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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:

design_for_mankind 2010-06-29 at 11.42.24 PM


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:

design_for_mankind 2010-06-30 at 12.07.53 AM

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

509 Responses

  1. Capreek says:

    Whoa, resource overload! (In the best way possible.)
    Another great post, Erin! I'm definitely bookmarking this for future reference. :D

  2. Jessica says:

    I am book marking this one Erin! Loads of lovely links! Thank you!

  3. erin / dfm says:

    thank you, ladies! so glad you enjoyed it! :) this is where renovating gets REALLY fun!

  4. hsrh10 says:

    Do you know who won the Carrie McGee artwork single strand like the one featured in the Greenhome.
    Us bloggers on the Greenhome would like to know who won. Thank you. Take care. Best Regards.

  5. Carole Ann says:

    After moving into my small home, I can honestly say that it was a challenge. It has 1060sf and I had almost 2000sf before that. Storage in a small home is at a premium and I need lots more. I wish I could turn my two car garage into a garage mahal! That being said, I'm so happy to be living in a small space, and I've got those books on my coffee table. Since I travel a lot, I love coming home to my little oasis. It just wraps its arms around me when I walk in the door.

  6. Genie says:

    Help, need suggestions on remodeling my bathroom. I've added on to it twice. I need to move water lines, level floor on the existing section, and also, how to fix the jet tub, it won't work nor any light fixtures, I've checked the main breaker in the hall and the breaker at the tub. No Luck! Does anyone have any cost worthy suggestions aside from completely rewiring the room?

  7. charlee says:

    Help!!!!!! I am an 8th month pregnant mom of a two year old(who has a lot of toys in our family room). I have a family room with a small sofa that I have had since I was in college facing our wall mounted flat screen TV. My in-laws along with my husband decided to purchase a large sectional to replace the old sofa as a pre/post pregnancy gift. I am very grateful but I am fearing that the furniture is too bulky for my 16 x 16 room. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I should properly place this sofa along with decorating ideals to hide all of my 2 year olds toys? Thanks for reading..

    • MoniqueDC says:

      Depending upon the traffic paths (how many doors, arch ways) try putting a sofa table (or low bookcase ) behind one part fo the sectional. This will make it easy to "land" drinks or books behind you as well as provide a surface for lamps and display items.
      If you have room, moving the sofa way from walls is ideal.
      If the living room is open to other areas, the ideal place to place the sofa table/ low bookcase is on the back of the sofa that shows from the next room.
      For toddler debris, get bins (neutrals are wicker, colorful if you prefer) that will fit under the sofa table or within the shelves of the bookcases and train your little ones to return the toys to the bin…it's a life skill for which they will thank you later..much later..in life).

      Cheers.

  8. annebrown02 says:

    I always think that we should use each and every space.Yes it is hard to find some more space in small houses but I can say that it only needs some work.This is an informative and useful post about space and I also came to know some new things from it.

    dominoes offers

  9. erin / dfm says:

    I agree with many of you, and am a firm believer in the saying "A place for everything and everything in its place!"

    Charlee/Genie — email me if you need help decorating! I'll do my best to help. :)

  10. janet says:

    need help decorating i refer this company http://www.acadianhomeimprovement.com

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