Interior designer Alanna Dunn purchased her condo in April of 2014, and the very same week met Ryan — the man (and architect!) who would become her husband. “I never purchased the condo with any intention of living there with someone else, but a year later Ryan and I were discussing moving in together and I just wasn’t ready to leave,” Alanna recalls. “We decided to ‘try’ living in the 550-square-foot space as we weren’t sure small space living was for us. Last spring marked 4 years since Ryan moved in and 5 years since I purchased the space and began renovating.”
The couple renovated the property over the course of three years. “The condo was built in the 70s and converted from apartments to condos in the early 2000s, so without a doubt it has a few quirks,” she laughs. It’s located in Calgary’s Mount Royal neighborhood, just three blocks from the trendy 17th Avenue shopping district. “We love our home and the life we have been able to build in our tiny space. I truly think small space living is a lifestyle, as the square footage of our home is reflected in the way we live, shop, organize, entertain and more. I have honestly read every article that has crossed my path with tips and advice on small space living and am happy for the opportunity to share my advice as a designer who has lived this first hand.”
ALANNA’S TOP TIPS FOR SMALL SPACE LIVING:
- Keep the finishes simple and consistent. The first thing I did when I moved in was replace the choppy floor finishes with the same hardwood throughout, and painted all walls, trim, ceiling, and millwork the same white. In doing this I was able to blur the line between the living room and kitchen, creating the illusion of a larger space.
- Be strategic in making use of storage space above upper cabinets. Although the space is valuable, filling it completely will make your space look junky!
- Custom built-ins can help create useful storage in places you didn’t even know you had. For example, I had a bookshelf built in our living room between a corner and an awkwardly placed column. I also had a secret storage shelf built behind the mirror in our bathroom, which I use to hide my excessive collection of nail polishes!
- Invest in good drawer organizers. I have been able to maximize our kitchen and bathroom storage with custom drawer organizers.
- One thing I don’t think people realize or discuss often is that when you live in a smaller space, you naturally have fewer pieces of furniture and belongings, so the wear and tear on your home and furnishings is much greater. We do just as much living in our small space as anyone else. Since we moved in I have slowly replaced or upgraded almost every piece of furniture we own for something more durable.
- Curb your shopping habits. This one was very difficult for me, but it’s one of the best ways to manage small space living. When it comes to shopping, we definitely have to be strategic. Regarding grocery shopping, we tend to make more frequent grocery trips, buying slightly smaller quantities to manage kitchen storage. We avoid Costco at all costs as we have no space for storing the likes of 12 rolls of paper towels at once!
- Make sure your furniture can do “double duty” – for example our coffee table is also our dining table. I chose to have the coffee table top custom-made from a slab of Caesarstone to ensure it was durable and would hold up over repeated daily use.
- Declutter. I guess this goes without saying. I read Marie Kondo’s book a few years ago and found it to be so helpful! Ryan and I usually do a spring purge and a fall purge just to stay on top of everything.
- Get a diffuser! This one might sound kind of crazy, but we live in a small condo and we love cooking! Investing in a quality essential oil diffuser has helped us keep our home smelling fresh and clean no matter what we’ve been making in the kitchen.
- I was able to use the small size of my home to my own advantage when it came to some of the finish selections. Because I needed to purchase less, I was able to splurge on some more luxury finishes. (For example my marble counters and backsplash or the Kelly Wearstler wallpaper in our bedroom!)