Three Rooms for the Price of Two

>> Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What has the cats so upset? We moved all their favorite hangouts! Here's the deal. Stephen and I really enjoy our tiny house. It's just a touch over 1,200 square feet. A small kitchen. A dining room. A large-ish living room. Three bedrooms. A lonely bathroom. And that's it. Thing is, despite how smart we've tried to be with our spaces, we always felt cramped. Something HAD to be done. But what? First I examined the negatives.

The living room was totally taken up by our large sectional couch and coffee table. There really wasn't any flow. No feeling of openness. Just clunky furniture. Things blocking other things. Yeah.

I wasn't too keen on the color scheme either. It felt cold. Impersonal. No matter how many throw pillows or new curtains we bought, something just wasn't right.

The dining room, as I mentioned in my last post, was wasted space. Pretty space, but still wasted space. Though I loved the decor . . . I believe we ate dinner at the dining room table maybe . . . twice? The entire 2+ years we've lived here.

So, Friday during my lunch, I tried thinking of new paint colors. I thought maybe a splash of neutral would magically make these spaces more useful. I thought maybe a nice tan would warm things up, make us feel more at home. The rest would just fall into place. However, the more I got thinking about it, I remembered that I absolutely HATE painting. Maybe something ELSE could be done.

With pen in hand, I started drawing out a (very) rough layout of our current spaces. Then I drew it again, but this time I tried moving the couch to another wall in the living room. Then I realized there weren't any outlets where I wanted to put the TV. So, I drew it again. This time, I moved the couch to yet another wall, but then everything else got out of order. I drew the layout again and again and again.

FINALLY I got this insane idea to flip the rooms. I thought long and hard about why we hadn't used the dining room at all. Actually, the dining room felt rather cramped. And we always piled mail on the table. Or coats. Or packages. Or other random stuff. If I could move it to the other room, it would take far less space. We didn't even need the "buffet" table behind it. That could be used as the TV stand. The game storage cube would make a great coffee table.

I mean, we'd changed things around before. Just check out these EARLY photos of the two rooms. Yikes!

Then it hit me: I could get THREE rooms for the price of TWO. All we needed to get was a small love seat. We could even get rid of some of the furniture that was taking up so much space. I drew the layout once more and then folded it, put it in my pocket, and brought it home. The first thing I said to Stephen was: "Uhh, I kind of want to do something crazy. Will you please just trust me?"

He's so great. He immediately got to work moving the furniture. We moved a lot on Friday night, but the place was a total mess. The next morning, our neighbor came over to help stow away some of the stuff we didn't need (it's in our basement until we figure out if we want to sell or keep it). We moved everything into place. Then we headed out to Home Goods, Target, TJ Max, and even Wal*Mart for accessories.

Here's a quick summary of what we bought.

  • 2 glass lamps, $100 total
  • Stuff to fill those lamps, $15
  • Area rug, $20 (in clearance at Home Goods)
  • Curtains, $60
  • Pillows, Free (already had 'em)
  • Couch, $450 (is also a sleeper, twin mattress)
  • Side chair, Free (borrowed from upstairs)
  • End tables, Free (took from bedroom)
  • Other decorative items, $40
  • Art, Free (already had, just hung on walls)
TOTAL: $685

  • Area rug, $130
  • Curtains, $70
  • Decorative throw, $20
  • Pillows, $60
  • Art, $25 (12 frames for $1 plus cheap 5x7 prints of my own photography)
  • Coffee table, Free (took from old living room)
  • TV stand, Free (repurposed)
  • Lamps, Free (took from bedroom)
TOTAL: $305

This brings the grand total for both rooms (or should I say all THREE rooms) to just under $1,000. So, while it isn't the cheapest room makeover we've ever done, it is somewhat priceless with all the added spaces and new purpose to those spaces. The flow is so much better now. There's no bumping into one another. We have that cozy feeling we've wanted for so long. And here out favorite part: We like to have parties, and now we have seating for at least 15 people. Before, we had the seats, but we were always having to lugs chairs from one room to the other. Then there wasn't any space. Basically, the new look isn't only gorgeous, it's fantastically functional.

Here are some more photos of the living/dining room:

TV/Family room photos:

I had this theory that we might not need to paint if we could use the right accents to warm everything up. And I was right. Not a drop of the wet stuff was brushed or rolled anywhere in either room. Instead of punching up the color with blues and greens everywhere, we opted for cream, tan, brown, and other more neutral accents.

Picking the art was my favorite part. I ordered prints of some of my better photos and hung them in cheap, $1 frames. For the collage, we traced them on paper before hanging. Instead of measuring, we kind of eyeballed it. Then we hammered the nail through the paper.

It worked well. Except the cats tried to help . . .

I guess the last thing worth mentioning is the table display. Now that we don't have a light over our dining table, I feel it makes more sense to have an elaborate tablescape (oh, that word is so weird!). We embraced our inner-geeks and just went with some books and other natural items.

So, that's how we went from having two cramped, dysfunctional rooms to three awesomely usable, beautiful spaces we can't get enough of. It's been terribly difficult to tear myself away and go to work, I'll be honest. I guess if I have one word of wisdom for those of you out there looking to transform your own home and apartments, it's this: Think FUNCTION FIRST. You won't be sorry. Everything else can fall into place later . . . but if you don't have the ability to use the rooms, you're just wasting valuable space.

Also, never disregard the value of open space. Sometimes room to breathe is more valuable than another side table or accent lamp. And don't be scared to borrow furniture from other rooms. Right now, our bedroom is in shambles, but I'm happy because the end tables we stole work SO much better on either side of a couch than they do with our bed. Plus, it's fun to play around with the stuff you have and see it work in different ways.

Have you redesigned any of your spaces lately? Many of you said you live in apartments and -- therefore -- don't have the flexibility to do much. I feel for you. I have some more tips I learned throughout our adventure that I'll be sure to share in the coming weeks. We tried very hard to keep this particular project on a tight budget. I'm impressed with our tab -- if we hadn't bought that couch, we would have only spent around $550. I'd say that was more than worth it!

Anyway, just leave a comment with your tips. Or you can email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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