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Furniture made from reclaimed materials can transform the attitude of a space.

Image: Megumi Shauna Arai

With density (and rent) on the rise in the city, studios, rented rooms, and one-bedroom apartments remain common dwelling options for Seattleites. In fact, over 75 percent of new construction in 2015 has consisted of studios or one-bedrooms. While living small can be a challenge, space restriction also offers plenty of opportunity for innovation. Two local design pros weigh in on how to turn a small space into a beautiful home.

Get Creative with Storage

Don’t fall for the Ikea entertainment center to store electronics. Instead, Forest Eckley keeps his TV in the closet to take out only when needed. If resorting to a TV stand, make sure it has sliding doors. Or use a box or trunk to store the more visually busy items. “No one wants to see your DVD collection,” says Eckley. And don’t forget about cord management. Avoid a rat’s nest of wires by bundling and hiding cords. It’s a really easy, overlooked way to simplify.

Find the Right Table

Try to design around scale. In other words, choose furniture for the room, don’t force old furniture to work with the room. This starts with what Eckley calls a good “everything table,” or the single surface used for most activities, from homework to potting plants to dining with friends. Don’t be afraid to go custom, either. Eckley insists that a custom table built by a woodworker (“There are tons in Seattle!”) to fit individual space dimensions costs the same as buying from a store. Especially if they use reclaimed materials.

Embrace Plants

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Breathe life into a small space without turning it into a jungle by choosing resilient plants that grow slowly. Charlo Wang suggests terrariums, air plants, and succulents for their versatility and aesthetic appeal. Air plants require only occasional misting and soaking, and can be mounted, hung, or placed on a surface. Terrariums function as surprising decoration, says Wang, with “different mosses, beautiful glass, and collectibles, they are like little works of art.” Succulents love a sunlit window and can live a long time without much intervention.

It’s All About Versatility

The first challenge of designing small is figuring out how to live with less. This means filling space with “things you love and interact with on a regular basis. Don’t just collect stuff,” says Eckley. Have a nice bar cart? Try utilizing it as a bookshelf or a movable TV stand. Or install a Murphy bed to open up the central living area for mixed use. Don’t be afraid to reimagine any space as frequently as needed. 


The Experts
Forest Eckley, designer and co-owner at Brackish
Charlo Wang, in-home installation manager at Swansons Nursery


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