Today, the average newly-constructed American home is almost 3,000 square feet! But here in Portland, many homes are much smaller. The average home constructed in the 1950’s (like many of those in Portland’s most desirable neighborhoods) was less than 1,200 square feet. Small homes can be great, but they’re challenging, too.

In today’s post we’re going to share 9 ways to help you enjoy living in a smaller home. You’ll also enjoy this post if you’re not sure what to do with a cramped room in your otherwise perfect home, like a small basement or bedroom.


1. Embrace it

This basement is everything a small space should be!

If you’ve bought a smaller home or are moving into a smaller condo or apartment —don’t fight it. Instead embrace the challenges — and even better — the benefits of having a smaller space. Whatever your reasons for thinking about a small living space, don’t worry. There’s so much you can do with it.

3 big reasons to love smaller spaces

  • Easier to clean
  • Less expensive to heat and cool
  • Known for having larger yards and outdoor spaces


2. Set priorities

There are compromises in every home. And this is especially true when you’re living in a smaller space. You just can’t have everything. But with some creative thinking, you can get a lot out of even a very small home.

Some of the most desired features in Portland homes include:

  • Home office
  • Play area for kids
  • Yoga studio or home gym
  • Full size kitchen
  • Guest room

In a small space there may not be a room for a home office or for overnight guests. But you can creatively partition off part of the living room to create a quiet place for you to work. Or you can invest in a high-quality pull-out sofa for guests. Your home yoga studio may be something you set up before your morning practice.

It all starts by deciding what you can’t live without and then finding a creative way to make it happen.


3. Declutter and clean

What’s the biggest mistake people make when moving into a small home? Filling it with everything they already own. Retirees, younger couples, and growing families can all quickly fill a small home with their accumulated furniture, clothing, and other possessions.

Instead, focus on decluttering. Donate anything you don’t truly need. Be ruthless with anything that can be easily replaced. If you’re worried you might make a choice you’ll regret, put items in storage for 6 months. If you don’t use them, donate them to a good cause and save the money you would’ve spent storing them.

Once you’re used to living with less, you’ll enjoy living in an uncluttered small home. But the work doesn’t stop there. You have to stay on top of organization and cleaning. In a small home you’ll notice every little mess or every time something is out of place. Cleaning a small home takes less time and less effort than cleaning a bigger home. No excuses!


4. Use natural light to your advantage

Large windows and an open floor plan allow plenty of light into this Portland mid-century masterpiece

Portland’s long grey winters and short days can sometimes make it feel like there’s no natural light at all. This can make a smaller home feel especially dreary. A smaller home that features skylights or larger windows can let in a lot of beautiful light. Use blinds, curtains, and shades to adjust the amount of light coming into your home and to add privacy.


5. Get creative with storage

Built in storage makes great use of available space in this Portland home

Overcoming the challenges of living in a small home allows you to be extra creative — especially when figuring out how to store your stuff. A few of our favorite innovative storage solutions for small homes include:

  • Custom storage, like built-ins or under-the-stairs storage nooks can be a great investment that allow you to maximize your use of available space.
  • Look up! Vertical storage solutions like hanging pots in the kitchen or installing a medicine cabinet on the back of a bathroom door are smart ways to avoid wasting space in your small home.
  • Closet organizers are a godsend for anyone who lives in a small home. Flexible and adjustable racks, boxes, hangers, shelves, and other options allow for extra storage in your closet. This is especially important in small homes where there isn’t room for a dresser or where you and your partner are sharing a closet.


6. Clear the floor

When you’re living in a small home — or if your home has a small and cramped basement —look for ways to eliminate permanent fixtures on the floor. The more available floor space your home has, the larger it will seem and the more options you’ll have available to you. Vertical storage solutions and closet organizers, which we mentioned earlier, are a great way to eliminate dressers and other bulky pieces of furniture.

You may also want to consider wall-mounted shelving instead of a bookcase or entertainment center. A wall-mounted fold-out desk can also be a clever way to create an out-of-the-way home office.


7. Design tips and tricks for small spaces

Lots of storage and great colors in this SW Portland kitchen

When painting or decorating a small room or home, avoid overly bright or dark colors. Instead go with light neutral tones. These colors will help reflect natural light and make the room feel larger, more open, and more spacious.

Speaking of reflections, a mirror can help make a room feel larger, too. Just don’t overdo it! Too many mirrors can dampen the effect. Instead, thoughtfully select one mirror for maximum impact.

When you’re living in a small space, don’t settle for single-purpose pieces. For example, a sofa that converts to a bed or an expandable kitchen table are great multi-use pieces for smaller homes.


8. Invest in a statement piece

When you’re living in a smaller home, you must choose every piece of art and furniture carefully. But on the plus side, since you have less room to fill you can spend more on each piece. Investing in a single high-quality statement piece makes it easier to select smaller complimentary pieces for the rest of the room or the home.

If you’ve always dreamed of an Eames lounger, a set of wingback reading chairs, or a vintage Rya rug, make it the focal point of your small home. It’ll just make you love living there even more.


9. Add on to it

Sometimes a small home becomes a burden. Your needs may change or perhaps you’re welcoming a new addition to your family. But that doesn’t mean you need to move! A home addition can give your small home the space you need. Home additions can be used to add square footage to the kitchen or bedroom. You can also add an entire new room to your home, like an extra bathroom, bedroom or home office.


Learn More Design & Remodeling Tips