Simple Kitchen/Dining Room Space Saver Ideas

I've only lived on my own for 6 years, but I feel like a small space expert. I suppose 2 years of only being able to call a bedroom and walk-in-closet your own as a family of 3 followed by 9 months in a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment will do that to a person.

My small spaces forced some creativity.

My most used kitchen tools in easy reach in a pretty vase.

My husband bought me flowers that came in the same vase two years in a row for my birthday. Of course, I noticed; but I did not care, because, honey, if you want to get me flowers I do not care if they come in the same vase every time. I rejoice in the thought!

On a side note, the second time I got this vase, I was teaching 5th/6th grade. My husband ordered a gerber daisy flower arrangement because this girl loves the friendliness and colorfulness of the gerber daisy (I think of Meg Ryan saying in You've Got Mail "Daisies are the friendliest flower" while stuffing kleenex into her robe). So the flower delivery guy comes into my classroom and delivers my flowers. I thank him and read my note. I am one happy girl, my students are "oooh-ing" and "aw-ing" and then 2 minutes later the flower delivery guy comes back in with another arrangement, this time a single rose arrangement. My very smart husband ordered the arrangement I love, then ordered the cheapest arrangement and had them make 2 deliveries. I was surprised and felt so loved! So, if for some odd reason a man reads this blog, take note: it takes a phone call to a flower shop and $39.95 to make a woman happy and an extra $14.95 to make that happy woman uncontainably overjoyous and thinking to herself what a find she has in her husband... not to mention thinking how she can thank him back... just saying. By the way, I never cared cared that it was the cheapest arrangement; most women won't.

While my sister was helping figure out how to configure my tiny studio apartment, we stumbled across the vases while unpacking and decided to use them to put my kitchen utensils in. Pretty and Functional. Sums up this idea and sums up the way I like my living spaces.

My cute little kitchen in the studio apartment we lived in. Love how the pops of color on the vases in my relatively monochromatic space make the kitchen fun and bright.

Pretty and Functional. Yup that's pretty much it. And the vases proved to be so pretty and so functional, I decided to keep them when I got a kitchen that actually had the drawer space to contain my spatulas.

The "Dining Room" in our studio apartment.

A Couple More Space Saving Freebies:

1. Place Dishes on shelves: Saves you cupboard space and keeps a small kitchen feeling open.

2. Large Cutting boards can easily turn a sink into an extra work surface. Ikea has a large one for only $10 if I remember correctly. (Pretty much, if you are going to be living in a small space, a trip to Ikea is very justifiable). This is also great if you have surprise company and dirty dishes in the sink. Plop that cutting board down over your sink, light a candle on top, and just like that your mess disappeared.

3. Think soothing and clean monocromatic color scheme with pops of color. Loved my subtle spa blue color in my apartment. I blew up some of my own pictures in black and white prints and placed them in matted frames for some personalized wall art. (Frames came from Ikea for really cheap and pictures were turned into black and white prints for really cheap at Walmart). Also, adding a couple of items in black help ground a space. (Notice what those black chairs do in the dining room picture... a couple of black items point out the ethereal-ness of the room. They actually help the room seem bigger.).

4. Kitchen Island. We refinished an old microwave table hidden in my parents garage and turned it into our island. It was perfect: storage underneath, work surface on top. We sanded the top and left it in it's wood finish (We just oiled it. You can purchase butcher block oil or just use some olive oil.) and spray painted the rest white.

5. A tall dining table that can double as a work space/island. Pull the chairs away and its an island, clear it off and add the chairs and its your dining room table.

6. The 21" oven/stove. We found ours off on craigslist for $50. Sure big meals were a little complicated (even though it has 4 burners, 4 large skillets will not fit at the same time); but it was the happy middle ground between no stove or a stove that prevented us from opening our refrigerator door.

7. Stacking Appliances. Microwaves have a great flat surface on top of them and since we had little counter space and the microwave and coffee pot were 2 appliances that we could not hide away in cupboards, we stacked them.

8. Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude! I called our small space our New York City Studio Apartment Adventure. Grant it, I could not be farther from New York City, but that attitude kept me reminded of the fact that I am not the only one hacking it out in a small space and that this really could be an adventure. No matter how thankful I was when we could leave, I absolutely cherish the time spent in that space. It was an adventure!

Small Space Nursery

Not sure what it is about my babies and closets, but my daughter and now my son have had their nurseries in my closet. I guess it started because at 5 months pregnant with my daughter, we got the news that the company my husband ran with his father was done, and, because of some bad tax advice, not only did he not have a job, we owed in back taxes. We had no choice but to move in with my parents. It was definitely a hard season of our life, but one that we learned a lot and grew stronger as a couple.

I guess there is just a stubborness (probably if you asked my husband, he wouldn't guess, he would know) inside of me. I determined that in spite of circumstances I WAS NOT going to lay down and allow life's circumstances to rob me of what I thought were necessary things: a nursery and decorating for a baby. Now on my second child, I can tell you it was the hormones talking. These are not necessary, but they sure make a woman feel better. I smile to think that one day my kids may grow up and laugh about being placed in the closet, but I have the proof in pictures that I made the most of it. You can't deny this momma's love or her desire to give her children the very best. I hope I teach them how to LIVE (not just survive) through the trials of life.

The closet was a perfect space for an infant: close enough to mom and dad to hear baby's cries, close enough to be very convenient to answer those cries, just far enough away to not be kept awake by baby's breathing, most come with doors if you need a sense of privacy, and everything you need for changing, swaddling, diapering, etc. is in arm's distance. I am now a closet-nursery advocate!

Adelaide's Nursery
I liked the nursery in my closet so much I decided to do it again. I won't say I LOVE it. I would LOVE a closet all to myself (a girl should be allowed this small piece of selfishness). If I had a third bedroom, my baby would have been put there. But when faced with the choice of placing my baby in his sister's small room on the other side of our place or in our large closet. I chose the closet. So, no, I will not take offense if you opt for a "normal" nursery, BUT, if you are faced with small space issues or trying times, the closet is a great option... an option I LIKE.
The Changing Station with my custom wall art from past project and changing pad cover from a project I have yet to blog.
Jedidiah's Nursery. It's a little less "decorated" than his sister's, but this one has to function as our closet, his closet, changing station and sleeping space. A lot of function for a 4 1/2x11 closet!
 Small Space Nursery Suggestions:
  • Think Function. Use the Rods in the closet for your baby's clothes (or your clothes). Use the shelves for storage (though I recommend not placing anything on shelves above where your child sleeps... at least not anything that could potentially fall and hurt your baby).
  • Hanging Shelves. Brilliant canvas shelves that hang on closet rod. It's where I keep all my cloth diapering supplies. I got mine at Babies R Us but I have seen them in the closet organization sections of Walmart and Target.
  • The Mini-Crib. They are the same size of a portable crib (the length of a twin bed headboard and a little over half that in width). It should last your child until they are 18-24 mos. (and if your child is anything like my daughter you will have to switch to a toddler bed at some point during this time anyways simply because she keeps climbing out of the crib.) Only downside to a mini-crib, there are next to no cute bedding options (I didn't have a hard time finding plain fitted sheets and bumper pads, but there is not much variety in the way of sets). The mini-crib can be really cheap or even come made to last and grow with your child like some full-sized cribs do.
  • Lingerie Dresser. Because these bad boys are skinny and tall, they take up very little space and are just the right size for tiny baby clothes. We redid a funky one from the 70's. We replaced the drawer fronts by making new ones out of MDF board, painted it, and put on some new drawer knobs that my mom and I hand-painted to go with the farm theme. (Because these dressers are so tall they need to be strapped to wall when your baby starts to cruise to prevent it from falling over on your child. We just screwed a scrap piece of 2x4 to the wall and then screwed the dresser into that.)
  • Dresser with changing table on top. I thank the Lord for this everyday. I made the lack of a dedicated changing table work with my daughter (we just kept a travel changing pad handy near her crib and used that until we had to lower the bed, then we used the floor and changing pad). But if you have the extra bit of space for a dresser that is a large enough to put a permanent changing pad on top and diapers nearby... DO IT!
  • Keep wall colors light. You want a nursery not a dungeon or cave. A closet easily can feel like that if you go overboard on the paint colors and wall decor.
  • Curtains. Ikea sells a track curtain system that can be placed on the ceiling if the closet isn't an option and you want a dedicated space for baby. We spent 9 months in a 400sq ft studio apartment with our toddler and it's how we made it work. I told Adelaide it was her princess bed... she loved it. (By the way, I found inexpensive fabric that worked great at blocking light, and then dressed it up by buying an extra sheet from her bedding set and adding it to curtains as an accent. I think it cost me $40-$50 with the fabric, the sheet, and the track system)  I think it's important to find a way to dedicate a space for the baby, mostly just so that mom and dad have a space that is their own.
Addy's Princess Space in our tiny studio apartment. I wish this picture showed the track system... but I am sure you can check it out on Ikea's website or at your local Ikea store.

 I think the point behind all of this, is to make the most with what you got. Don't fret, momma, because circumstances and space limitations don't match your ideals for your baby. You want your child to have the very best, but I promise you the "very best" you can give your child is your love. Chances are, if you are looking on the internet for how to make your small space special for your baby, you already have that going on.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family! 

Oh! And I would love to see pictures of your "small space" nursery!