Tips for Small Space Living

At the time of this post (2016), we were living in a small cottage, as you will hear. In 2017 we bought a 1600 1880 home about 3 blocks away that we are slowly renovating. 

If you are new to NellieBellie let me give you a quick run-down about my home and life.

  1. We rent a 900 square foot cottage.
  2. There are 2 adults, 2 teenagers, and a dog living in this space.
  3. We entertain at least 2 additional people at least once a week.
  4. My children have friends over at least once a week.
  5. I run NellieBellie from home.

I tell you those things so that you understand that this is not a show-house or a cabin. We LIVE here. Capital L I V E live! The tips and tricks I utilize in our space absolutely work and are essential, in my opinion, to not going bonkers in such a small space.

Why we choose to live a minimal lifestyle.Our current cottage upon moving in. I was standing at the back of the living room to take this photo.

For today’s post, I’ve used images from our current 900 square foot cottage AS WELL as images from our 1100 square foot apartment we lived in prior. 

Edit, edit, edit!

  • Those that live in and LOVE small homes will tell you that they have learned the art of editing their possessions. Before finding storage or organizing their things you must first edit your stuff. And then edit it again. And most likely, again. Until you find yourself with ONLY what you love and need. Only then is it worthwhile to find storage and organization supplies. Learn what I feel are the only TRUE essentials for a small kitchen HERE.
  • If you find that you don’t have storage or “a home” for everything…edit again. The skill of living in a small home doesn’t come from the owners ability to find storage but in their ability to understand what is essential for keeping. I personally would rather not waste precious square footage storing something I only “kinda” like or need “once in a while”. I have learned to edit those items out.

Tiny Home Tour- Living Room A tour of the living room of our small home. Don't worry, it won't take long smile emoticon. But I've packed this room with function, smart ideas, style, diy projects, and personality. If you are a renter or have a small might find some great ideas for your space!

This couch has storage inside for our board games as well as converting to a full-size bed for guests.

Make each item as beautiful as you can

  • In a small home, it is nearly impossible to stash away every item you use. Often your pots and pans are hanging on hooks, your bath towels are in baskets, even your extra seating is utilized in another way. Because EVERYTHING you own is used so often and so visibly, make it beautiful. In this way, it becomes part of your decorating and seemingly intentional. You know those magazine rooms where they have utilized props to make a room feel “lived in” and still gorgeous? Do the same thing. Except YOUR props are everyday items, not for show. Your cutting board is propped at the back of the counter. Your coffee mugs are hanging from hooks under the cupboard. And so, you get a gorgeous cutting board and beautiful coffee mugs. Make each item beautiful so that you are proud to display it and show it.


This little cabinet houses our dvd’s, electronics, and of course, our scrapbooks are stashed underneath!

Utilize every closed storage space available

  • This does NOT mean that every single item in your home has to function as storage in some way. Hardly. But, those places in your home that have storage such as closets, cupboards, cabinets, dressers, end tables, or under beds MUST be fully utilized. Spend a bit of money, if you can, to get closet organizers,  cupboard helpers, silverware organizers, and anything that will help you use your space wisely. Use the very top of closets to store seasonal items, the very top of cupboards for baskets of once-a-year baking supplies. Utilize under bed containers for seasonal clothing or for bedding. Utilize those closed storage spaces only for the items that are simply not very pretty to display.


Utilize “display” storage

  • This kind of storage is the secret of small homes, it’s what separates my itty home from some larger homes. EVERY SQUARE INCH of my home is being utilized for something. The walls, the side of the cupboards, the window sills, the stove-top. Everything. Often, you are looking right at my storage without realizing it because it looks like decorations. Clever! image
  • Use command hooks on the side of a cupboard to hang your pans (again…beautiful pans look like decorations!). Hooks on the side of a cupboard work great for hanging aprons (my aprons are beautiful vintage ones).
  • Utilize tension rods inside cupboards to help cookie sheets and cutting boards stand upright. Or, at the back of a cupboard for spices to set on.
  • Use your favorite set of canisters to hold your baking supplies on the counter. Decorative AND useful.
  • Your colander works great to hold fruit or veggies on the counter.


  • Hooks and tote bags work in any situation for any purpose. A hook and tote bag is perfect to stash keys and wallets inside the door. Or, on the side of a media cabinet for remote controls. Use one along side the couch to hold magazines, in the kid’s rooms for small toys, or even the laundry room to hold laundry pouches and dryer sheets.image
  • Finding ways to use your daily items as a decorative display is incredibly useful as storage solutions AND decorating solutions.

Make every item do double-duty

    • It is important that every item in a small home perform as many practical uses as possible. Sure, there might be an exception for a personal sentimental piece. But most small homes have a very high percentage of double-duty items. Items that are both beautiful and practical, have storage AND visual interest, are portable, are modular, have use for both formal AND informal, or can morph into another use entirely.

Here are some examples of double-duty items in my own home:
Small sectional with storage inside AND converts into a full-size bed.
Living room seating that moves into the eating nook for additional seating.a 900 square foot home with a family of 4 use a corner nook full of character and charm.Dining room seating that moves outside for additional patio seating.
Eating nook table is indoors/outdoors and brought outside for outdoor parties.
Baking cupboard that houses my mixer and baking goods (in closed storage!) but is portable and used for photography (gorgeous wooden top!).

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 1.33.53 PMIn the apartment, turned an old dresser into a movable island by adding wheels and an over-sized top. Of course hooks were on all sides for hanging pots & pans, colanders, and linens. This thing was wheeled around for serving and baking all the time!

Dresser turned kitchen island/serving bar
Camping footstools utilized for laptop tables, tv. tray’s, and foot stools.
Loft beds in the kids rooms that allow for video game and “hang out” space below.
Trunks for storage within as well as used as an end table.

A vintage cabinet that houses our house bar and table linens. The top is used to display my favorite art. (Note the cake stand holding a plant.)

For a full (rather, what rooms are currently on show) tour of my cottage home head to…

900 square foot cottage home tour

And a few pics, just for today, of spaces in my home not yet on tour…


My itty laundry space. I have since added tote’s and hooks to the wall to hold laundry packs and dryer sheets.

YouTube video

Not really a photo, this was a quick video I had done on my phone showing my Facebook readers my kid’s rooms. We had been chatting about ways to get as much space in their rooms as possible. I ended up putting simple loft beds in their rooms to give them maximum space. They only have the closet for clothing. But, they love using under their beds for space to spend time in their rooms.

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These are quick photo’s of our current bedroom situation. We use a family heirloom trunk as a side table and currently just have the bed on the floor so it doesn’t take up so much space. We will be purchasing a under-bed storage bed in the future. I’ll show more when we get further along here.


This was in our last apartment. I turned a very short, unused closet (you know those closets old homes can have that are pointless?) into a reading nook for Levi. He would head in there and use his tablet or read a book. In small homes, it is often hard to find space for each person to get away.


And this, is our current mudroom situation. I took this with my phone this morning so it’s real folks! This wall is directly across from my little laundry room and consists of nothing more than command hooks and crates. I used washi tape to give everyone a “section”. They are not allowed to have more coats and shoes than can fit in their section or risk paying me a fee. We all keep most of our shoes (what little we have:). I use a version of a capsule wardrobe which really reduces the size of my wardrobe!) in our closets.

I hope you got a real-life peek into what living in a 900 square foot cottage looks like for a family of four-and a dog. I’m more than willing to answer questions, brainstorm design ideas for YOUR space, and chat about living small!

9 thoughts on “Tips for Small Space Living”

  1. Thank you Alice! It’s an easy find…IKEA! I ran across it at IKEA and was blown away.

  2. I love love love your sectional couch with al the pillows and down to the color and fabric of it. The rest of your home is a delight also. Can you share where you purchased your sectional from; I have never seen one that had a storage area. You can email me at if you can”t post it directly. I would be very grateful for the information1! I look forward to reading and exploring more of your blog in the near future! Thank you for sharing your home and tips with such a warm and inviting way.


  3. Your home is so cozy and full of life! Your front door is so pretty and you know I love that ladder in the eating area! :-) I also love all the pieces on the wall around the TV. Your home is welcoming, fun and you can tell full of love! So happy I was able to join this tour with you this week!

  4. gave me so many simple ideas. I feel kinda guilty because my house, while not a mansion, has a lot more storage space than your home. Now I feel the need to declutter, give away to Goodwill, and clean up my living space. Then organize and utilize. I believe in clean open space for good energy to flow so thanks for giving me motivation to get started. your style and attitude!

  5. I sore you style! The TV area is stunning! And I love the clean line of your couch..perfect for a small space! And the fact that it has storage AND is a bed blows my mind. So awesome!

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