would love to know what’s working !

    I have 1200 feet with 3 little girls and feels small sometimes. Would love clutter and toy and book tips!

    And yes we are always picking up as it gets cluttered fast.

    Curious do they have clutter like laundry and mail and school papers and general random items. Where does that go? Do they move it before the photos? Always curious!

    Thank you for this glimpse of a small home and lovely advice too

    • Katie says...

      The school papers and mail and kids’ artwork is always taking over our house. That’s the stuff I really need help figuring out how to properly find homes for!

    • Reem, we decided to leave our apartment so we could quarantine with my husband’s father (and have a back yard); we’re still in a small-ish space (1,200 square feet for four of us), but not that small. Grateful we have a little breathing room.

      In normal life, we have laundry in our shared clothing closet (in my son’s room) and also those baskets under the bedside tables are hampers. We have a drawer in the entryway sideboard for kid art. We try to do the one-touch system for daily papers, but of course, it can pile up–and of course, we tidied for the photos! You can’t see it in the photos but the tables on either side of the couch both have storage for art and school supplies.

    • Kim says...

      I took photos of my daughter’s artwork and printed up a photo book for each school year.

    • Thank you for explaining Laura! I next time I’d love to see before messy home and neat home pictures for ideas :)

      I want to see before messy home and clean home blog pictures too on Cupofjo.

      I think it would be inspiring for me to see how people clean their places and organize. And would keep it real:)

      Katie, I feel you! It’s like all the kids stuff is taking over entire home. Always in awe of people who have kids and I don’t really see their items like toys laundry etc. And all the random items. I just cleaned the island of my counter and it’s like where do I put the nasal spray, the deodorant, the car bill, the random turquoise marker? I mean these are random things on our island but we do use these things and when they’re in plain sight they’re used LOL.

      I know it’s hiding there somewhere lol. Thank you Laura for your honesty and for these beautiful inspiring pictures

  57. I would love to see a layout of this house! My husband and I live in a house that is ~800 sq feet and we are welcoming a baby in the fall. These small space ideas are so helpful!

    • Joanna added the floorplan–hope that helps! Congrats on your growing family!

  58. Miles Whittier says...

    Love this space, feels so much bigger than 690 square feet. I’ve been looking for a constellation chart like that forever!

  59. Julie says...

    Love this tour! We have done the clear shower curtain too. Light is so important!

    I think my apartment is a similar size and our living rooms seem about the same dimensions — so feeling inspiration to add a small chair alongside the couch. I also love the big rectangular mirrors.

    This apartment is so cute and looks like a wonderful place to call home. Thanks for sharing!

  60. Carol says...

    I am a fan of living on a smaller scale! What a beautiful home.

  61. Sonja says...

    Gorgeous, thoughtful home. Right up there with Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves and Alison from 600sqft and a Baby. Which is basically the highest compliment I could possibly give. Kudos on the timeliness of the post too – we might not be able to venture out much right now but I love her point on taking a step back if things feel small – life stages come and go. We just happen to be in a collective life stage of sheltering in place.

  62. What a beautiful small kitchen!!!
    I don’t agree on dimming the light: I always think the more light, the better!! Unless it’s evening, and then it’s nice to have twinkling lights and candles.

    Also, bring in PLANTS!!

  63. Julia says...

    What a lovely space and smart thoughts! A quick question about Gothic Furniture: what stain did they use on the bed? It’s gorgeous, and the stain images online aren’t that helpful. What a great upgrade from a more traditional platform bed!

    • Julia, I think this is the “natural” finish, but it’s a long-ago purchase, so I’m not 100-percent sure.

  64. Kelly says...

    Would love to see the closet space in this apartment!

    • I wish they were pretty enough to shoot! There are two small closets in the entryway: One has our coats, hardware/tools, and other utility type stuff and the other has all my husband’s photo equipment (and I never let him forget he has his own closet!). We have a deeper closet in my son’s room where we store our hanging clothes, blankets, suitcases, and the like.

  65. Joanne says...

    I love this and agree with every single point Laura has made. I live in a 309 sqft place with my husband and dog, and we have significantly pared down every square inch of our belongings. It turns out we don’t need 6 bed sets and 30 pairs of shoes to live a happy and healthy life!

  66. Teresa says...

    Beautiful space. Any chance I could find out where she got the cute little square clock on the nightstand?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask!

    • It’s from Muji, but I don’t think they have it in the U.S. anymore. You can try searching “beechwood clock” on eBay.

    • Nora B says...

      Yes! I second this. Beautiful clocks are hard to find.

  67. Blair says...

    These are great tips! Do you plan to stay in this space indefinitely? We have downsized drastically over the years (from a 4 bedroom 3 bath house with tons of space to a 2 bedroom cottage with lots of outdoor space) however our children count is upping (welcoming our 4th this summer). We are debating over what we NEED and if we should move or not. I don’t know if this will be out last addition and wonder if we should plan more towards the future vs live in the moment. I always press gifts of adventure over things.

    • We plan to stay indefinitely, but we’re pretty unlikely to expand our family further. We do wonder about later on if we wanted a home where an aging parent could live with us, but (hopefully) that’s a long way off.

  68. Deb says...

    I have very conflicting feelings over smaller houses. I grew up in a big house and watched my parents throw all their time and money at it, and I now live in a small (500 square feet) flat in a big expensive city. My mortgage is cheap, I can easily keep the place clean and tidy and I get super defensive when I read articles about people who “only” have 800 square feet (or some other amount that sounds perfectly reasonable to me, and I hasten to add that of course this isn’t the tone of this particular article!) – perish the thought that someone might only be consuming what they need! On the other hand, I would die for a garden, a balcony, space for 2 people to work from home (although this need is temporary), to have nothing stored under the bed. And, freedom from the nagging thought that because my house is small it must mean that I have somehow failed. See? Conflicting feelings!

    • Me too! I feel some of those feelings every time we want to entertain and I think of the big, lovely house my parents hosted parties in when they were my age.

    • SB says...

      As a 590sq ft apt dweller, I agree completely. Some days my apt feels perfect and some days it feels constricting. Always so glad when COJ and other pubs highlight small living, I’m always curious about how others make it work (usually the answer is better layout than my place). I’d rather have smaller than larger and think housing density is increasingly important in our changing climate, but boy would I love a balcony and a tiny balcony garden. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, you’re not alone!

    • I live in a smaller house here in Oakland CA – 768 square feet for three adults and two large dogs and I feel how small it is every day. I joke to friends that we live in a doll house. I’m so thankful that we can even afford this place here in the Bay Area, but I dream of more space. I have done everything I know how to do to make it more livable including basically everything in this article, but I just do not prefer to live this way. I don’t want a mansion by any means, but I would love to have a proper linen closet and the ability to have both a desk and a kitchen table. :)

    • hali says...

      I agree with everything you’re saying Deb! We live in a 524 sqft place but have a small yard that expands our space for half of the year. I sometimes dream of bathtubs, enough floor space to justify a roomba, a normal sized closet, a single drawer in my bathroom, 2 more feet of counter space in my galley of a kitchen, and oh my god yes, nothing under our bed! But then, when our space is tidy and my feet are up, I love that I am living within my means, that this is truly all i need, and as I’ve grown up a little bit while living here I’ve become naturally slower to let things come through the front door. I think that hesitation to consume is a big part of why I ultimately do love living the way we do. I think of space as a lovely luxury AND a burden. I feel that conflict!

    • Amy says...

      I feel this comment completely! As as adult, I’ve always lived in small apartments with no yard, but this quarantine has me longing for a 2000 sq ft house with a yard. I wish more home builders would build houses in the 1500-2500 sq ft range. In my town, it feels like the only options are tiny apartments or McMansions.

    • Amy, what you mention about builders is a huge problem: No one builds modest homes anymore. And that’s likely to be even worse after this economic downturn (after the 2008 crash builders were only building homes for the rich). And Hali, I agree: There is a kind of luxury in having less and living within your means!

    • Deb says...

      Ohh, yes to all the responses! Feeling understood is the best feeling!! Hali I think you said it better than I did :-)

  69. Lee says...

    Love the house tour! I’m always so curious about people who renovate their spaces if they rent or own. I live in a rental and would love to put in a new bathroom cabinet–but my husband says no since we don’t own the space (it didn’t keep us from install custom bookshelves though!).

    Does she rent?

    • We own, but I totally encourage renters to explore their options with their landlords. If there’s a particular upgrade you’re dying to make to your space, perhaps if you pay for the labor, he or she will cover the costs of the materials. Or maybe you can skip one month’s rent payment if you offer to regrout the whole bathroom. I know one architect who avoided years of rent increases on her affordable apartment by updating the kitchen herself. Another friend got the bathroom of his dreams for just the cost of the plumber (he talked his landlord into paying for the new sink vanity and toilet).

  70. Anna says...

    Good tips. This is how many families live here in Europe, in the cities. (I live alone in a small studio, only keeping objects, books and clothes I truly value.)

  71. Colleen says...

    Laura and her husband wisely buy the right piece for what their needs are instead of trying to “shoehorn” something in. That goes a long way toward a restful vista and feeling intentional not haphazard.

  72. amy says...

    Lovely space!

  73. abigail says...

    Love the light. This space is still a good 50% larger than homes outside the Americas… Growing up in Mumbai, we were 5 people in 800 sq ft and it was considered spacious.

    • Z says...

      Yes! When I was living in Japan I was looking up how to decorate/maximize small spaces and every article I found made me laugh! They were not small spaces…

    • Totally true—and even true for many families here in the Americas too. Our place is small relative to our peers, but certainly not globally!

  74. Cynthia says...

    What a charming apartment! Her advice about renting a storage unit makes sense. I can not figure out why people need them, unless it’s temporary. I grew up in a small house, and we had to keep things picked up and put away. Even with a larger house, I tidy up every day because I don’t like messes.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Here’s a reason people rent storage spaces: inheritance. I have been able to avoid renting a storage space to place the items I inherited from my mother, in large part to my brother’s generosity (and inertia) to allowing me to keep several items in our family home, which he purchased from the estate. I really don’t want to sell the furniture, and I’m not ready emotionally, because it’s unique and very nice. But I fear the day is coming when a storage unit will be necessary and while I hope it’s temporary you never know. Storage units are thus not for people who simply consumed but also serve as a placeholder for those struggling to process loss and move forward.

    • L says...

      Yes this (re: Elizabeth). We live in a small space and just for the first time had to get a storage unit after we cleaned out my father-in-law’s house. It does make me very uncomfortable now that we have that extra expense for stuff we aren’t even using right now but we had to put the inherited stuff somewhere until we can figure it out. Now with everything locked down who knows when that will happen but we couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of all the heirlooms in a panic.

    • Lauren says...

      +1 to Elizabeth’s comment.

      My mom put all of my grandparent’s furniture into storage after they passed away, I think it took a year (maybe more) for her to process the grief & think about it all. She eventually split out the more average pieces from the special ones that were rich in memories, which were donated / stored in the garage respectively.

      Fast forward to last week when I realized that working at the dining room table with my roommates was just NOT a viable option anymore (I’m 31, w roommates… SF is expensive). I remembered a secretary desk at my grandparents house that was perfect – a few drawers for extra storage, a surface for my laptop that I can fold up at the end of the day.

      Maybe this wasn’t the most fiscally responsible choice, god only knows what she paid for that storage unit, pretty sure its more than a desk from Ikea. But it brings both my mother & me great joy to see the desk in it’s new home and I send a little thank you up to my grandmother every morning when I sit down with a cup of coffee every morning and start to work.

    • Tess says...

      I know someone who owns storage units and he says most of them are either rented for a month or two when moving dates don’t align, or else rented for years and years until someone finally comes and takes most of the contents to the landfill. Some people also rent them to store business inventory. But we’re in a rural area where people usually have plenty of space. I can see renting storage in the city if you live in a tiny apartment that you love or that’s cheap. Also I never thought of instances when you inherit things that take up a lot of space you don’t have. For things that aren’t sentimental it seems like the better choice is saving the money and not using it until you actually need it. Even if rent is very cheap, like $50 a month, that’s $1000 in just two years, and if you’re buying secondhand that could fill a lot of rooms!