It seems like just yesterday that big houses were all the rage. I remember ten years ago when I lived in Las Vegas driving through all the ritzy neighborhoods daydreaming of working and designing for the homeowners. After a year of working with a firm as an assistant I moved on to a firm that introduced me to the very people in those neighborhoods…my dream had come alive. However, I was shocked to find that most of the homes had little to no furniture. In fact, many had mattresses directly on the floor in the master bedrooms with nothing more than a $10 lamp. House poor but “image” rich, many drove Jaguars, BMW, and the like but no one ever knew their dirty little secrets. All that mattered was they harbored the correct zip code, wore the right clothes and drove the right car, so why would anyone question it?

Gone are the days of sinking all your money into a “McMansion” for the sake of impressing friends and neighbors. In fact many people I know are moving in together. Cohabitation I believe, is going to be making a comeback. A century ago we lived together as one unit, helping and supporting each other. Parents, spouses, and other family members all under one roof. And really, if the house is big enough, doesn’t it make sense?

A few weeks ago I received a note from one of my favorite readers, Theresa Springs. She has been following my blog since it’s inception and her and her family are going through this very thing. Her and her husband downsized their home about three years ago….only to find her son and his newly pregnant wife living with them a year later. Before she knew it her husbands brother lost his job and him and his son moved in as well. Her note to me: “Amanda, how on earth do you decorate a small but functional home for a large family?”

Great question Theresa! While it may seem overwhelming it isn’t impossible! And I must say, while personal space is at a premium, what a gift to be surrounded by family and having everyone chipping it. Here are some great tips to maximize your small space:

1) In the kitchen- rip out all upper cabinets and replace with open shelving. This does two things, opens up the space and makes everything in the kitchen work faster and smoother.

Kitchen Clarity

2) Storage-Get rid of any accent furniture that doesn’t serve at least two purposes and add unconventional pieces instead. For example, add a decorative dresser in the kitchen. It gives you plenty of storage and additional space to serve food. It’s also longer than a typical buffet. Score!

3) Small side chairs- Find odd ball chairs from flea markets and thrift stores. Paint them all the same color but keep them around the house for additional seating. Make sure they are small and easy to move so they can easily be moved around the house in a snap.

4) Glass doors- Home depot carries inexpensive glass doors off the shelf. Add them every where you can to create the illusion of more light and space. You can even add them to the bathroom, just add frosted glass.


5) Stripes- Add striped rugs on the floor to creat the illusion of more space. They also add warmth in the winter and make a home more cozy.

6) Drapes-Use sheers rather than heavy fabrics and take them all the way up the ceiling. It will make the room feel larger and finished.

7) Mirrors- Use mirrors in unusual ways. Have a stairwell across from a door with sidelights? Put a mirror there to grab the light and throw it upstairs. Install mirrors in hallways to make them bigger and place them in the dining room to make laughter, and food abundant!