Category Archives: Small-Space Solution

Creating a Home Office in the Living Room

Living Room Home Office secretary desk closedWhen you live in an apartment, space comes at a premium and you don’t always have an entire room to dedicate to your home office. But whether you use your office to work from home full-time or just to pay your bills, having a dedicated workspace is a necessary part of keeping your small space organized.

I had the luxury of a dedicated home office in our small rental home but recently gave it up to create the baby’s nursery.  As an alternative, I tried creating an organized office space in an unused corner of our living room that didn’t sacrifice the style of this space we use for entertaining.

Living Room Office secretary desk in useI set up my vintage secretary desk against some unused wall space between my living room and dining area.

A secretary desk is one of the best pieces of furniture for creating a low-profile office in a common area of your home. These desks usually have drawers on the bottom, shelves on top and a fold-out desk top that can be closed up to conceal your computer and other electronics at the end of the day.

Living Room Office desk comparisonThe upper shelves are perfect for storing office clutter, but style also matters when the workspace is trying to blend with an area that might be used for entertaining, like the living room. I kept things stylish with the following storage tricks:

  • A decorative white file box holds folders for my paper clutter, such as bills to pay, papers to scan or file, and coupons.
  • A shoebox and lid, wrapped in solid and patterned wrapping paper, contains notes and cards received.
  • Binders are a great organization tool, but they aren’t exactly decorative, so our household binders also got wrapped in wrapping paper.
  • A cubby holds blank notecards, while another holds a stamp dispenser and a pretty tea box for dumping loose change.
  • The addition of a few decorative objects amongst the “useful” storage on the shelf finishes off a polished look that complements the living room.

Using a desk with drawers offers the added bonus of extra storage space. While the top drawer of my desk stores office supplies, the lower drawers hold kitchen and dining linens that don’t fit in kitchen cabinets.

Living Room Office double duty drawer storageIf you don’t have a secretary desk, there are many other options for creating a workspace that blends with your apartment’s style.

In a modern space, the simple Parsons table provides a sleek workspace, and a laptop can be tucked in the middle drawer when not in use. In a more traditional living room, an antique or vintage wooden desk with big drawers could do the trick. The addition of a few small wall shelves above the desk provides more decorative storage space.

A few tips on making an office space blend in your living room:

  • A simple desk can double as a table when placed behind, or next to, your sofa.
  • When storing office items in plain sight, get creative with decorative containers.
  • If your desk lacks storage, a decorative ottoman with hidden storage and a removable lid could double as file storage and a coffee table or extra seat for guests.
  • Instead of adding clutter with a desk chair, find a seat that does double duty, such as a comfortable dining chair that can be moved back and forth between the desk and the table.
  • Keep cord clutter contained with cord wraps or clips. A tangle of cords cascading down the back of a desk and onto the floor will quickly make a space look less put-together.
  • Charge your electronics out of sight. A desk drawer can provide concealed charging storage; just drill a hole in the back of the drawer to pass the charge cords through.
  • In very small living rooms, consider letting your computer monitor do double-duty as your TV.

No matter how small your apartment, the key to sneaking an office space into your living room décor is to stay organized and keep clutter to a minimum. An organized space is always a happier space!

Living Room Office chair at secretary desk

Apartment Design Ideas For A Tiny Apartment

Today’s guest post on Apartment Design Ideas for A Tiny Apartment is sponsored by Apartment Guys

Whenever I have guests from overseas visiting, the first thing they say when they walk into my place, is wow this is big! If you are from another country or if you like to travel around the world, you will probably know that, when compared to the rest of the world, American homes and apartments like the ones seen here are well known for being spacious. But how much space is too much?

While UK has the smallest average home size in Europe, the US leads the rank of the largest ones. From a carbon emissions point of view the smaller, the better; as a smaller home involves less embodied energy to build, has lower heating and cooling needs, needs fewer furnishings, as well as it takes less time to maintain and, of course, requires less work to fund. But how small is too small? And how do you incorporate efficiency and sophistication to the design?

If you live in a tiny home there are several things you can do to make your place functional and yet sophisticated. After all, less is more.

apartment interior design

Choose the Right Furniture

Since space is an issue, look for multi-purpose furniture that will make your room look bigger. In the bedroom, instead of a traditional bed consider a bed with storage underneath. Your typical night stand can be easily replaced with a dresser for extra storage; and if you live in a studio your headboard can be the back of a finished bookshelf or wall unit. Also murphy beds or sofa beds are great options for studios or apartments with an extremely limited amount of space. In case your bedroom is long and narrow, replacing your bed’s footboard with a wider dresser is a great way to add more storage to the space.  When designing the living and dining rooms think outside the box and consider floating the furniture instead of placing them against the wall. In extra small spaces, the dining table can also serve as a sofa table when placed behind the sofa. Don’t’ be afraid of trying something different or using furniture as room dividers.

Create Rooms with Rugs

Yes, you read it right. If you live in a studio or in a place with an open concept floor plan, you can easily divide the space by placing area rugs throughout the space. More than a design element or an investment, rugs are also great room dividers. I personally love incorporating area rugs or modular carpet tiles into small spaces. By keeping the walls and the furniture neutral, I bring some pops of colors to the room with rugs. If you are a very creative person, modular carpet tiles are the way to go as you can mix and match while creating a one-of-a-kind area rug.  Available in different sizes, colors, and patterns, modular carpet tiles allow you to design a room that is functional and inviting at the same time.

hardwood floor rug

Design with Wallpaper

Wallpaper is a great solution to define spaces or enhance specific areas, and small space residents can benefit a lot from wall coverings as they can be used to add drama and sophistication to the headboard wall on a bedroom, to enhance a fireplace wall, or even to define a dining or living room.

Think Vertical

Although it might sounds obvious, a lot of people tend to forget how much room they can get when thinking vertical. By selecting a storage system that can be expanded up to the ceiling, you will maximize the amount of storage in your home. For a more contemporary look, consider systems that come with doors or drawers. If you have a lot of collectibles, look for a wall unit with several open areas so you can display them too. When it comes to design, there is no such a thing as one size fits all. Next time you are in the market for a room makeover, be bold and experiment something new.

Andrea Vollf_headshotVK Sustainable Concepts’ Principal Andrea Vollf, LEED AP ID+C, is a registered interior designer and sustainability professional with over fifteen years of experience in the interior design and marketing industries.. Connect with Andrea on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

College Flashback & Dorm Room Decorating Tips

When I saw my neighbor and teenage daughter coming home from shopping, their arms piled high with bedding and electric teakettles and storage bins, I realized that it’s almost time for kids to head off to college.


College, week 1.

In the fall of 1997 I headed to Richmond, VA and moved into a cinder block dorm room with a random girl from Atlanta.  January of freshman year, I arrived back at the dorm with an ancient coffee table in tow. Over Christmas I’d painted it sky blue with some leftover paint, and once in the dorm I popped it under my lofty bed. I was able to put my storage containers under it, but then pull the table into the center of the room when friends were hanging out.

I remember sitting around that table with my friends, sipping wine or espresso . . . which was brewed by Melissa.  If we’d added some pretty floor cushions and tossed down a rug, we would really have been rocking a boho chic vibe.

But where did Melissa like to brew that espresso? On the coffee table under my bed, of course. It was our “coffee station.” Never mind that many nights she was brewing it at 2 am while I lay there trying to sleep, and too quiet to tell her “hey, that’s really loud and obnoxious. . . would you mind not grinding coffee beans at 2 am?”

Despite that quirk, and the fact that my foster pets peed on some of her stuff during senior year, Melissa and I remained fast friends.  Last year (15 years later), she was my maid of honor at my wedding . . . and neither of us is grinding coffee under each other’s beds any more. :)

Jane Melissa Wedding1

15 years later . . . with better hair.

Not everyone is that lucky with their freshman year roommate selection . . so I am so thankful for how my situation turned out.

Anyway, there’s nothing more “borrowed” or hard-to-decorate than a college dorm room, so I figure it’s my duty to provide some suggestions for dealing with those cinder block cells.

1. Don’t shop before you plan!

If possible, wait until you arrive to buy storage and organization options – especially if you’re a freshman and have no idea what the room will be like! Imagine if you went out and bought a ton of dorm room accessories and organization / storage systems only to arrive and discover that your new home for the next 9 months doesn’t mesh with the stuff you bought? Talk about a bummer.

2. Arrange Furniture to Create “Stations”

Melissa and I got the best use of space our junior year when we arranged our furniture to create stations – i.e. the beds were in the back of our room, divided from the rest of the space by our bookshelves and desks. This created a kind of entryway nook by the door, and a small “kitchen nook” as well. It worked so well – almost like having 2 rooms instead of.

3.  Coordinate your bedding

A room with coordinated bedding is instantly transformed.  Just take this example of an uncoordinated one:

Undecorated Dorm Room

Source unknown. Via Pinterest.

Then look how much more exciting this red and teal version is, with the coordinated bedding, window treatments, and headboards:

Red Teal Coordinated Dorm Room

Via My House My Home

4.  Dress up the Windows

Is there any decor uglier than dorm windows and blinds?  Maybe not.  Use a tension rod to hang some sweet floor-to-ceiling drapes over those windows, or use Command hooks to hold a curtain rod if a tension rod won’t work.

5.  Create a Faux Headboard

I didn’t do this, but thinking back it could have made such an impact on the room.  Hang a few yards of fabric behind your bed using push pins. Or, if you’re dealing with cinder block walls (like I did!) sew one side of a command adhesive Velcro strip to the back of the fabric and stick the other side on the wall.

6. Desk

If you have a hideous, old wooden desk like I did, you could cut a pretty piece of fabric to fit on the top, then cover it with a piece of plexiglass in the exact same size as the top.  Jen at IHeart Organizing did this and it transformed her desktop:

Via IHeart Organizing

Via IHeart Organizing

Too much work? How about covering it with some removable contact paper in a pretty pattern?

7. Under Bed Storage – Make it Pretty

You’ve got to make good use of your under bed storage space. Choose clear plastic rolling bins, plastic stacking drawers, wicker baskets, suitcases, you name it – the point is, max out that space. But keep it organized!

You’ve got storage, now what?  Dress up the traditional plastic rolling bins or drawers by adding pretty contact paper to the fronts.  Or consider treating yourself to a few of these Rump Roosts from Bungalow.  They’re sturdy enough to sit on!

Scout by Bungalow Rump Roost | The Borrowed Abode

Via BungalowCo

8. Bath Stuff
Finally, since your bath towels will most likely be visible from the rest of the dorm room, why not buy some in colors that coordinate with your bedding and other décor? This will only enhance the cohesive, happy look of the room.

If you or someone you know has created an awesome dorm room, I’d love to see it!  In the mean time, for more dorm room decorating ideas, check out my board on Pinterest.

Window Shopping: Society in Bishop Arts

The last two weeks of April are absolutely insane at my job. . . and working extra hours means losing blogging hours.

However, I wanted to pop in and share a beautiful shop that I fell head over heels in love with during my trip to Dallas in March. After my trip to Blissdom, my blog friend Katie and I spent the day exploring the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff, an “up and coming” area with just a few blocks overflowing with indie-business awesomeness.

Society  Bishop Arts Dallas  The Borrowed Abode - 5

My favorite of them all was Society, a home decor and candle company that is owned by a small interior design company.  Their shop only opened a few months ago, so the website isn’t up yet, but for now you can find them on Facebook.

The tiny shop is a great lesson in going “up” the walls when you don’t have a lot of horizontal space to work with!

Society  Bishop Arts Dallas  The Borrowed Abode - 6

The “number” candles are their very own line of lifelike scents, handmade in Dallas.

Society  Bishop Arts Dallas  The Borrowed Abode - 3

I was excited to discover them carrying my favorite brand of Virginia-made candles, Sydney Hale.

Society  Bishop Arts Dallas  The Borrowed Abode - 7

The decor and display that was squeezed artfully into the super small shop just amazed me.  I especially loved the galvanized steel shelving.  Society  Bishop Arts Dallas  The Borrowed Abode - 2

Society  Bishop Arts Dallas  The Borrowed Abode - 1

If you’re in the Dallas area, I highly recommend visiting the Bishop Arts District, but don’t rely on public transportation, because the train doesn’t go there.  Yet.  It appears that it’s not very safe to wander beyond the gentrified blocks.  I am puzzled that the businesses were revitalized into a very hip, very bustling mini-district, while the surrounding neighborhood appears to still be in decay.

If you’re familiar with the area, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!