10 Tips for Living With Pets + Kids in a Small Space
Tricks for housing a big life in a small home.
Small-space living can be a breeze when you live alone, or even with a roomie or S.O. Add kids and pets to the mix, and things get a bit more complicated. Our favorite little companions come with spatial needs, not to mention lots of stuff. The good news is it can be done, and I’m sharing practical tips on exactly how to do it.
1: Do away with unnecessary furniture.
Give away furniture that serves no purpose in your home, and be very intentional with any new furniture purchases. For example, avoid overindulging in kid or pet furniture, and steer clear of pieces that are entirely decorative. Instead, opt for furniture with hidden storage or multiple functionalities.
2: Utilize wall space.
Think vertical. A lack of floor space means you should get creative with your wall space. When filling a blank wall, think less about decorating and more about being practical — though you can easily make practicality look pretty. For example, consider a stylish way to loft your cat’s bed. (Sorry, dog owners; I don’t think fido would appreciate a lofted bed.)
In its original state, the inset areas around the dormers were a waste of space. To give these areas a true purpose, they were transformed into two separate homework nooks complete with custom floating desks. To create the custom desks, first 2X4 lumber and paint-grade plywood were both cut to size, mitered, attached with a nail gun, then sanded and painted.
Brian Patrick Flynn
Likewise, instead of buying an activity table for the kids, turn a blank wall into a super-cool felt activity wall.
3: Digitize artwork and mementos.
Try an app like Keepy to store kids’ art, schoolwork and mementos. Snap a photo, upload and you’re done. If you tend to be overly sentimental (guilty), this may seem unnatural at first. BUT, think of the space you can free up by recycling all that paper.
4: Make your entryway practical.
Pet-Friendly Entryway Storage
Pet owners can make their walks much more efficient by outfitting their entry as a pet station. Here a shallow console table is used to keep framed photos of the family dog on display along with a crate to hold essentials neatly and within arm's reach.
Flynnside Out Productions
Often, a home’s entryway serves as nothing more than wasted space, but this isn’t an option for small-space dwellers. Whether you have kids, pets or both, make your entryway a place that stylishly stores everyday items. Think peg racks, shelves or cubbies — whatever it takes to get the job done. Learn how to make this pet storage station for your entryway.
5: Embrace baskets.
Baskets are tremendous at hiding clutter while still looking chic. You can place them almost anywhere — from the living room to the playroom to the bedroom — on shelves or on the floor. Search for on-trend varieties, and fill them with all your miscellaneous kid or pet things.
6: Invest in pretty kitchen canisters.
While you’re on a mission to hide things, head to the kitchen and give your counters a once-over. Corral items that are frequently left out, like dog treats or kids’ snacks, and buy pretty kitchen canisters to store them where they’re easy to reach.
7: Hide pet bowls/the litter box.
Consider a pullout drawer or built-in nook that stows pet bowls to free up floor space, and hide your litter box with our crafty DIY solution.
8: Utilize unused space in a creative way.
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images, 2014, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Take a moment to think about every nook and cranny in your home. Is there any unused space you could transform? For instance, the often-unused space under the stairs can serve as a cozy sleeping nook for a pet.
9: Make spaces work double-duty.
White Children's Playroom With Teepee
Colorful children's artwork and books add whimsy and interest to plain white walls. The tall white storage cabinet keeps toys and art supplies neatly tucked away.
Scott Hargis Photo
When you’ve successfully utilized every last space, it’s time to consider multifunctional rooms. For example, carve out a small workspace in your kitchen or playroom if you need a home office but don’t have a spare room.
10: Go outside.
When all else fails, embrace the great outdoors. It’s important to love your home, but it’s also important to get outside when you can. Your little ones (the humans and animals, alike) will thank you.
Don't ... Drape Curtains Right Above Your Window Frame
These light wool curtains run floor to ceiling, giving the window in this small bedroom a dramatic and spacious vibe. Custom furniture, including a 10-inch-deep, built-in storage unit, utilizes every foot of space and eliminates the need for bulky dressers. — Kimberley Seldon, designer and owner, Kimberley Seldon Design Group
Don't ... Overwhelm a Room With Too Many Patterns
Choose a hero piece as the focal point for your room, like a bold upholstery pattern for the sofa. Then use a mix of quieter neutrals for the remaining furniture and walls to keep the space light and open. — Danielle Kurtz, creative director, The Land of Nod
Don't ... Forget the Back of the Door
Make use of otherwise wasted vertical space by creating extra storage on the back of a closet, pantry or mudroom door. Over-the-door hooks can be customized with baskets and racks of different sizes. — Sharon Tindell, chief merchandising officer, The Container Store
Don't ... Be Afraid to Paint Everything the Same Color
Blur the lines by continuing your wall color onto the ceiling; doing so makes everything feel more cohesive and less cramped. — Brian Patrick Flynn, designer, Flynnside Out Productions
Don't ... Underestimate What You Can Do With a Closet
We took an underutilized closet and turned it into a bar by lining it with faux croc wallpaper, then adding studs and a framed photo to the back of the door. The built-in drawers were dressed with vintage brass pulls and sprayed in black lacquer while the tray, outfitted with drawer glides, was lit from the shelf above. — Robert Stuart, owner, Robert Stuart Interiors
Don't ... Be Afraid to Hang Things Up (Even Furniture!)
Consider desks or bookcases that hang on the wall, which allow for more flexibility in your space planning. Take advantage of vertical wall space; floating shelves don't require a lot of room and offer an additional place to corral clutter. — Danielle Kurtz, creative director, The Land of Nod
Don't ... Forget to Utilize the Stairs
Adding cubbies, shelves or hanging space under a staircase provides storage in an otherwise unused area and creates a designated spot for rain boots, backpacks and sports equipment. Whether it's open or closed storage — or a combination of both — be sure to go as high as you can to maximize storage. — Ginny Snook Scott, organization expert, California Closets
Don't ... Clutter Tables With Lamps and Frames
Don't ... Forget to Utilize the Foyer
We maximized every inch of this small studio by utilizing the narrow entryway that houses a home office, a mini bar and a closet that hides the washer/dryer and pantry. — Sofia Joelsson, owner, SoJo Design
Don't ... Shun Sconces
Sconces can free up important real estate in small spaces. By taking lamps off the table and floor and attaching them to the wall, you're making these areas way more functional and a lot freer. — Emily Henderson, designer, Emily Henderson Design and Target Home style expert
Don't ... Forget Under-Bed Storage
One of the most practical but least-utilized spaces in the bedroom is under the bed. This handmade platform bed features storage on both sides for books, craft supplies, seasonal clothes, accessories and more. Ditch cheap plastic bins for attractive wire baskets to corral clutter. - Courtney Weston, blogger, Always Rooney
Don't ... Just Think Square Sink
This round sink opens up the space and makes it easy to maneuver around the tiny bathroom. To avoid feeling cramped, we passed on closed storage and installed a linear wall shelf above the sink to hold cotton swabs, lotions and even flowers. — Betty Wasserman, designer, Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors
Don't ... Use Cabinets in a Small Bathroom
Don't ... Sacrifice Style When It Comes to Storage
Beautiful baskets in bright prints or unique textures do a great job corralling toys and extra blankets, but they're also a great way to add decor to a small space without cluttering up a room. I love to place them in corners or under side tables. — Jodi McKee, craft blogger and Pinterest influencer
Don't ... Think You Can't Squeeze in Another Piece of Furniture
Don't ... Get Locked Into Conventional Seating
Don't ... Neglect the Corners of a Small Room
We were able to squeeze a large rectangular table into a small kitchen by utilizing the corner and creating a built-in banquette. A tiny niche allows for storage and display without having to bring in additional furniture. Placing the large drum light over the table eliminated the need for additional fixtures in the room. — Karen Vidal, owner, Design Vidal
Don't ... Pass on Paneling
The paneled walls and coffered ceiling in this small dining room provide so much architectural integrity that the size of the room becomes an afterthought. A round dining table makes it easy for guests to navigate the space, while a high-hanging chandelier leaves views unobstructed. — Christopher Maya, owner, Christopher Maya Inc.
Don't ... Be Afraid to Mix Different Wood Finishes
Don't ... Think You Can't Add a Closet
Create a floor-to-ceiling closet by attaching rods and shelves to a wall, then draping off the area with a set of curtains. Define your storage needs, then choose the best spot. Here we moved the bed to the center of the room and built the closet on the wall behind it. — Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson, IKEA
Don't ... Push Furniture Against the Walls
Pulling furniture off the wall towards the center of a room keeps a small space feeling open and airy. The floating desk in this home office adds a sophisticated and intentional touch to this space. — Jessica Stambaugh, owner, Decorative Traces
Don't ... Hang a Small Mirror in a Small Bathroom
This tiny bathroom feels significantly larger thanks to the expanded viewpoint offered up by the wall-to-wall mirror. Mirroring an entire wall will amplify any space; hang one on a wall adjacent to a window and the reflection will open things up even more. — Kimberley Seldon, designer and owner, Kimberley Seldon Design Group
Don't ... Buy a Bulky Sleeper Sofa
This cottage is only 650 square feet — basically one large room with a bath and kitchenette. Instead of trying to work a sleeping area into the layout, we opted for a Murphy bed and hid it behind this oversized woven walnut door. — Betty Wasserman, designer, Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors
Don't ... Buy a Traditional Coffee Table
Don't ... Underestimate the Power of White
An all-white space allows light to bounce and reflect around the room, making any space appear bigger and brighter. An organized desk and minimal decor create an even more spacious feel, while the slightly warmer white found in the chandelier beads give off a cozy vibe. — Anne Reagan, editor in chief, Porch.com
Don't ... Shy Away From Bold Colors
Bold colors actually make a small space appear larger and more dramatic. Paint the walls, furniture and crown molding in a saturated color, then pair your monochromatic color scheme with something unexpected, like this white Lucite coffee table that lights up from within. — Ghislaine Vinas, owner, Ghislaine Vinas Interior Design
Don't ... Go With a Standard Swing Door
By using a barn-style door and putting it on tracks, we were able to create more space without having to swing a door in or out in this cottage's kitchen and bathroom. The door was original to the home's potting shed; we simply exchanged the clear glass with frosted glass for bathroom privacy. — Betty Wasserman, designer, Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors