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Space invaders

Here's how to fight back when you're short on space but long on stuff

Here's how to fight back when you're short on space but long on stuff

February 25, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Small houses might be short on space, but they don't have to be short on style, interior designers and home organization specialists say.

Getting there requires a little introspection -- making some hard decisions about what items you love and what items you could do without -- and rethinking the way you store them.

"The question used to be 'Do you want a clear plastic bin you can see through or a plastic bin you can't see through?'" says Standolyn Robertson, president of National Association of Professional Organizers, a nonprofit trade group based in New Jersey.

Now, furniture can function as storage, a plus for people seeking form and function in a small place.

"So many people are using the storage ottomans now," says Kelly Renner, store manager and design consultant at Davids Furniture & Interiors in Hagerstown.

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Renner, Robertson and other designers offer room-by-room tips:

The bedroom

In bedrooms, clothing is the biggest space invader. T-shirts, mateless socks, beat-up shoes, too-small dresses or pants you cling to with hopes of wearing again -- all of these are purge-worthy, Robertson says.

"Nobody's going to show off losing five pounds with a 20-year-old outfit," Robertson says.

The bed is another space hog.

"Never put a king-size bed in a small room," Renner says. Go queen size, Renner says.

Her colleague Elizabeth Hardinge, a design consultant, says you'll also want to do without a footboard.

"Just use a headboard," Hardinge says. "Upholstered headboards look really nice."

The kitchen

Avoid countertop clutter. When buying kitchen goods (or, really, anything for the house), think about where they will go before you even reach the cash register.

"If that place is on the counter or on the kitchen table, you probably should rethink the purchase," Robertson says.

Another easy way to create more space is to get rid of extraneous plastic containers used for leftovers.

"When you think about it, you really don't need 50 of them," Robertson says.

A few storage tips: Things that don't get used often should be stowed away.

Also, items used for a particular meal or activity can be warehoused. Robertson refers to this strategy as "zoning."

"The dishwashing zone, the breakfast zone," Robertson says. "You want to keep likes with likes."

The folks at ORG Home Organization Solutions, a Michigan-based company that specializes in storage products, offer a few more storage tips:

· Corner shelves make room for large, odd-shaped items

· Glide-out shelves allow you to access the deepest parts of the pantry

· Baskets are good for rounding up produce and extra grocery bags

The living room

"The most important thing to remember when decorating a small space is that there's a difference between real space and visual space," author Debra Koontz Traverso says an e-mail. Traverso is the author of "The Complete Home Improvement & Decorating Organizer," and has taught at Hagerstown Community College.

For example, Traverso said, if all the elements in a room are roughly the same height, the room seems smaller. Varied height levels make a room seem bigger.

Hardinge and Renner say the following elements can play up visual space:

· Hardwood floors. Use an area rug to give a splash of color

· Fabric with small patterns in monochromatic color schemes

· Light colors

· Decorative mirrors - but don't cover the wall with them. "That look went out in the '70s," Hardinge says.

Instead of making a room seem bigger, some people chose to embrace its smallness, going for cozy and intimate, says Wendy Saylor, a design consultant at Davids.

"Sometimes you've got to work with what you have," Saylor says.

Small rooms have several advantages over large rooms, Saylor says. They're easier to finish, and it's easier to create conversational spaces in them.

Here are some design tips for making small feel cozy:

· Use dark, rich colors

· Keep the wall-to-wall carpet

· Use bold patterns

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