Ten years ago, I would have said raising a baby in an apartment wasn’t for me. Having grown up in New Zealand where a three-bedroom home complete with a backyard is the norm, apartment living was incredibly foreign to me.
My husband and I have lived in Sydney for almost five years. In that time, we have shared an apartment with another couple in Bronte, lived in a one-bedder in Bondi, then marginally upsized to a one-bedder with a sunroom. It’s in this space that we currently reside, along with our eight-month-old daughter, Sunny.
We choose to live in a small space because we choose to live in Bondi. We live 200m from the beach and I walk, explore, and play outside with Sunny daily while my husband swims or surfs after work, every day, without fail.
We’ve come to understand that you don’t need a big house to have space and you certainly don’t need your own backyard when you have Bondi on your doorstep. Here, I show you how the three of us make the most of living in a small space.
You want your space to feel cohesive so choose three base materials or colors and try not to stray too far. If you have a key theme running through the space, and you stick to it, it will always feel calmer and more relaxed, says West Elm stylist, Brendan Nash. “Remember to think about scale and proportion as it will always affect the way you live in the space. Keep in mind that clean and clear surfaces and the more of the floor you can see will have your space feeling bigger.”
Just because you have a baby, doesn’t mean you should get sucked into buying kid-themed furniture! If you’re living in a small space, you want it to feel more sophisticated than pre-school. Use your favorite rug as a play mat. Double up on bedroom drawers and use them as a changing table simply by adding a change mat to the top. And that Eames rocking chair you use as an accessory in your lounge room? Ideal as a feeding chair.
When creating a space for baby, remember that you will be spending a lot of time in there too. Perhaps you will even be sharing a room as we do! We created a space that was an extension of our overall style—we kept to our color palette of white, grey and wood then added a few little touches and bursts of color to make it unique for Sunny.
It’s a good idea to keep things uncluttered, so don’t feel that you have to fill every inch when accessorizing shelves or side tables. Try to keep things minimal and purposeful—the items in the space should either have a sense of sentimentality or personality, or they should be functional.
A round or misshaped rug is a great option for small spaces as it creates a connection between furniture without adding another rectangular shape. It’s also a good idea to ensure that the rug doesn’t sit under the sofa as this visually tightens a room. A sofa that is elevated off the ground can also add to the illusion of space.
Sometimes, it’s worth upsizing! We couldn’t live without our king size bed, but choose wisely, remember that you need to get furniture in and out of the apartment! Sleeping Duck beds come vacuum packed, meaning they’re literally a long, skinny tube on arrival, making them a breeze to fit through tight spaces or upstairs if necessary.
In our lounge room, our West Elm Box Coffee Table is the perfect choice for small spaces. The industrial-inspired base is light and open, giving not only the illusion of more space, but the simple silhouette gives a clean and uncomplicated look which is something to keep in mind when designing small spaces. The area underneath can be kept clear for an airy feel, or styled with baskets—which are perfect for storing magazines, remotes—and even toys and books!
While we technically have enough space for Sunny to have her own room—a one-bedroom with a sunroom—after she was born we realized that the sunroom was too loud and too bright, so we repurposed it into an office-come-playroom-come-storage room. You don’t have to fit within the norm. Have a walk-in wardrobe? Turn it into a nursery—babies really don’t need an awful lot of space!
Space aside, the best way to make a house a home is to inject a little personality. Artwork can really define your space—whether it’s a large painting, a collection of prints and photos or a grouping of gallery frames, these personal layers add a sense of character.
You might not have a backyard, but living in a small space is a great excuse to get outdoors! Find your nearest park or beach and make it a regular haunt. We start our day with a stroll along the Bondi promenade and spend hours on the South Bondi hill. Who needs a backyard when you have that kind of space on your doorstep!
Shop a selection of my favorite home décor items below.
Do you live in a small home with your family? Share your space-saving tricks with us!