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You know the idea that a goldfish only grows as big as his bowl allows? In a world full of massively large fish bowls, Husband and I decided we wanted to keep our goldfish teeny weeny. And by goldfish, we mean (a) our mortgage, (b) our household duties and (c) our clutter. And although there may be very little glamor involved in owning a tiny home, it’s certainly the right lifestyle for us.

With that said, small spaces present their own set of design dilemmas, and Husband and I embarked on a research-heavy adventure to find exactly how to utilize the space that we did have. One of the incredible benefits to renovating is the amount of information available online. From kitchen planning to renovation checklists, the opportunities for a feasible and efficient remodel are incredible.

Of course, we began our research the old-fashioned way with a few great books on the subject. On our recommended reading list:

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1. Apartment Therapy Presents: Real Homes, Real People, Hundreds of Design Solutions ($18)
2. Small Spaces: Maximizing Limited Spaces for Living ($13)
3. Domino: The Book of Decorating ($21)
4. Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live ($21)
5. Updating Ranches ($13)

I can’t sing the praises of these books enough. The knowledge we gained from reading about real homes, real spaces and real lives was enough to make me fantasize about living in a home a quarter the size of ours — just to see if we could handle it.

By far, the best advice we received from each of these books was this: Every family is different, and every home should reflect these differences. I’m not talking personalization, although I do love a good monogrammed pillow every now and then. What I’m talking about? Customization.

If your family is crazy busy and rarely sits down for a meal, why do you have a complete dining room set in your kitchen?  If your entire roster of friends and family live close by, why do you need a guest room? Ask yourself questions about your lifestyle and answer honestly. Whether you desire a long stream of guests or a sit-down dinner with your family each night, the presence of the space alone won’t change your lifestyle. Yet by catering each space to your activities and thinking in terms of areas rather than rooms, your livable space will increase tremendously.

Once you’ve settled on your general floor plan (based on your needs, not wants), it’s time to start planning. Here’s where the Internet comes in. And although I’m not quite ready to sing a love ballad to The Internet At Large, I will say that online tools have been incredibly instrumental in the continued success of our renovation.

I’ll do my best to break down my favorite tools in terms of use, i.e. space-planning, organization and home inspiration. Here we go:

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SPACE-PLANNING TOOLS
Kitchen Planner
Self-explanatory, and worth its weight in gold. We’ve planned (and re-planned, and re-planned again) our layout multiple times with this handy tool.

My Deco Space Planner
Not sure if your sofa will fit in that tiny living room? Craft a basic floor plan and lay out your existing furniture to get a feel for the space you have and what you need to make room for. Genius!

Carpet Calculator
Find out how much product you’ll need in two super-simple steps.

Paint Calculator
Another simple tool to calculate how much product you need to buy. Type in room measurements, heights and preferences and receive an instant estimate.

ORGANIZATION TOOLS
Home Renovation Checklist from Real Simple
I love this checklist, mostly because of the final line item: “Carve out an oasis for you.” This is key during a renovation, so if you can’t phase your project to avoid construction dust, loud noises and general interference, I’d suggest staying elsewhere in an effort to sustain any sanity you may currently possess. Trust me on this one.

Budget Checklist from TrustyGuides.com
Want to get a breakdown of how much your renovation will really cost? Follow a few simple tips from Trusty Guides, along with a helpful budget template you can download to track your own progress.

design_for_mankind 2010-06-30 at 12.07.26 AM

HOME INSPIRATION RESOURCES
Polyvore.com
Fashion gurus flock to Polyvore.com to pull together mood boards of their favorite outfits and accessories, but this also makes a great inspiration resource for your dream home. Craft an online inspiration board (for free) with a few clicks of your mouse.

Pinterest.com
Need a landing pad for the endless inspirational images found on blogs, sites and the like? Keep your finds in one spot with an easy, visual pin board at Pinterest.com. (You can see my favorite interior images at my pin board right here!)

Easier said than done, of course, but much easier when you’ve got a few handy resources at your fingertips (literally). Good luck, friends!

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Design Inspiration

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