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Eight Ways to Spruce Up Small Spaces

A pair of architects turned an outrageously tiny space into the most stylish studio on the block using these tricks.

This snappy living area is part of a 350-square-foot studio in Avondale.   Photo: Courtesy of Brad Riemann and Jessica Miller

When Brad Riemann and Jessica Miller, married co-owners of Lark Architecture, decided to renovate their single-family Avondale home, they were thrilled to find a short-sale studio to live in temporarily with their three dogs. The biggest obstacle? It was all of 350 square feet. Rather than feel constrained by the squished square footage and dismal design, the couple relied on their creativity and architectural knowledge to open things up in a fresh way. Here, they share expert home makeover tips that apply to any space, no matter the size or style.

Allow white to works wonders.

To unify and lighten the aesthetic, the couple opted for shades of white that add contrast and texture in subtle ways. The walls are painted matte white, the cabinetry and built-ins are glossy white, the floors are original oak, and the ceilings are a soft warm gray. Plus, if you’re keeping in mind future users or a resale, like they were, a neutral palette is preferred.

Use accessories to add color and personality.

Just by bringing in throw pillows, bedding, rug, and curtains, you can easily and instantly make a basic space feel modern, shabby chic, or industrial. Here, pops of green and pink add contrast to the crisp white-and-black palette.

Create rooms within a room.

By installing a wall in the middle of the studio, Riemann and Miller could have both a private bedroom/closet/office area and a more public living and kitchen area.

Get lofty with your bed.

Making this move allowed them to bring a queen-sized bed into such a small space. What’s under that bed? Oh, just a bookshelf, a large desk, a closet, and a washer and dryer! Note: The couple suggests hiring an architect for this sort of work because they understand spatial relationships, construction methods, and local codes.

Expand your storage options with built-ins.

See that row of glossy cabinets? Miller and Riemann sacrificed about a foot or so of space to add a full row of storage made almost entirely from Ikea cabinets. The original condo only offered one tiny closet tucked in a corner, and the couple knew most homeowners would find that to be inadequate.

Incorporate surprising materials in smart ways.

Rather than resting a freestanding ladder against the bed, the couple installed rows ofstandard plumbing along the walls at both the top and bottom of the bed. The ladders don’t scream for attention, but are both fun and functional—even functioning as storage for blankets during the day.

Make a few clear choices.

Especially in small spaces, light or transparent furniture takes up nearly zero visual space. Just imagine how much smaller and tighter the space would feel if they’d used a heavy dark coffee table instead.

Set up flexible seating.

Light furniture allows you to move things around on a whim. Here, the couple used comfortable chairs, a tailored square ottoman, and other furniture that doesn’t interrupt the everyday use of the space. They also built in a low bench along one wall to provide even more storage as well as seating for visitors.

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