Six months ago I moved my mother into a single room at a retirement facility.  It was quite a challenge to move her into a much smaller space while still ensuring that she had enough of her belongings around her to feel comfortable. Along the way I learned some valuable lessons about how to make a small space both look good and function well. So, whether you are moving into a retirement facility or trying to rework a small room in your current home, here are some tips that will help you to make small spaces work for you:

1. Understand the space – Measure the room including the length of the walls and the position and size of windows (height and width), cupboards, doors and electrical points.  Draw a plan of the room on graph paper (or use a program like SketchUp). Now you have a bare canvas to work with.

2. Measure your current furniture – To determine if your existing furniture will fit the space, measure it and draw it onto the plan. If you are able to you can also use masking tape on the floor to measure off the position of your furniture.  If it doesn’t fit, you may need to replace some items.

3. Use smaller furniture – Large pieces take up too much space and make a small room look cluttered and crowded. Smaller pieces facilitate movement around the space, which is especially important for older individuals.

4. Use paler colours – White and neutral shades make a small space look bigger; conversely dark furniture and colours make a small space appear even smaller. We bought white furniture and pale aqua furnishings for Mum’s room.

5. Use space efficiently – Apparently insignificant spaces can be used to optimise storage.  A small space (only 30cm wide) between the door and cupboard was actually sufficient to house a 6 drawer storage unit in Mum’s room.  A small caddy under the basin contains toiletries.

We purposely replaced Mum’s base set for a bedframe so that we could make the most of the space underneath. Plastic storage boxes on wheels are kept under the bed containing items needed less frequently.  Beds with built-in storage drawers have a much smaller storage capacity than boxes.  However, if you don’t want your storage to be visible, then storage drawers are a better option.

6. Use the walls – A number of items can be hung on the walls including a flat screen TV, a pin board with important information and calendar, and hooks for keys, hats or scarves.  Shelves provide valuable storage and display space.

7. Keep it clutter free – This is probably the biggest challenge.  A small space clutters up quickly, so try to put things away frequently before it gets out of hand.

If you have any more ideas about how to make the most of a small space, I would love to hear from you!

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