real estate

9 ways to live large in a tiny home

9 ways to live big in a small home
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9 ways to live big in a small home © Segen/

9 ways to live big in a small home

You can live large in a small space. It just takes a little know-how.

Comfort, ease and organization aren't exclusive to the McMansion and estate set. A cozy space can offer convenience, easier upkeep and -- if you do it right -- better living for less. It also forces you to scrupulously edit your possessions.

Whether you just bought a tiny home or you're moving into your first solo apartment, downsizing, right-sizing or just simplifying, here are 9 ways to live big in a small space.

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Keep colors simple | Courtesy of Scripps Network

Keep colors simple

Want to make a small home look bigger -- and more luxurious? Decorate with 3 or 4 colors, max, says Michelle Spiess, co-host of HGTV's "Tiny Luxury," a show on tiny homes, and designer/partner with Tiny Heirloom, a high-end micro-home construction company.

Use a couple of neutrals as your backdrop, and lighter colors will make the space look bigger, she says. For a pop of color add some touches of 1 or 2 vibrant hues.

When closet space is at a premium, you can take a similar approach with clothes, says Spiess. Have 5 to 10 basic pieces in neutrals to form the basis of your wardrobe. Then change up the look with jewelry and accessories, "and you can do whatever style you like," she says.

Fit the space, not the stuff | Martin Poole/Getty Images

Fit the space, not the stuff

When it comes to organizing a small home, most people approach it backward: They try to take the possessions and make them fit into the space.

But if you really want a well-organized, functional home, you look at the constraints of the space first. "You only have the space you have," says Peter Walsh, professional organizer and author of "It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff."

"It's the stuff that's flexible," he adds.

That kind of ease and organization will also save money. When's the last time you couldn't find something you needed -- like wrapping paper -- so you had to go buy more? "If you can't find something, you don't own it," he says.

And that's key to living big in a small home. "If you don't honor and respect the physical limitations of your space, you will not be happy in that space," says Walsh.

Do 'the clutter test' | Hero Images/Getty Images

Do 'the clutter test'

From family heirlooms to broken bits that you fear you might need, "your mind will invent all kinds of reasons why something will come in handy," says Karen Kingston, author of "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui."

"Disregard your mind in this respect. It's not reliable."

Instead, gauge how the object makes you feel. When you see it or hold it, ask yourself, "Does it lift my energy or does my energy drop?" she suggests. "Even if you really like it, do you actually use it or have another one just like it?"

People tend to tune out the clutter in their homes, says Kingston. "But they still see and feel it on some level."

When you clear the stuff and free up space, you'll have a home that makes you feel rested, calm and creative.

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Think 'zones' | Justin Bernhaut/Getty Images

Think 'zones'

"Think of the space in terms of individual function zones," says Walsh.

That means all the books go in one area, and all the files have their place -- and keep like-things together, he says. "If you do that for your whole home, the idea is that if you find a fork anywhere in your home, you would know exactly where the fork lived," he says.

Set a limit on the number of a particular object that you keep, too. Whether you have 6 or 12 of something, "that's as much space as they take up," says Walsh. And if you want to add a new one, you toss an existing one. "One in, one out," he says.

"If you create a zone and set a limit, you start working with your space, rather than the volume of things you have," he says.

Keep horizontal spaces clear | Bernard Van Berg / EyeEm/Getty Images

Keep horizontal spaces clear

"Flat surfaces are magnets for clutter," says Walsh. That includes counters, desktops and even the floor.

"But flat surfaces are not for storage," he says. "They should be kept clear. Especially in a small space."

So take stock of potential storage -- from wall units to the backs of cupboard doors -- and use it well, Walsh says.

Opt for 'better' over 'more' © ADfoto/

Opt for 'better' over 'more'

One of the big advantages of a small home is that you can outfit it with the best of everything relatively inexpensively, says Tyson Spiess, co-host of HGTV's "Tiny Luxury," and partner/contractor with Tiny Heirloom.

When you're selecting finishes -- such as flooring, cabinets or countertops -- the cost differences between top-of-the-line materials and run-of-the-mill options are nearly negligible, he says.

"Because the space is so much smaller, you can afford nicer things," he says.

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Choose dual-purpose objects | Hero Images/Getty Images

Choose dual-purpose objects

Look for pieces that do more than one job, like ottomans with hidden storage, file drawers that form the base of a table or bookshelves that conceal a small desk.

The same goes for smaller items you bring into the house, says Michelle Spiess.

"In the kitchen, another way you can simplify is getting rid of one-use items," she adds. So opt for things like a slow-cooker, toaster oven or wok over single-use appliances like waffle makers or popcorn poppers.

The Spiess' advice: Splurge a little on a few custom pieces that pull double duty -- like a Murphy bed that frees up a room during the day, or a dining table that converts into a guest bed.

Harness sunlight and lighting | itchySan/Getty Images

Harness sunlight and lighting

"When you have a lot of natural light in the house, it makes it feel more open," and that's especially important in a small home, says Michelle Spiess.

There are a couple of good tricks for maximizing sunlight in a small space.

Start with the secret weapon of decorators, department stores and magicians: well-placed mirrors.

"The lovely thing about mirrors is they appear to double a space without taking up any room," says Kingston.

"If you can position it so that it reflects a beautiful view from outside," even better, she adds.

Look for ways to extend your home to the outdoors, says Kingston. "It makes a huge difference. Anything you can do to create outdoor living space is absolutely going to make the place feel bigger."

You can make a difference in the way you use artificial light, too. Position lamps and lighting so that the light is directed upward, says Kingston. "Lighting that points upward makes the space feel taller and brighter and lighter."

And, she adds, "It's uplifting to the spirit, as well."

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Make organization easy | Andy Reynolds/Getty Images

Harness sunlight and lighting

In a tiny home or small space, "you absolutely have to use every inch wisely," says Kingston. "Organize everything so that you can easily take it out when you need it -- rather than leaving it out because that's easier."

That clutter drift -- common in small homes -- can make a place feel "claustrophobic," she says.

Another strategy that works: Set a time of day, morning or evening, to tidy up every day, says Kingston. "Just to give yourself a completely fresh start."


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