Multipurpose furniture can help you maximize your small space

As someone with a particular way of doing (and organizing) things, I can appreciate an uncluttered and (almost) object-free space. I tend to like clear surfaces, especially in the kitchen. If it were up to me, there would be no appliances on the counters (well, maybe the coffee maker). I like the look of walls with no paintings or art work mounted. The more of the floor I can see, the more comfortable a room feels to me. I’m not a minimalist, but I certainly have an appreciation for minimalism. If I could push a button and hide my furniture until I needed it, I would.

It turns out that there are people who instead of just dreaming about this style are actually living out the idea “disappearing design” in their homes. Everything, including outlets, light switches, and even exhaust fans are subtly hidden and bleed into the rest of the environment. So much so, that the most of a home’s necessary components are virtually invisible. In fact, architects who design these homes consider anything that protrudes from walls to be an intrusion, a form of clutter.

In a recent New York Times article, disappearing design was described as:

…meant to both maximize one’s ground plan (particularly in small urban apartments) and minimize the “visual noise” created by things like bulky knobs, dust-prone vents and the ancient albatross of many decorators: the wide-screen TV.

How do you make a television vanish? Create one that doubles as a mirror when not in use. Clever, yes? While most of us probably wouldn’t take issue with TVs, we would likely appreciate the ability to increase the functionality of an item that is normally used for just one purpose.

When you live in a small space, having multipurpose furniture (or rooms) can help you get the function you need without sacrificing living space. If you’re having overnight guests, a sofa that turns into as a bunk bed means you can still have company over without needing an extra bedroom. No room for a dining or work table? Flooring with folding panels can be transformed into a table, or almost any kind of furniture you need.

Those are very unique multi-purpose pieces, but there are others that don’t require hydraulics and that you can make yourself. This coffee table from IKEAHackers.com was created with KNUFF magazine holders and a stool. When fully assembled, you’ll get a table and storage for your magazines, books, pens (in the center of the table), or even the remote.

Photo of coffee table taken from IKEAHackers

What about using a bookcase for more than just books? Another great find on IKEAHackers is the Billy bookcase that has been enhanced with compartments and a hinged door for hidden storage. The site suggests using it to store bar and drink accessories, but it could be used for office supplies (or anything that you use often). And, if you like the idea but prefer not to make it yourself, Parts of Sweden (IKEAHackers partner that offers free shipping) can do it for you.

Photo of bookcase taken from IKEAHackers

The Paperpedic Bed profiled by the website Inhabitat is fully recyclable, includes storage, and is very easy to assemble. No tools are required — simply fold the paper panels to create a single, queen, or king-sized bed. This is a great option for small homes and would be easy to pack up for a move.

Photo of bed taken from manufacturer, Karton

When you live in a small home, look for multi-tasking furniture pieces that can help you maximize your space. You’ll need less furniture (which means more room to move about) and keep your home uncluttered.

19 Comments for “Multipurpose furniture can help you maximize your small space”

  1. posted by katrina on

    Transformational furniture is very useful. I have seen some very clever smallbdroosided tables that chanfe from 2 small lamp tables into upa 4 seat dining table. Not available now as they are 140+ years old.
    I don’t like the cardboard bed, it would make me feel as temporaey as it in my own home :-)

  2. posted by katrina on

    Oops. That weird word was meant to be ‘small drop-sided’.

  3. posted by pru on

    I don’t mind the rest of it, but the cardboard bed is not my thing. Cardboard can get damp or harbor roaches.

  4. posted by EngineerMom on

    I like the table-out-of-magazine-racks idea, and for some reason, although I like to peruse ikeahackers, I completely missed that they have a partner company that will do the work for you. I love that concept, since we live in a small apartment with no space or tools or the kind of carpentry typically associated with an IKEA furniture hack.

    I agree that multipurpose furniture can help a small space fill the needs and wants of its owner(s). However, this article started out with a description of the author’s fondness for minimalism, yet, to me none of these examples of multitasking furniture (not sure the cardboard bed even fits that description) relate to that first paragraph, with the possible exception of the TV/mirror. I was expecting something along the lines of clever ways to conceal some of the necessary furniture of life.

    On another note, although part of me appreciates the aesthetic of invisible outlets and switches, in reality even if you own your home, you will have guests who would not appreciate needing a manual to know how to turn on the lights in the bathroom or plug in their hair dryers!

  5. posted by Jeannette on

    “I like the look of walls with no paintings or art work mounted.”

    The thought of a room of all-bare walls makes me sad. No matter the color of the walls or the arrangement of furniture and accessories.

    I don’t own a lot of artwork, but the few pieces I have, I love and I love displaying them. Being able to glance up at them on the walls just makes my day.

    So it’s a little hard for me to identify with your sentiment, but to each his own. I simply cannot imagine any space without some artwork in some form (painting, sculpture, etc.) and I’m always amazed at what many people create on their own and fill their spaces with, especially in contemporary times when so many non-artist folks are actually making art.

    Interestingly, the people I know who really love art and who have made it a focal point in their homes, have spare spaces and minimal, clean-lined furniture…all designed to serve as a backdrop for the art! They decry clutter because it is a “visual disturbance” and because it takes away from their art displays.

    So I think one can have both a spare, clean room with minimal furniture AND artwork on display. (Yes, a lot of people have so much artwork out that the artwork itself becomes clutter!)

    Also of note, some of the “warmest” and most welcoming homes are those that integrate prized (as in beloved, not $ value) artwork within the home, regardless of whether a room is cluttered or minimal. Art speaks to us and to others and it is as much a part of one’s home, to my mind, as a color scheme, decorative accessories (art is NOT an accessory!), furniture and, of course, books.

    Perhaps artwork is the equivalent of “color” to those who prefer all-white. Again, we each must create the environment that works for us.

  6. posted by Dusty on

    Purely from an aesthetic point, large mirrors are great for small areas to make them seem larger. great post.

  7. posted by etty on

    Cardboard bed is cleverly designed, but incredibly expensive at nearly $200!

  8. posted by Sue B on

    A cardboard bed for $200 or a metal frame for $50 (often free when you buy the mattress)? Plus I doubt it would handle being repacked and rebuilt. But the idea of repurposing traditional furniture is cool.

  9. posted by gypsy packer on

    Now I know why I haven’t purchased a TV. I was waiting for a Seura style. Monitor, please.

    I’ve seen a multitude of combo guest bed/sofas on decorator blogs, all vintage. The simple Danish style with wedge pillows is a waste-free beauty which fits into multiple decors. Why no reproductions at an affordable price?

    What would really make my little heart go pitter-pat, though, would be a bed base with a light foam mattress which converts into a treadmill.

  10. posted by Susan in FL on

    Reply to EngineerMom’s comment – “…even if you own your home, you will have guests who would not appreciate needing a manual to know how to turn on the lights in the bathroom…!”

    We have a skylight in our guest bathroom. I cannot tell you how many times a guest has exited and said,”I can’t figure out how to turn the light off in the bathroom.”

  11. posted by ChrisD on

    I like the link you showed previously (under small spaces) of a furniture store that does great murphy beds, some with desks so when the bed is unfolded the desk stays put so you can leave your stuff on it, stools that stack up into a bookcase, coffee tables with horizontal parts to the legs that unfold into dinner tables (also bonbon I think, which does the sofabed to bunkbeds). You have also shown a dinner table with folding legs that you can mount on the wall.
    Every time I see these, I wish my room was even smaller so that I could use them more :-). A pity most are so expensive (the bonbon furniture not the IKEA hacks).

  12. posted by ChrisD on

    Also the television is amazing. Does the mirror function require electricity? Or is really the ‘off’ state? I wonder if the frames be easily changed by your local frame shop? Is everyone going to be throwing out their perfectly good flat screen tellys in order to buy these in five years time? (the number of CRT monitors at the dump is crazy).

  13. Profile photo of

    posted by chacha1 on

    Minimalism and “disappearing design” are most definitely not for me and DH. We have collected furniture that makes a very strong design statement. We also collect art … so our place is (to us) a visual feast and would drive a true minimalist insane. :-)

    Cardboard bed platform: ick. It’s nowhere near cheap enough to justify its disposable nature. I would rather just put the mattress on the floor.

    The magazine holder table, however, is clever. Our own coffee table is an old Chinese “wedding table” with drawers, which serves the same purposes and suits our style. With no hacking required. :-)

  14. posted by Shalin on

    I love, LOVE multipurpose/transformer furniture… I could spend waaaay too much time on this related site:
    http://www.treehugger.com/tag/.....furniture/

  15. posted by Lynda on

    Could I advise anyone planning on buying one of those LED televisions to see if you experience a rainbow effect when watching any programme before finally deciding where the TV will live? It is possible that, if you are sitting at an angle to the set, you may see unwanted visual effects. Especially if you hang the TV above the fireplace!

  16. posted by Kimberly on

    I am with Jeanette, sometimes I feel sad about minimalism–like the blank walls. My husband and I were looking at a blog where the woman and her family moved to a one bedroom apartment so that she and her husband could start businesses and we both really felt that the home looked like the depressing bachelor pad of a guy who got kicked out by his wife and left with almost nothing. It did not feel homey. It felt really temporary and lacking.

    I like minimalism, but it can go to a similar extreme as hoarding. I almost feel like there is some pathology in not being able to really have anything meaningful in your home–not being aloud to have things you cherish. It seems like it could be a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. At the least, when it goes to such an extreme, it arises because of an extreme need for control.I can understand when it is about saving space, but on many of these blogs, many people have gone to such an extreme that it is concerning.

  17. Profile photo of DebLee

    posted by DebLee on

    @ChrisD: The Seura website says that the TV disappears when it’s turned off, leaving you with a “fashionable mirror.” It seems that the mirror doesn’t require electricity, though that’s not explicitly stated. It’s hard to imagine people pitching their flat screens…but you do make a good point about CRTs. Maybe sites like Gazelle might get involved and let you sell your “old” TV so you can buy vanishing one??

    @Shalin: I love transformers, too. Some are very cleverly designed and interesting to look at (like a work of art).

  18. Profile photo of

    posted by ninakk on

    Chiming in a little late, I can’t but agree with Kimberly in her view on many a so-called minimalist these days.

  19. posted by James on

    I’m a big fan of the TV/mirror thing, though I think the novelty might wear off fast… Still a cool idea

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