How to Make Your Home Space Smarter

As someone who spent the better part of their college years living in a two-bedroom apartment with five other people, I’m no stranger to less-than-savory living situations. Fortunately for me, this was pre-quarantine so the chances of everyone being home at the same time was slim to none. Obviously during this time, we don’t get the same comfort. We’ve spent months now trying to make our homes into offices, playgrounds, and schoolrooms. Sometimes, a room is all three at once. It can feel cramped, but that’s why it’s so important to make our spaces work for us, no matter how small they may seem. I had the chance to pick the brain of small-space lover and home staging extraordinaire, Kelly Elder, on some of her best tips to make our home spaces smarter!

Some background: 

An Old Towne Orange native, Kelly has always preferred cozy, smaller spaces. She, her husband, and their two sons currently live in a 1,825 sq. ft. home in Old Towne Orange. She also has an amazing home-staging business that specializes in staging homes in this historic district. 

What do you find most challenging about designing small spaces for multi-use?

What’s hard is trying to change the notion that a room has only one use: A living room can only be a living room, or a bedroom is only a place where you sleep. You can adapt any space to fit your needs.

Right now, you need to ask yourself, “How am I using this space right now?” And it’s ok if the answer isn’t what the room was originally intended for. Rethink the space so that it fits your current needs, not future ones. Right now, our dining room table is the heart of our home, so we’ve converted our living room into a dining room. An integral part of our current daily life, this table is where we eat, where our kids learn, and where my husband and I work every day. Some days it even becomes a ping pong table!

The heart of our home!

Quarantine has been hard for a lot of us. How has your family been coping at home?

Really well actually! We’re huge homebodies so we’ve loved staying at home together. We’ve been doing a lot of different activities such as baking, cooking, and gardening. As quarantine keeps going, it gets a little more stressful but overall it’s been a positive experience. It’s forced us to go at a slower, simpler pace and reminds us that sometimes that’s better than being overloaded with activities. It’s allowed us to appreciate everything we do each day rather than seeing them as tasks that need to be completed.

Some of our favorite moments have involved spending more time outside. We sit on our driveway while the boys have Nerf gun battles, or we go on family walks together. This time has also given us the opportunity to connect with our neighbors in new ways that we’ve haven’t had the opportunity to do in the past.

How did you create a designated space for your kids to study and play during quarantine?

My youngest is in kindergarten, so the majority of his day is spent doing free flow play that doesn’t require a structured place. My oldest, however, is in third grade, and for him consistency is key. We usually start school around noon after my and my husband’s morning Zoom meetings. We make sure that he sits in the same chair at the dining room table every day so he knows when it’s school time. 

Some days I need to work at the same time, but I don’t want to disrupt his school setting so I set up a work desk inside the kitchen nook.

How do you know that it’s time to switch up a space?

One of the best ways to start a new habit or change a bad one is to change your environment. Two years ago our front room was being used as it was intended to be used. Over time, it felt like our world, like the room, revolved around the TV. Once we felt like bad habits were beginning to surface, that’s when we decided to change it up. Now the room is our central family gathering space.

How can we make our spaces look bigger than they actually are?

One of the hardest parts of designing small spaces is the issue of furniture. You can’t go into a small space with the expectation that your larger furniture is going to work. Sometimes it’s best to start over with new furniture that’s curated to fit the space you have. 

The most important key is less is more. For example, it’s better to have one oversized bookcase versus a lot of smaller storage places around a room. Keep in mind the scale of the objects in your room. One key object acts as a focal point while smaller objects scattered about creates a sense of clutter. 

Another way to utilize a focal point is with an oversized object. We added an 8X10 rug into our space and it grounds the room while adding a touch of personalization. In our bedroom, I just added a giant mirror that’s both oversized and grand. But, because it’s the only large object in the room, it again becomes the key thing your eye lands on when you look at the space. 

An oversized rug is a great way to add a focal point to a space.

Do you have any tips for converting a bedroom into an office space?

Absolutely! Offices can be made anywhere, and any space can be adjusted to fit your needs. One idea is to move your clothes into an armoire and convert your closet into an office. You can add some pop lights to brighten the space, and remove the closet door to make the space more inviting. 

Another way is to utilize a corner space. Remember that your workspace doesn’t necessarily need a desk. A low shelf on the wall or even an ironing board with a bar stool will work! This workspace doesn’t have to be permanent, it just has to work. Be sure to add some personal touches like a lamp and candle to make the space inviting and somewhere you want to work. 

What are some of your best storage tips?

When you have limited space, it’s crucial to only keep what you really need to avoid over cluttering. If you don’t use it, lose it! When it comes to storage, try finding things that can have double purpose. For example, our coffee table is an old trunk where we store our extra living room items. Baskets are another fun way to store items. Find cute, quirky pieces that you can use to store less pretty items. Store them on top of bookshelves to add some flair. Lastly, see if you have any hidden spaces that can be converted for storage, such as under the bed. Our boys have Lego boxes stored under their bed that they can just pull out and play with. When they’re done, the toys go back under the bed like they were never there. 

The coffee table doubles as storage.

Where can we find some inspiration for smarter spaces?

Social media is a great place for source inspiration. I recommend stepping out from your style bubble and “trendy” accounts and find aspects of different styles that you enjoy. Venture out from your norm and diversify your feed with different design styles. Interior design blogs are a great source of ideas that are ahead of the curve. Stores source their inspiration from blogs, so why shouldn’t you do the same for your home? Here’s a list of designers to get you started on your home revamp journey: 

  • My personal blog and Instagram have some great inspiration for those looking to keep the Old Towne Orange style in their home
  • Laruen Liess’s blog is a great resource for the Euro natural style
  • Leanne Ford’s rustic aesthetic adds style to crisp clean spaces
  • Joanna Gaines and her company Magnolia are staples in the design community and sure to inspire you as well

The key thing to remember when redesigning your home is to make it yours in practicality and style. You define your space, so the sky’s the limit on what you can do to make it work best for you! Incorporate your personal style to make your home a place you truly love. ????

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Last Updated on May 24, 2023 by Pattie Cordova