How make a smaller space more livable

July 28, 2016

By Sheryl Smolkin

Whether you live in an apartment or a house, chances are that as your family grows or you accumulate more stuff, you will start to get the itch to move to a bigger place. But moving costs money, particularly if you have to sell one house or condo and buy another to upsize. And then you are stuck with higher mortgage payments plus increases in taxes, utilities and insurance.

So before you make an irrevocable and costly decision, think about what you can do to make your current arrangement more user-friendly. After all, if you are a fan of the reality show Love It or List It you know that re-purposing space and clever renos can often work unexpected miracles.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Declutter: Go through your stuff at least once a year and sell or get rid of what you are not using. If your garage is crammed full of baby carriages, tricycles and hockey nets you are keeping “just in case” you have more kids or your grandchildren will use them, think again. Remember, everyone else’s garage is full of stuff you can get for practically nothing if you ever really need items like these again
  1. Re-decorate: Think smaller and lighter. Get rid of heavy and non-functional furniture. Use light colors. Pull furniture away from the walls.
  1. Maximize vertical space: Take advantage of wall height by adding tall bookcases, cabinets or shelves, or by hanging hooks for jackets in the hallway.
  1. Storage: Capitalize on storage space in every possible way. Buy beds with storage drawers. Use closet organizers and double hang clothing. Build in drawers and shelves into closets. Turn little used alcoves under stairs into efficient cupboards.
  1. Multi-purpose: Make rooms multi-purpose. A spare bedroom can double as an office. A master bedroom with a Murphy bed can be used as a sitting room when the bed is put away. Buy multi-functional furniture, such as ottomans, which can be used as both a coffee table and extra seating. Furniture that can be folded, stacked, or wheeled away is your friend.
  1. Lighting: Don’t take up precious floor or table space with bulky lamps. Lamps can be hung from the ceiling or pot lights with dimmers can often be installed. Mirrored walls or closet doors will make rooms look bigger.
  1. Basement renovation: If you house is 1200 square feet on one floor and your basement is unfinished, you may be able to double your living space by renovating the basement. Add another bathroom, bedroom or spruce up your laundry area. Build a family room, a home office or a kid’s playroom.
  1. Build up or out: Depending on the zoning in your area and the size of your lot, add another story or build on to the back of the house. This kind of renovation is more costly and will require working with an architect and a contractor. You may also have to move out for several months. But the finished product will be like a brand new house.
  1. Open concept: Take down non-load bearing walls to open up the main floor. Go for a continuous living room/dining room, kitchen, den that will give you more room to work or play.
  1. Kitchen/bathroom reno: If you are unhappy with your current house, chances are the kitchen and/or the bathroom are bothering you the most. A vanity with double sinks can relieve morning and evening congestion. A new kitchen with an island breakfast bar can increase working space for family chefs and get rid of the need for a kitchen table and chairs. Kitchen and bathroom renos are routinely included in lists of projects that will increase the re-sale value of your house.

If you have considered all of the options above and still believe investing in a larger home with the features you need is the way to go, consider looking for a home with a separate entrance that can accommodate a rental unit. The additional income will help you better afford your new digs and pay off your mortgage faster.

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