Home Decor

How to maximize your small space: 25 solutions

Don't let minimal square footage stifle your design dreams and storage fantasies.

Photo, Sian Richards.


David Hannah of Space Architects in Toronto compares designing a small space to doing a puzzle — each piece has to fit just right. “Every little move counts, and you want to maximize every square inch of space,” he says. With the renovation of Loree Lawrence and Michelle Irving’s 1,520-square-foot home, that meant customizing the space to suit their lifestyle — they both love to entertain — in a modern, ultra-organized setting.


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Lower level

Upper level

Upper level







But before the first swing of the sledgehammer, David, Loree and Michelle worked out exactly where everything from the laundry “room” to the table linens would live. Then David set pen to paper. His innovative floor plan (and the almost eight-month gut reno that ensued) gave them everything they wanted. It’s an interior that’s harmonious and hard-working, comfy for two but spacious enough for a crowd.

Steal these 25 tips for putting your small-space puzzle together:

Desk chairs, Castelli. Photo, Sian Richards.

1. Tuck and office into a kitchen 

With so much of family life taking place in the kitchen, having an office space here allows you to be where the action is while tackling bills, emails and your to-do list.

2. Curate your stuff

“I can’t buy multiples of anything,” says Loree. “It’s all well curated.” The wall cabinet has one of everything for paperwork: stapler, scissors, tape. The cabinet under the desk is for paper. The tall cabinet has cleaning supplies, the vacuum and small appliances.

3. Limit Materials

Fewer finishes make a home feel bigger. “My instinct is to limit the palette and materials so that you don’t have too much for the eye to take in,” says David. Oak floors and cabinetry create unity in the kitchen.

Bowl, Craft Ontario. Photo, Sian Richards

4. Prop your house

Develop a stylist’s eye, especially when organizing open-storage areas. “I love staging my own house,” says Loree. “Everything in it really has its place. I like to draw people’s eyes to what’s there because it’s purposeful and beautiful.”

Kitchen cabinets, Ikea. Custom millwork, David Samplonius. Countertops, Caledonia Marble.  Stools, Soho Concept. Faucet, Maia Plumbing. Photo, Sian Richards.

 5. Double up cabinetry in a kitchen island

Run cabinets on both sides of an island for extra storage.

6. Keep the cooking zone separate 

But don’t cut off flow. Hosts and guests can interact in the open concept space, but a peninsula with seating and the island protect the cooking area from walk-through traffic.

7. Design purpose-driven storage

The cupboard by the rear door provides a spot for gardening tools and clothing, as well as patio-entertaining and barbecuing supplies. “In a house this size,” says David, “you have to know where everything is going to go.”

8. Increase light 

“The marble countertop and glass backsplash reflect light,” as does the high-gloss cabinetry, says David. He likes to use surfaces that bounce light to create an airy, spacious feel.

9. Customize off-the-shelf cabinetry 

The depth of the Ikea cabinets on the outer side of the island was altered to “two-wineglasses deep,” says Loree, creating much-needed barware storage without sacrificing floor space (i.e., room to host a kitchen party).

10. Add grab-and-go storage 

Frequently used serving pieces and everyday linens are stashed on easy-to-access open shelves in the serving area that separates the cooking and eating zones.

11. Keep it clean 

Visually clean, that is. David and Loree were on the same esthetic page and agreed that little to no cabinetry hardware would create a less visually cluttered space.

Sinks, stool, Vienna Douglas. Lighting, Sistemalux. Tub, Maia Plumbing. Floor tile, Marrakech Design. Photograph, Lise Beaudry. Photo, Sian Richards

12. Make a big style statement 

“In the bathrooms, the tile floor is the big gesture, and everything else is white, so the floor takes centre stage,” says David. Loree and Michelle sourced the standout tiles online from a Swedish design house.

13. Take things off the floor 

Wall-mounted sinks, fixtures and faucets create a sense of spaciousness in both of the house’s small bathrooms.

14. Go big with mirrors

There’s no need to confine your mirror size to accommodate lighting. Light sconces are mounted right into the wall-to-wall mirrors to maximize the clean look
of a single reflective plane.

15. Build in shelving

A ledge by the bath provides a shelf for soaps and candles, eliminating the need for awkward metal racks.

Photo, Sian Richards.

16. Dare to be different 

David’s innovative design allows both bathrooms to share one shower. Curtains are hung on the inside of both glass doors to provide privacy when guests stay over.

Photo, Sian Richards.

17. Centralize storage

One wall-mounted extra-large cabinet provides storage for all toiletries so that the spa-like serenity of the room isn’t disturbed by clutter.

18. Link spaces visually 

David used the exact same materials and fixtures in both bathrooms to create a sense of continuity that makes each room feel bigger.

19.  Contain items artfully 

A simple basket of white towels is unobtrusive under the sink and even adds textural interest while simultaneously satisfying a storage need.

20. Design adaptable spaces

A foldaway bed, complete with closed cabinets and open shelves for storage and display, provides a spot for the homeowners’ frequent overnight guests; once the bed is stashed, the guest room can serve as a yoga room or extra office.

Rug, Ikea. Photo, Sian Richards.

21. Think vertically

Sturdy hooks by the front door, which opens directly into a small living room, keep frequently used outerwear off furniture but close to where it’s needed most.

Laundry rack, Lee Valley. Photo, Sian Richards.

22. Make “room” 

Don’t overlook hallways as places to eke out utility areas and storage. David configured the upper floor carefully to squeeze in a laundry “room” behind sliding doors in the hallway. It comes complete with a closed cabinet for soaps, a countertop for folding and a full-sized washer and dryer!

Photo, Sian Richards.

23. Seek out clever organizing tools 

Loree and Michelle found a fabulous wall-mounted accordion-style drying rack that uses otherwise wasted wall space.

24. Install sliding and pocket doors

Disappearing doors help keep hallways clear by eliminating traditional swing doors that obstruct traffic flow.

25. Add skylights

Though small, the home’s abundant light makes it feel big. David increased this effect by strategically locating three new skylights to flood the second floor with brightness.

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