National Blog

Organized Living in Small Spaces

While living organized in a small space can be tricky, there are certain products that speak to those that love to entertain.

A discreet Pull-Out table is sleek, sturdy, roomy, and folds neatly away when not in use. With room for four extra seats, and offering a variety of materials & finishes, this pull-out table is a stylish solution for any challenging dining space.

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When it comes to hosting overnight guests after your spectacular dinner party, the practical Murphy Bed is a cozy option. Not only does it provide a discreet sleeping space, it gives the home a refined feel, functioning as a part-time office space. The sturdy desk allows for keeping items smaller than 5” tucked away while the bed is in sleep-mode, and when pulled down, the unit fits a double mattress. The cherry on top is the ultra smooth European hardware that provides a quick and quiet clean up for the next morning.

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Whether eating, sleeping, studying or looking to simply maximize space, there is a clever and practical design for any small living space.

Submitted by Catherine Granert, Educator Member

Design By The Book

So what happens if you or your Client have a small space and refuse to Marie Kondo their library? Sure, you can pick up a few Billy bookcases at IKEA for a song but they still take up valuable real estate in a small space. So what are some options for displaying books when every square inch counts? Here are my four favourites.

Stack It:

Books make great styling props for more than just bookcases. Stacking them on a coffee table creates interesting table scapes. Also stacking a few under a lamp raises it so the light source is at a different level. This helps give different light levels in a room or can even out two different height bedside lamps to create symmetry. They can even be stacked in the open space under a side or bedside table if its legs are long enough. Best of all: it’s totally free!

Streamline It:

Replace a big bookcase with a slim tower like the Story bookcase from “Design Within Reach” (or any knockoff available from Wayfair or Amazon). Not only are they more visually interesting but their tighter framework means they can fit into way more places. They fit perfectly into a bedroom, living room or even a hallway or entryway. Their lack of bulk is also great in small places because they have a lot more negative space. They come in a few different heights and colour finishes and can be set up creatively. You can use one or several grouped together for more impact. While the DWR originals can be pricey ($300-$400) you can find knockoffs for considerably less (about a third lower).


Up, Up and Away:

Going vertical is nothing new to Designers. We’ve long known that every inch is usable if you think about it and wall space can be used for more than just paint, art or wallpaper. If you’re looking for a nifty way to store books without taking up floor space, consider the Conceal Floating bookshelf from Umbra. This clever design is basically a large L bracket with a small hook at the back end. You screw the back plate onto your wall and slide a hardcover book onto the horizontal plate sandwiching the plate between the last page and bottom cover. The lip of the bottom cover slips into the hooks creating a hard surface shelf. You can then stack other books on top to hide the wall plate up to 20 pounds. They come in two different sizes for $15- $20 (the larger size is pictured).


The Dead Zone:

If built ins are more your thing, consider building them around a doorway. The archway around a door or passage is often a ‘dead space’. Usually they’re just decorated with some art or gallery wall of family photos. Also, the corners are a bit tight to place any real significant furniture. So consider designing a built in for this area instead. Not only can you go from floor to ceiling but you can carry it right over the opening and take full advantage of the wasted negative space above the door. While the shelving may take up 12” of floorspace, having it against the wall in this ‘dead zone’ area doesn’t really affect the floor plan and furniture layout because you couldn’t use it much anyway. This is your most expensive option but also the most effective.

So, if you or your Client is a book lover with a vast collection of reading material they insist on keeping, consider one, or all, of my four favourite options (the Conceal Floating Bookshelf is great in a kitchen for access to cookbooks).


Submitted by Steve Ryan, Steve Ryan DesSR4igns

Steve Ryan is a Toronto based Designer, Decorator and Home Stager. He is a graduate of the Interior Decorating Program from George Brown College and holds a B.A. in Theatre and English Lit from the University of Guelph. He has contributed several articles to the DDA monthly newsletters on a wide variety of topics, given design consultations at their Fall Home Show Charity Events and is the Content Creator for the Toronto Chapter Instagram account (@ddatoronto). He has also written design articles for the Interior Design Toronto blog and guest lectured on small space design at George Brown College. He also gives design tips on his own website blog at Follow him at steveryandesigns on Instagram and Facebook.



Headshot credit:
Pierre Gautreau Photography

Maximum Style for Small Spaces

Many folks have or are planning to downsize to smaller spaces that are easier to manage, fit better with their lifestyle, and to be able to ‘lock and leave’ when the urge to travel strikes. While smaller spaces simplify our living situations, they can present a challenge in terms of how to make them comfortable and livable as well as stylish. Consider these simple ‘rules of thumb’ to create maximum style in your homes and keep your spaces appearing bright, spacious and open.


Use multi-function furniture in your spaces:

  • Murphy Bed that can fold up to the wall when not needed means a spare bedroom can be a home office or den when you don’t have visitors
  • A stool or ottoman can be used as additional seating or an occasional table in living spaces
  • Bench seating built into an alcove or along a wall can provide extra seating in the eating area
  • Open legs on occasional tables and raised legs on sofas and chairs create a visual openness that makes a space appear larger

Open Leg Furniture Erika WittliebOpen Legs Make a Space Appear More Spacious (Erika Wittlieb)

Furniture Placement

When you are decorating a smaller space, do not shy away from a few simple large pieces of furniture with plain upholstery. These will have a bigger impact and make a statement in your space, whereas several smaller pieces clutter the room and busy patterns create too much visual busy-ness.

  • Place furniture 3-4” away from the wall to create the illusion of spaciousness
  • Furniture at an angle will encourage the eye to travel along the diagonal which is the longest ‘line’ in the room

1000 Old Mill Rd 1582Angled Furniture Creates a Feeling of Spaciousness (Simply Swank Decor)


Throw out the belief that lights colours are best for small spaces!

  • Darker shades create a feeling of coziness (rich brown, taupe or soft yellow) and add a touch of drama to your spaces (cranberry red, dark gray)
  • Paint trim and doors in a shade of white
  • Keep accessories lighter in terms of colour, texture and the number you use.
  • Minimize the total number of colours and patterns you use in your space to ensure a balanced, calm space and not create too much visual clutter and chaos.

Bedroom Dark Colours Add Drama Olichel AdamovichDark Colours Add Warmth and Drama (Olichel Adamovich)

Reflective or Clear Materials

  • Clear or reflective materials greatly increase the sense of space in a room and make it appear and feel more open and airy
  • Glass or acrylic enable light to move throughout the space making it feel roomier
  • Mirrors (the jewels of a room) reflect light and make your space feel brighter and more alive


  • Use curtains made of a sheer fabric
  • Hang draperies close to the ceiling and extend them to the floor to bring height to and visually enlarge rooms
  • If you want to add some pattern and texture, use of fabrics with a simple and soft pattern such as a floral, stripes, vines or an open geometric pattern for draperies and throw cushions

Floral FabricLight Fabrics Keep a Room Airy


Light is your best ally in making a small space feel bigger and more spacious.

  • If you have natural light available in the space open the draperies to their fullest extent and let the light in!
  • If the natural light is insufficient or not available, provide lots of artificial light from lamps and ceiling fixtures and use blue based LED bulbs which are more efficient at converting energy into light and provide better light distribution

Enjoy updating and decorating your smaller spaces and be sure to share your pics and ideas!

Submitted by Janet Armstrong, Simply Swank Decor 
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Bringing Cottage Design Into Your Home, Year-Round

When you think of the way you furnish your cottage, you think of durability, light and airy in colour and texture, comfortable and, of course, stylish. The questions you should be asking yourself when purchasing a sofa are:

“Is the frame hardwood?”

“Is the foam high-density?”

“What is the rub count on the fabric?”

Other questions would concern the comfort level, and the use of the furniture piece in question. When looking for cottage furnishings, most clients want deep-seated comfort, and in most cases the same is wanted in our homes, whether it be in a sitting room, or family room setting. In this case, a deeper frame is perfect for lounging, getting cozy while reading a book, “closing your eyes” for a few minutes, or enjoying a family game night.

Slipcovers are almost always recommended, not only if you have children, but simply to protect from long-term wear and tear and the odd pet snuggle. A slipcover also provides you with two looks, allowing you to change things up when hosting guests, and makes for easy care of your beloved sofa. 

The most important aspect to consider when purchasing a sofa for your cottage would have to be the fact that it is manufactured in the highest quality materials, to provide a durable, comfortable cottage feel in your home, for years to come.

The sofa pictured below features show wood legs with lightly textured fabric:GreshamH Jan2017 4582 3Q xl luxe largeThis second sofa features a softer, yet durable fabric slipcover:

GreshamH Feb2019 4582 82 3Q

Submitted by Marilyn Roberts, Owner, Gresham House Furniture