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Neighbors of Kane County

Doing big things with small spaces

“When pondering how to create a big space in a small home, imagination is key,” says Debbie Gurley, Miscella Real Estate (see article, page 16). “Try to see beyond the existing, to find the possible. Which walls are load bearing and which can be removed to create a more open floor plan? Is there additional exterior space that you could create to be an extension of the home? How does the lighting, color scheme and artwork enhance your space?”

When you are building new or adding an addition, cost generally corresponds to square footage. 

As Andrew Nyberg, Wausau Homes, notes, “Many of our customers have a certain square footage in mind that they believe they need in their new custom home. Oftentimes, this is just because their current home is starting to feel cramped and cluttered, so they are looking for more space. We always encourage our customers to not be solely focused on a square footage number that can drive the cost of the home upwards out of their desired budget, but rather to maximize the efficiency of a smaller footprint.”

If you, like many, are starting to fall into that “cramped and cluttered” syndrome, even a spacious home can “feel” small. 

Arguably the most popular way to expand space in a home is to remove walls. For example, you might be able create an expansive first floor living area that combines the kitchen, dining room and family rooms by removing walls. In many cases, removing a wall is either not possible or not practical. Your remodeler or architect can help you make those decisions. 

“The most valuable square footage in your home is right under your feet,” attests Christine Jurs, Advance Design Studio.

There are countless ways to do some great things with small spaces. In every room of your home, from powder rooms to play rooms, there are creative ways to handle clutter and relieve that cramped feeling, and make every area work a little better, look a little better and live a little better. 

Optionally, local self-storage services give you secure housing for everything from your art collection to miscellaneous items that you treasure. Choose heated self-storage with state of the art security, such as the new In Towne Self Storage in St. Charles.

Family/living room

Mounting your TV on the wall saves a lot of space. But you can do even more with a recessed area in the wall that houses the TV and offers additional shelving and storage without taking up valuable floor space in the room. Talk to your remodeler about the feasibility of a recessed wall in your home.

A ceiling shelf is a perfect place for pictures, memorabilia and other items that you want to display, but don’t access frequently. A ceiling shelf frees up other functional shelving in your family room.

There are many furniture options designed with space saving in mind. There are ottomans that double as storage for blankets and pillows. Skinny sofa tables (6"–18" deep) are a great solution for added shelf space in a living or family room. They are just wide enough for small lamps and other small items. 

Sofa designs are endless. There are narrow sofas for smaller spaces, and sofas that are deep enough to serve as a guest bed. 


Builders and remodelers are doing amazing things with smaller kitchens. In some designs, 

 kitchens are open and part of the dining/living areas. But little things can make a difference, too. At right, Wausau Homes designed this spacious, yet space-saving kitchen into a corner area. 

Whether your kitchen is small or large, you need a place for your trash. You can keep the trash out of sight with a pullout or tilt out trash bin. It can be built into a existing cabinetry. Free standing trash bins are available with the top surface doubling as a cutting board.

A small shelf right over you sink help you organize some of the things you might otherwise keep in your sink.

Slide out pantry. Ask your architect or remodeler about the feasibility of a slide out pantry in your kitchen. It’s like a pocket door that’s 8” thick and as deep as your space allows. This clever storage concept takes up no extra space and adds a significant amount of storage to your kitchen.

If you have a pantry, use the back of your pantry door for extra storage. Just like your refrigerator door, it can be used for narrow shelving from top to bottom.

Back splash hangers and bins, between the counter and cabinets help organize your kitchen and free up counter space. Organize your spices. There are door racks, multi-level spice racks, lazy Susans, and other creative spice storage solutions on the market.


A wall desk can add a second function to any room without taking all the space of a traditional desk. Wall desks are great for kids’ bedrooms and small studies. 

Small bathroom/powder room

You probably have unused wall space on your bathroom walls that can be used for towels and accessories. A small shelf above or next to the bathroom sink, frees up limited counter space. What about the bathroom door? From a simple hook to towel rods at different heights, the bathroom door is a surface just waiting to be used. A tiered storage tray for you bathroom counter gives you vertical storage that saves counter space.


When room is really limited, “pocket” shelving and storage adds dimension and space where it didn’t exist before. Stacked washer and dryer combinations are now available with expanded capacity. 


Under bed storage. Roll out containers are available that are designed to fit under your bed that are easy to access. Even better are beds designed with under bed storage. 

Corner nightstand. Free standing or built in, corner nightstands are perfect for small bedrooms. Corner nightstands are available with lighting as part of the design to maximize efficient use of space.

Place lighting over your bed instead of next to it. Wall sconces and other solutions not only save space, they provide better lighting for reading, and offer a better opportunity for direct lighting.

Closets. With good reason there are businesses that do nothing more that organize closet space. It is because home closets, large and small, hold more content, pound for pound, than any other space in our homes. Carefully designed hangers, drawers and shelving can actually expand your storage capacity.

For the guest bedroom, consider a day bed. While adding space to the room when not used as a bedroom, a day bed turns that room into a sitting room for reading, playing games, or a small study.

Play areas. Give your kid no limits and the whole house becomes their play area. Give them a smaller area that they “own” and you will all be happier. There are countless creative ways to make a small area in your home a special place for your children to play . 

One concept that kept coming up as we researched play areas in small spaces is “toy rotation.” Kids outgrow their toys as fast as their clothes. “Toy rotation” suggests, as toys become less used, move them to a storage area in the basement or garage and keep only the current toys in the play area. 



You don’t necessarily need walls to define space. The “man cave” can be separated from the “play area” with creative decorating and organizing. The back of a couch or leather chairs, along with a darker color scheme can define one area (for adults only). A separate carpet pattern, small table and chairs, and a bright color for another area (for kids only). 

Advance Design Studio, Gilberts, IL, created a basement without walls that included a play area, sleep-over bunk beds, full bar and TV lounge. The creative layout was finished with a “secret room” for toy storage, hidden behind bookcase doors.


There are many ways to make that space relaxing, inviting and comfortable. In addition to outdoor furniture designed for small spaces, think vertical, similar to indoor space conservation. A thin planter wall can add privacy to a small area. As little as 6" wide, with a planting pocket along the top, a planter wall brings an appealing addition to a small space. Monster grills on small patios are about as practical as monster trucks on local roads. Buy a grill that fits your space. Even a small grill will handle a lot of burgers.


Sliding doors, pocket doors. Theses doors don’t take up extra space when opened and are perfect for smaller rooms and storage areas.

Corner shelving. Corners are one of the most overlooked spaces in a home. Attractive corner shelving can add storage space with little interference with the usable space in a room.

Large mirrors. In the right room, a large mirror can make a small room feel much larger.

The space under stairs is often overlooked. Shelving and drawers can be built to turn that unused space into attractive storage.


The key to space saving lighting is going vertical. Keep as much lighting as possible on the walls and ceilings will free up space that traditional table lamps consume. This is especially useful in small rooms and living areas. Corner lamps are available in many creative designs and configurations. For example, some incorporate shelving for multipurpose lighting and space saving storage.

Color choice for small rooms

According to HGTV “White can work well in a small bedroom, but be careful with stark white, since it can make any size bedroom feel cold. Soft tones of cream, butter or ivory are good choices, as are whites with a touch of grey, green, 

blue or even pink. Layer complementary shades of white, or choose accessories in a favorite color. White is usually the best choice for a small room’s ceiling; however, if you have chosen a shade for your bedroom walls that will look good with very pale blue,that is also a good choice to make a ceiling look higher.” offers 15 color choices for small rooms. Some of their choices, like dark green, or purple might surprise you. 

Both HGTV and House Beautiful agree that colors for small rooms, contrary to conventional thinking, don’t have to be bright and light to work. When in doubt, consult with an interior decorator.

Whatever size your home, you can do great things with small spaces. Many solutions are do-it-yourself projects. For more ambitious projects, or if you just need ideas, search “design ideas for small spaces” on Pinterest, or contact any of the resources listed below.

Advance Design Studio: 847-836-2600,  



In Towne Self Storage: 630-360-8600,

Wausau Homes: 855-928-7281,