Pint-sized bedrooms provide big design, organization challenges

By Judy Stringer
on February 09, 2014 at 5:00 AM

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Quite often, first-time renters find themselves squeezed into bedrooms that are smaller than they anticipated. The scenario, of course, is not limited to newbies. Those relocating from a suburban apartment to a downtown loft may have to trade square footage for a cosmopolitan lifestyle, and moving in with a new roommate can mean more of your belongings have to find a home in your limited personal space.

The secret to giving your pint-size bedroom the illusion of grandeur is choosing the right furniture, keeping clutter in check and maximizing storage, according to local design and organization specialists. When laid out properly, a small bedroom can be transformed into a welcoming and comfortable refuge.

Simplify Furnishing

Large, bulky pieces of furniture not only eat up space, but they make the room appear smaller. To bring some openness, opt for furnishings that are modest in dimensions and even streamlined in design, said interior designer Pamela Bayer of Hudson-based Pamela Bayer Interiors.

"Steer away from sleigh beds or canopy models with ornate and rounded features," she said, "and look for a platform bed or some other style that will sit flush against the wall."

Better yet are beds that include some storage either in a headboard or in drawers built into the bottom of the frame. While some of these models might be too contemporary for some renters' tastes, you can bring a traditional edge to the bed with a floral or paisley quilt, Bayer said.

Be very deliberate about other pieces you bring into the room as well. If you can mount bedside lamps on the wall, for instance, that can save floor space eaten up by nightstands or standing lamps. The same can be said about mounting televisions.

Another space-saving idea, according to professional organizer Patty Clair, owner of Shaker Heights-based Keeping It Simple, is to use "ladder shelving" by your bedside that will provide many levels for storage rather than a traditional nightstand.

Nicole Lincoln, owner of The Organized Ladybug in Gates Mills, said space-conscious renters also should look for pieces of bedroom furniture that can do double duty. An attractive armoire can serve as both a decorative piece of furniture and "useful storage unit for anything ranging from a television to clothing to home office supplies," she said. Use a chest rather than a bench at the end of the bed so you can store off-season clothing or blankets.

Cut down on Clutter

Clutter makes spaces seem smaller too, said Clair. Want a bigger room? Take the time to go through it and purge whatever you can, she advised. That begins with defining how you want to use the space. Will it be just for sleeping? Do you want a comfortable reading spot in the room? Do you need space to work or study?

"If the item or piece of furniture does not help you to achieve your goal(s) for the bedroom, then it likely needs to find a new home," Clair said. "For example, if you are planning to use your bedroom for sleeping and reading only, perhaps having a television in the room that will take up valuable space is not a good idea."

Pay special attention to the tops of dressers and nightstands. The less clutter on these surfaces, the better, she said. And, be careful not to add to the problem by accumulating unnecessary items. A good rule of thumb, Lincoln said, is to take something out of the bedroom each time you bring something new into it.

Maximize Storage

If you have a small bedroom or just want more space, you need to have smart storage options in the room. Don't overlook vertical space whether it is on the inside of your closet door or on blank walls, Bayer said. Floating shelves won't take up space on the floor and can be a great place to display photos or store books and knick knacks. Over-the-door shoe racks work well in the closet for storing jewelry, belts or scarves. You can also add some hooks to the back of your main door for coats and bags.

Don't forget about the wall area above dressers, headboards and armoires. Clair said those vertical spaces are perfect for shelving since the furniture below is already taking up floor space.

Underneath your bed is another very useful storage space, according to Lincoln.

"There is a wide selection of storage containers that can slide underneath a bed," she said. "Each container should contain like things and be clearly labeled. Whether it is winter sweater storage or your gift wrapping system, those things that you do not need immediate access to will be out of the way."

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