When you move into your first apartment, you might be surprised at how small a space you have, particularly if you’re moving to a dense city like New York or San Francisco. Here you are, on your own, and you can’t even fit all your clothes in your bedroom! What are you to do?
Well, there are a few ways to economize space, and allow you to fit more in your bedroom than you originally thought was possible. A lot of it has to do with thinking vertically, much as city planners do when conceiving skyscrapers as a way to reduce sprawl. So, let’s run down some smart ways to make your space go further:
A mere single bed takes up twenty square feet of floor space! What this means: If you live in a small space, you simply must use the space under your bed. At the very least, put your bed as high as the setting will allow, and then store your suitcases underneath … and be sure to fill the suitcases with your off-season clothes, or with items that you know you need to keep, but you don’t use often.
If you want to get fancy, you can always buy under-bed storage containers, or if you’re in the market for a bedframe that will last a while, consider purchasing one with storage built-in, similar to that pictured from Humble Abode.
Or, you can put your bed on the top level of a bunk bed, and put a desk or couch below, as many folks do in their dorm rooms. This last choice is not necessarily elegant, but it will give you extra space until you can afford roomier digs.
As I said before, verticality is key. Therefore, if you’re going to get a bookshelf, get one that’s seven feet high – Ikea has a nice selection of reasonable choices. By using space upwards, you’ll be able to stash all your books, CDs, knickknacks, and whatever else on a very small footprint. Similarly, if you have a chest of drawers, make sure it’s a tall one – after all, five drawers up is better than three, and it essentially takes the same amount of space.
A lot of companies provide trendy wall-mounted shelves that look wonderful and, most important, can provide an area for you to put additional items without taking up any floor space. So, even if you already have storage under your bed, consider also installing a shelf above your bed (high enough so you don’t bump your head), where you can display favorite photos, or put additional books, or place your iPod speakers.
Use it well. If you’re a person that doesn’t need to hang many clothes, get one of those closet organizers that hangs from the hanger-rod. You’ll be able to compartmentalize and stash many of your things there. Also, remember to use the closet’s floor space – either for storage, or as a place to put all your shoes. And, buy a shoe rack, so that you can stack shoes two or three high, rather than just having a floor-level pile – remember, verticality. (See also our tips for organizing your closet)
Finally, many small rooms have awkwardly placed closet doors, that prevent you from optimizing your room. For example, I once had a space so small that I couldn’t fit my bed in, and open my closet door. It was a problem that was solved when I decided to take the closet door off the hinges. In dire cases, you may want to consider this and use a curtain instead, since it will free up more space, and it doesn’t reduce the amount of space you have in your closet. Another, more expensive solution is replacing a swing-out door with a sliding door.
If you have a laptop, consider mostly using it in the common room, or sitting on your bed while using it (hint: a lapdesk makes this more comfortable and protects your sensitive areas!) As long as this works for you and your roommates, this is a great, flexible space-saving solution. If you have a desktop, remember that desks, like everything else, can go vertical. For example, I’m currently typing at a desk that’s just wide enough to hold my iMac – but there’s a shelf above the computer and below it, and I have my printer stashed on the floor below the desk. Which means my entire home-computing set-up has a two feet by two-and-a-half feet footprint. (Chair not included.)
It might seem daunting to shoehorn all your possessions into a small space – but think of it as a challenge, and an opportunity to get creative, rather than as a punishment. And, if you have any additional suggestions, please feel free to add them below – we’re always curious to hear our readers’ innovative ideas.