Living in a small space can be difficult, especially if you are a condo dweller like me. But I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you that. Throw in a messy partner and well you’re in a no-win situation and frustrated as heck. You might be short on space, but you can still be organized. Look at your apartment as an exciting challenge and embrace your inner minimalist. To make your home the perfect combination of comfort, style and functionality these are my top 10 easy entertaining tricks and design tips that I’ve accumulated over the years. I’ve included a few that I’ve learned from my interior design friends who I’ve had the privilege of interviewing as well, and they just so happen to be Canadian too!!
1. Dramatic Impact
Pick one part of the home to decorate and concentrate your focus in that one space, since it makes a greater impact. If you like to work from home, have a little nook dedicated to running your business that’s highly organized and efficiently set up. If you don’t want to have anything to do with work at home, create a tranquil atmosphere for you to feel at peace with. Maybe an area with a yoga mat set up with some candles and a pink Himalayan rock salt lamp. If you like to entertain at home create a space that is conducive to having groups of people over with a bar area where guests can mingle and move around easily instead of having a dining room table, for example, taking up unneeded space.
2. Simple Sophistication
In a small space the goal is to create the feeling of a warm, inviting atmosphere that is spacious yet cozy. You don’t want to crowd the home with unnecessary ornamental objects. Be selective before bringing items into your home and prioritize what’s important to you and de-clutter relentlessly. If my girl Jillian Harris has taught me anything about design, it’s that clutter is a no-no. She does a great job incorporating accessories that add personality to a home. My advice… ask yourself, do I really need this? Do I have room for this? Will I miss it if it was gone? If you don’t need it get rid of it or donate it.
3. Style Commitment
Pick one décor theme in a small space since it will have a much greater impression on your guests. Combining décor styles in a tasteful way works too, just be sure the styles complement each other. I have a grey couch that I love to use as a focal point and I inject a different colour each season. An easy way to do this is to change up the pillows and throws to spice up your space. Limit the accent colour to one area of the apartment to avoid overwhelming the eye.
4. Clean Regularly
I’m seriously cleaning every day. Tidying up, dusting, or vacuuming. Clean as you go and remind yourself to be organized. Staying ahead of the mess will be easier than tackling it all at once. Keep a running list of tasks for the week and try to check one off whenever you have a free moment.
5. Think Eco-Friendly
After covering the Vancouver Home and Design Show countless times over the years, Jamie Banfield always says you don’t need to pay large prices for eco-products or to create every space that is green-certified. Think local and try to use local products that will not only help the economy but will reduce shipping, freight and other overhead costs. The least hands involved the better for quality, budget and being eco. If you’re a homeowner keep in mind that little things to save energy now will also help save energy in the future. For example correct insulation, effective windows, draft proofing spaces, adding the best energy star appliances and light fixtures that revue the waste of energy today and will save money for years to come. I just bought a new washer and dryer and instead of choosing a cheap version I went for the higher ticketed Blomberg that will actually save me money in the future. It’s designed for small space, energy-efficient, uses less water consumption which means it’s gentler on your clothes and costs you less in the long run.
6. Energy Saving Tips
I love to create ambiance with candles over lights which will create a warmer and inviting setting. One of my favourite interior designers and friends Janette Ewen gave me the idea of keeping thin blankets out for those who might get a little chilly rather than cranking up the heat. This can also create a more layered and personalized space and can be an easy way to add a punch of colour and texture.
7. Make Use of Dead Space
Make the most of dead spaces around your apartment. Be creative and look upwards, under and behind your furniture for inspiration. I store my suitcase under my bed, I like to use baskets under my bathroom sink and I store my pots and pans in my oven. I know I know, so Sex and the City ha.
Get yourself a few plastic storage units from Home Sense or Ikea, you know the ones with the removable lids… I store clothes, shoes, paperwork, hats, scarves, blankets and photo albums in there and tuck them under my bed or under my couch. Usually apartments come with a storage locker that you can utilize. I use this space for my off-season clothes, my bike and any additional furniture I don’t need at the time.
8. Use your walls
When you’re low on floor space make use of the walls. There are some super cute bookcases to add storage space and visual height to any room. I installed shelving in my bathroom to create more options. You can install custom wall units that extend up to the ceiling that are funky, yet functional.
This is a never-ending struggle especially for someone who works in the media with only an 800 square ft apartment! Luckily we also have a place in Toronto where I can leave my winter clothes. If you have the option, I suggest storing your off-season clothes elsewhere if you’re like me. I spend more time in Vancouver so I use a rolling rack in my room for clothes I wear that week for TV segments, events or appearances. It’s out in front of me so I know what I have scheduled and available for the week. I bought mine at Canadian Tire for $30. Prioritizing and organizing so that you can clearly see what you have is key. I’m meticulous when it comes to my closet, because well it is part of my job. Everything is colour coded and divided by season. Keep in mind the old adage, out of sight out of mind… because good luck finding that sweater your grandma gave you last Christmas.
10. Add Light
I have a very open concept in my Vancouver apartment with floor to ceiling windows throughout the main living space that bring in a lot of natural light. I always keep my curtains open to let as much sunlight in as possible. I can often be found in my living room sporting a pair of shades because it gets quite bright. You can create more natural light by removing overdone drapes and keeping window coverings simple and chic. Janette is so great when it comes to design and taught me, for something more stylish to consider a single swag drape that is ornamental but still lets in plenty of natural light. This makes rooms and windows look dramatic and draws the eye out and up.
Follow Natalie Langston on Twitter at @langstonnatalie.
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Photo Credit: Natalie Langston & Ed Ng Photography