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BIG IDEAS FOR SMALL SPACES

By Jennifer Barger

Washington Post

Let glossy magazines cover mega-mansions. Decor inspiration for ordinary people, those of us who live in 400 square feet, not 4,000, usually comes from blogs, which feature slide shows of real-life lofts, studios and bungalows.

The granddaddy of this world is Apartment Therapy (apartmenttherapy.com), which draws about 3 million visitors per month in search of everything from the latest Ikea bookcase stats to whether decorating with taxidermy is haute. Blog founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan just penned a book stuffed with photos and ideas, Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces (Clarkson Potter, $30). We caught up with him about how to make a tiny pad terrific.

Did Apartment Therapy spawn the home blogging revolution?

I hate to give us too much credit, but when we started asking people to submit photos of their homes in 2004, it was difficult to get them to do it. But now, we get hundreds of submissions of homes a week, and we don't have room to publish them all. Now people want to show off their homes. They're styling them and setting them up in ways to show them off. It's the concept of your home being an extension of your personality.

What are some of the challenges a tiny home poses?

Well, you want your home to be everything, and if you have a smaller space, you often don't get a patio, yard or second bedroom. The challenge, using design, is to give yourself multiple spaces within a smaller footprint.

How can you do that?

Well, you can take your bed and put in on a platform, or tuck a beautiful home office into the corner of the bedroom.

What tricks make a small space seem larger?

Painting the ceiling and the wall the same color makes a seamless experience. And if you have a dark floor, whether it's a rich carpet or a stained wood one, that will have the appearance of falling away beneath your feet, and the walls will rise up.

One of the biggest issues of living in a small apartment can be an excess of stuff. What's your position on that?

In the book, you'll see that there are small spaces, but they are full of character, and a lot of it comes from stuff. I think that it's about organizing the stuff and realizing that the more things you have, the more carefully you curate. When your eye moves around and sees things that are well displayed, it's delightful. If it's a careless mess, your eye reads it negatively.

But some stuff - clothes, DVDs, books - isn't really worth displaying. What can people do about that?

Getting storage underneath your bed is very effective. And another trick is going up your walls, using bookcases or displaying things on the wall. And in the kitchen, use overhead storage by putting your pots on a rack on the ceiling.

What's the biggest mistake people with small places make?

I think people buy furniture that's too big, and then it's just hard to navigate around that. In a small space, furnishings need to be minimal and small in scale. You can even do things like what I did in my own home. I have a daybed instead of a sofa. It takes up less room and has a double purpose.

Do kids create new challenges?

Yes, and I think people often need bigger spaces when they come along. There is a lot of stuff that comes with a child. You have to be careful to practice "stuff in, stuff out."

tips

Do more with less

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan - small-space guru and apartmenttherapy.com founder - thinks these items give a big bang in a tiny home.

- Conceal or reveal books, glassware or tchotchkes with Brave Space Design's bamboo Stagger Server (from $2,540, bravespacedesign.com).

- Lack counter real estate? Let plates and cups dry in the sink with Simplehuman's compact dish rack ($25, simplehuman.com).

- Folding chairs, such as a French bistro version ($198 for two, americancountryhomestore.com), can be stashed when not in use, or even hung on the wall.

- A lamp with a silvery, mirrored glass base reflects sunlight (or candlelight), creating an illusion of spaciousness on a table or credenza. The Haley table lamp, for example, is $229 at crateandbarrel.com.

Jennifer Barger, Washington Post

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