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.

Cat Perch

Cat Perch

Consider lofting your cat’s bed rather than taking up valuable floor space.

Photo by: Hymns and Verses

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.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

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-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.

Photo by: Flynnside Out Productions

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.

Concealed Living Room Litter Box

Concealed Living Room Litter Box

This living room features a discrete and stylish way for cat lovers to incorporate a litter box into a room.

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.

Cozy Pet Nook Beneath Stairs

Cozy Pet Nook Beneath Stairs

These homeowners made the most of their space by fashioning the area beneath the stairs into a pet nook. The cozy dog cubby provides a space for their four-footed friend to sleep in style.

From: Elbow Room
and Elbow Room

Photo by: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images ©2014, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

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

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.

Photo by: Scott Hargis Photo

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.

31 Small Space Decorating Don'ts

See All Photos

Sometimes it's just a matter of turning a decorating "don't" into a "do" to make close quarters feel a whole lot bigger. Here, top designers and HGTV stars share their favorite insider tricks.

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

Photo By: Ted Yarwood

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

Photo By: 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

Photo By: 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

©Provided by California Closets

Don't ... Clutter Tables With Lamps and Frames

Suspended light bulbs and an oversized photo mural keep desks free of lamps and photographs, while bunk beds provide extra space for kids to work and play. — Cortney Novogratz, designer, The Novogratz and star of HGTV's Home by Novogratz

From: Cortney Novogratz and Robert Novogratz

Photo By: Matthew Williams

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 ... Buy an Oversized Sofa

Opt for furniture with clean, slim profiles, like this armless sofa, which gives the space more breathing room and a lighter feel overall. — Danielle Kurtz, creative director, The Land of Nod

Photo By: The Land of Nod

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

Photo By: Douglas Young

Don't ... Use Cabinets in a Small Bathroom

Cabinets in a small bathroom can take up a lot of space; create storage by using hanging baskets and rails on the wall, then use accessory containers to organize all the small stuff. — Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson, IKEA

Photo By: IKEA U.S.

Don't ... Forget to Play Up Nooks and Crannies

Play up unusual shapes by covering them in a bold-patterned wallpaper. I used a large floral repeat to accent this wall's triangular shape. — James Huniford, founder, Huniford Design Studios

Photo By: Eric Striffler

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

©Jodi McKee

Don't ... Think You Can't Squeeze in Another Piece of Furniture

Activate corner space with a modular shelving system; this one allowed us to sneak in a single-leg desk where we otherwise could not have done so. — Jessica Stambaugh, owner, Decorative Traces

Don't ... Get Locked Into Conventional Seating

Many people think modular seating arrangements won't work in a small space, but they can actually take up less room than a traditional sofa and loveseat. — Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson, IKEA

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

Photo By: Marcia Prentice

Don't ... Always Go With a Small Area Rug

A wall-to-wall area rug that fills a room will create the illusion of a bigger space. This colorful diamond-weave pattern gives this small space a welcoming jolt of energy. — Fawn Galli, owner, Fawn Galli Interiors

Photo By: Costas Picadas

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.

Photo By: Peter Margonelli

Don't ... Be Afraid to Mix Different Wood Finishes

The dark cedar walls contrast with the light cedar floor to give this bathroom an open feel. The planks are laid in different directions, making the room look longer and wider than it really is. — Anne Reagan, editor in chief, Porch.com

Photo By: That's My Letter

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

Photo By: IKEA U.S.

Don't ... Clutter a Table With Lots of Chairs

Maximize your seating with a banquette that runs the length of the room. Pull away the table during a party, and you have the perfect spot for guests to gather. — David Bromstad, designer, DAVID BROMSTAD and HGTV personality

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

Photo By: 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

Photo By: Ted Yarwood

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

Photo By: Douglas Young

Don't ... Buy a Traditional Coffee Table

In a tight space, smaller tables are more compact and can be moved around when needed as opposed to a large, rectangular coffee table. Go with a glass top for a less bulky look. — David Scott, owner, David Scott Interiors

Photo By: Antoine Bootz

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

Photo By: Restless Arrow

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

Photo By: Elizabeth Felicella

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

Photo By: Douglas Young

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