Space-saving solutions for small homes

Although I grew up spending weekends on our family farms shucking corn and talking to Bessie the Cow (all the cows had the same name, it was easier that way), I am a big-city girl at heart. I long to be in a city with a coffee shop right around the corner and pavement under my feet. And for most people, myself included, city living is synonymous with small-space living.

Even though I’m currently living in Suburbia, I’m looking forward to our next home that will hopefully be in a more metropolitan location. As a result, I am constantly on the lookout for space-saving solutions to use in our next big-city dwelling. The following are some of the terrific ideas that have recently caught my attention:

The website Apartment Therapy featured D.C. residents’ Josh and Lauren’s dining table artwork. It’s a table that hangs on the wall when not in use —

The now-defunct magazine Ready Made included a formica countertop on wheels in its article “Southern Comfort.” The countertop rolls into the kitchen for food preparation space and then rolls out into the remainder of the room to create a dining table —

Continuing with dining solutions, back in 2010, Dwell showcased a wall hiding a bookshelf that folded down to create a table set atop a rolling island —

Short walls are also called pony walls or knee walls and Better Homes and Garden suggests cutting into them to create untapped storage space in their article “26 Great Bathroom Storage Ideas” —

Have you spotted any small-space fixes recently? Share links to more space-saving ideas in the comments. I’m always searching for uncluttered and efficient solutions.

21 Comments for “Space-saving solutions for small homes”

  1. posted by Rebecca on

    I love the creative ideas for dining room tables. Formal dining spaces are so seldom used by many of us today, and so dining room tables end up catching clutter (mine is a magnet for things that we can’t quite manage to put away after use). Our dining room is the central room in our small 1930s home, and also functions as a hallway. I’ve had the most difficult time trying to figure out how to have a table in the center of the room that could function as a dining space when more than two people are eating at home, but which isn’t so large as to obstruct flow. My gut feeling is that getting a table out of the middle of the room (and therefore out of the walkway) might be our best bet, but with doors on 3/4 of the walls and a piano on the fourth, it’s been a challenge!

  2. posted by Whit on

    I just saw a dining table in an antique store that is as small as an end table but add every leaf and it seats ten. I’m seriously tempted, as it would be a big step up from our current ikea gateleg table that when open can seat six max (uncomfortably). It would be an investment, but on the other hand investments require cash that can be used elsewhere. Our house is very little so when we pull out the dining table it goes in the middle of the living room!

  3. posted by Marrena on

    I recommend getting addicted to Treehugger. They frequently highlight nifty items for urban dwellers.

  4. posted by michelle s. on

    People who think up this stuff are geniuses.

  5. posted by danielle on

    Love these, especially the rolling table in pic #2. That’s brilliant!

  6. posted by chacha1 on

    I think the wall that drops down to form a tabletop is a great solution for a library/office or guest room/craft room, as well as for a dining table. The underside of the table could be mirrored or even an artwork itself.

    Don’t think I’d use a rolling *wine* cart as a base, though. Not so good for the wine. Unless you drink it as fast as we do chez nous. 🙂

  7. posted by Andy on

    In the first picture, the apartment looks haunted. No human being would stack books like this. 😉

  8. posted by infmom on

    We have a window over our kitchen sink, and cabinets on both sides. The kitchen is about the size of a closet, so we didn’t have anywhere near enough space to store all our pots and pans.

    We got two wire shelves from Ikea and attached them to the cabinets in the space over the sink. We hang pots and pans from the bottom of the top shelf (which has a bunch of silk plants decorating the top of it) and have our dish drainers on the bottom shelf. This way, wet dishes drip right into the sink. We’ve since gotten a portable dishwasher, but there are enough things that get washed by hand that those drainers are still very useful.

    I have a photo of the arrangement, but it’s on my other computer, so use your imagination. 🙂

  9. posted by chacha1 on

    @ Andy, well not without putting a LADDER beside the stack, anyway! Unless they were (gasp) just using the books as decor. Tsk tsk tsk. But maybe the tenant is 8 feet tall.

  10. posted by Debbie M on

    Oh, I could write infmom’s first paragraph myself, but our IKEA solution was to install towel bars over the stove and put hooks on those and hang pots off those hooks. Of course, you don’t expect to find studs where you want to nail in a towel bar, so we cut two-by-fours and nailed them to the studs, painted them the same color as the ceiling, and then attached to the towel bars to them. Our stove has a wall in back and a wall on one side. So those two-by-fours are in an L-shape across the front and down the other side.

    We use bookshelves for lots of things–cookbooks and the mixer and extra cans in the kitchen, shoes in the bedroom, as a headboard in the bedroom, reference books, the printer, the routers, etc. in the office, and of course books and decor in the living room (and the hallway).

    A dresser holds wrapping materials, bike helmets, and other stuff under the bar in the dining room. A deacon’s bench holds craft items in the hallway. A nightstand holds washcloths, Q-tips and other supplies in the bathroom.

    You can fit more furniture in a room of you stick some of it out instead of putting the longest side against a wall, so our bed and a desk are sticking out like that. But mostly we prefer the more spacious look of leaving everything against the wall.

  11. posted by Anna on

    Our dining table is an antique gateleg table on castors – unfashionable to many but very practical. It seats 6 people comfortable and folds down to be 18 inches deep and 5 foot long. So when it’s folded we use it as a room dividing display table.

  12. posted by Kathy on

    There’s a wall mirror called “tip over” that has a frame which unfolds to form legs and becomes a table:;logoy=22

    I lust after it for my small apartment…Hopefully the link works!

  13. posted by Gremlin on

    The stack of books in the first picture may be supported by one of the (or a similar product):

    This kind of shelving is called “Bücherturm” in German, I don’t know what to google for in English

  14. posted by Marcee ..... ILLINOIS on

    Wow … genius : ) ideas!

    Bright colors are marvelous. They definitely make a family cheerful and happy!

    Folks who live with browns, beiges or anything related to those icky shades …. need to stop that. Just tooo depressing.

    Recently I saw this incredible kitchen faucet …. in BRIGHT BLUE (other colors also) at Danish Design Store. We need a third job to buy it …. very pricey. Simply gorgeous. It is mine! Possibly for the holidays. (joy!)

  15. posted by Marie on

    I like the bathroom storage idea!

  16. posted by Erin in Colorado on

    As cool as the formica pivoting countertop is… it seems like you’d need a lot of *extra* space to implement that in your house or apartment, instead of it acting as a clever space-saving solution…?

  17. posted by Jodi on

    I would propose if your dining room table is used so infrequently that it can be hung on the wall between uses you may want to reconsider if there is an actual need for one at all.

    Obviously that would be totally impractical for a family, leaving singles or couples with no children as the market. I can’t imagine a single guy/gal going through the hassle of pulling the table off the wall, setting it up, cleaning it, and re-hanging it just for a quick bowl of cereal (or whatever) before work.

    Seems like it might be an item to consider uncluttering!

  18. posted by pamzella on

    Oh, Jodi, I disagree. Having a small space should not meant that you cannot ever have friends over, because what is the point of having a lovely, funky, individual and cleverly-designed and decorated space if you ALWAYS have to go to someone else’s house to hang out? But if there is an island in the kitchen or a window nook that allows more casual eating, that’s a great solution that allows dinner parties…. likely in the living room since that’s the only room. My grandparents built a small house with a lot of kitchen and a decent size family room…. open space and danish post-modern teak fold-away tables and they had elaborate dinner parties for 16 and the next morning, my toddler mom could get up and play with her toys all over the floor of the same room. Turned out to be very practical. And the entire family is now fighting over those tables since they downsized and moved out of the house.

    Erin, I have a dining room table and space for it, finally, but these are great ideas for a 10×10 bedroom that I need have to have function as an office, a craft room AND a guest room, thanks for the ideas!!

  19. posted by john on

    Pic #2: “Conan, what is best in life?”

  20. posted by Kaz on

    I agree with “Erin from Colorado”. The swivel table in pic 2 takes up a lot of space in its rotation.

    I like metamorphic coffee tables which change into low, Japanese-style dining tables. Add a few cushions to sit on and a small space becomes an exotic place to eat with guests

  21. posted by gypsy packer on

    I believe that Lifehacker had the framed poster which folds down off a hinge to make a table. Another stipulation for city folks and gypsies: Is it movable? Packable? I crave the convertible sofa which folds to a chaise or futon, or the ottoman bed, but my 1890’s iron bed and rails knock down fast and flat, allow plywood instead of box springs, and a sleeping bag instead of a mattress, under the spread.
    Seconds on Treehugger. That half wall is a cutie.

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