One of my favorite things about mak­ing a new friend is incred­i­bly self­ish.  They haven’t seen my apart­ment yet, and when they do, they inevitably exclaim “I love your apart­ment!”  So it got me think­ing, if I get warm fuzzies from this, per­haps I am not the only one.  But what about those of us in the world who didn’t shell out an arm and a leg to go to design school?  Are they doomed to a life of beige walls, stock mini-blinds, and the oh-so-cold exis­tence of one who has never received a com­pli­ment on their dwelling?  Tis just too tragic a tale, so as a follow-up to my pre­vi­ous post about How to Shop for a Bad-Ass Tiny Apart­ment,  this week I’m going to loan out my Designer-Goggles and tell you how to see the poten­tial in your Bad-Ass Tiny Apartment.

Image Cour­tesy of Nic­FitKid via Flickr

Don’t See What’s There — Whilst apart­ment shop­ping, you prob­a­bly real­ized that most rentals look like shit when they’re vacant.  This is because the car­pets are cheap, the walls are some ver­sion of white that is cer­tainly not Ben­jamin Moore Super White, and they likely haven’t been sub­jected to the rig­or­ous scour­ing and removal of pre­vi­ous tenant-ness.  All that being said, you could still be look­ing at your dream apart­ment.  So rule num­ber one when attempt­ing to don Designer-Goggles, is to look at the bones.  Is the floor plan good?  Are the win­dows nice and large?  Do you like the vibe?  If you answered yes, then ignore the super­fi­cial cover, because that is eas­ily changed.

Don’t Fall Prey to the Empty Box — Even as an obses­sive space plan­ner, I still fall for the trap of the empty apart­ment.  What does that mean?  It means that it is hard to gauge scale when there is noth­ing in the apart­ment.  Empty spaces play tricks on us, they can appear simul­ta­ne­ously larger and smaller than they really are.  Don’t assume that your desk won’t fit in the liv­ing room, nor make the mis­take of think­ing that you can squeeze a sec­tional sofa into a stu­dio apart­ment.  To rem­edy this, make deci­sions based on cold hard num­bers.  For exam­ple, I know that my hus­band and I, and our three pups, can live com­fort­ably in 500 square feet or more.  Though I’ve seen smaller places that are fab­u­lous, I know that we really do need all 500 square feet, and if the num­bers are there, we can prob­a­bly make it work, despite the layout.

Image cour­tesy of TinyA­part­ment­Crafts via Flickr

Your Tape Mea­sure is Your Best Friend -  Another handy fact to keep in your tool belt is to always take your own square footage mea­sure­ments.  There are some crafty laws about square footage, and you don’t want to get burned by them.  When I signed my first lease in Seat­tle, I didn’t have a tape on me and took the landlord’s square footage cal­cu­la­tions at face value.  After plan­ning every­thing out and mov­ing over, I dis­cov­ered that I was miss­ing 100 square feet.  Where was said square footage?  On the out­door ter­race.  When you only have 600 square feet to begin with, 100 square feet can be an annoy­ing thing to loose, so do your­self a favor and mea­sure it out.

Intended Din­ing Room turned fab­u­lous Bedroom

Play With It — As lousy as they may be at design, apart­ment devel­op­ers likely had space for basic liv­ing func­tions in mind when draft­ing out the plan.  Your first impres­sion may be to put the din­ing room table here, and the sofa there, so this is where the Designer-Goggles really shine.  There is more than one way to skin a cat (assum­ing you’re in to that kind of thing), and I cer­tainly derive an obscene amount of plea­sure in putting my sofa on the wrong side of the room and show­ing those devel­op­ers that I, in fact, know best.  The best apart­ments are uncon­ven­tional and will scoff at the way the devel­op­ers intended them to be used.  So put on your think­ing cap and step out­side the box.

Paper Dolls — A good way to help kick start your cre­ative juices, is to get a scale floor plan of the apart­ment.  If one is not avail­able, just take the most impor­tant mea­sure­ments and put one together your­self.  Then cut out scaled pieces of paper to rep­re­sent each of your major fur­ni­ture pieces.  Grab a glass of wine and start mov­ing them around.  You might be sur­prised as to what fits where.

Pub­lic vs. Pri­vate Space

Slow Down Cow­boy — Okay, so before you go too crazy with uncon­ven­tion­al­ity, put down the glass of wine and pay atten­tion.  A good design takes pub­lic and pri­vate space into account.  When you were play­ing with your paper dolls, you, no doubt, noticed that the bed will fit in the liv­ing room.  That doesn’t mean you will be con­sid­ered dar­ing and design­erly if you put it there.  When chal­leng­ing sta­tus quo, make sure that you have a clear delin­eation between what is con­sid­ered pub­lic (kitchen, liv­ing room, din­ing room) and what is pri­vate (bed­room, bath­room, stor­age).  These delin­eations do not need to be phys­i­cal walls.  In fact, I just designed a stu­dio apart­ment that uses the Bomb-Proof Mod­u­lar Shelv­ing Sys­tem as a very nice bed­room divider.  There will likely be a whole other future post ded­i­cated to ways of divid­ing space, so mov­ing on…

Mak­ing room for the impor­tant things in life.

What About the Bicy­cles? — When my hus­band and I shop for apart­ments, we have a long list of items that we need to think about.  There are the nor­mal things like where to put the fur­ni­ture, and if we have room for our office that needs to be adja­cent to the liv­ing area, but there are also the weird things.  Where are we going to put four bicy­cles?  Is there room for the gui­tars?  Where will the long boards go?  We have a lot of hob­bies that the apart­ment devel­op­ers prob­a­bly did not plan for, so those are things that we con­sider right along­side whether or not there is room for the sofa.  As a thor­oughly inter­est­ing indi­vid­ual, I am sure you also have your own num­ber of space-utilizing hob­bies, so just watch out for them from the beginning.

Image cour­testy of basykes via Flickr

Ask the Ques­tion — Before you sign a lease, talk to your land­lord about what you can do to spruce the place up.  You might be sur­prised.  My land­lord shocked me when she said we could paint, (and even­tu­ally even change the floor­ing).  Even though the answer might be “no” you’ll never know until you ask.  If it turns out that the rules are pretty strict, don’t despair, Apart­ment Ther­apy has a great arti­cle about how to make a rental look like you own it.

Mov­ing On Up — For most peo­ple, mov­ing means tak­ing all of their stuff from one home, and putting it in another.  For me, mov­ing means tak­ing all of my stuff from one home, and adapt­ing it to fit in another.  Most of my things are adapt­able so that they always look like I designed them for the exact space they occupy.  This can get a lit­tle spendy, but it really adds that extra some­thing spe­cial.  For exam­ple, I adapt my book shelv­ing sys­tem to each apart­ment by either adjust­ing the height, mount­ing sys­tem, or con­fig­u­ra­tion.  My shelv­ing sys­tem is one of the more attention-grabbing pieces that I have, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look awe­some no mat­ter where I hap­pen to be living.

Thanks for read­ing.  Please feel free to share, just please give me credit for my work when you do!  Cheers till next time.