Making the Most of Every Inch

A wall bed, also known as a Murphy bed and shown here while not in use, can help you get the most out of a small room. Filling a wall with built-in cabinets or a flexible storage system can also help save space.
A wall bed, also known as a Murphy bed and shown here while not in use, can help you get the most out of a small room. Filling a wall with built-in cabinets or a flexible storage system can also help save space. (Old Creek Wall Bed Factory Via Associated Press)
By Alan Zibel
Associated Press
Saturday, December 20, 2008

If you have a tiny room that you're thinking about as a bedroom for your child or a guest, getting the most out of a small space is a challenge but not an insurmountable one.

Think carefully about what space you have and whether you can use furniture that folds away or has more than one purpose. Loft beds, which allow a desk underneath, and Murphy beds are good space-savers. Also, filling up the wall with built-in cabinets or a flexible storage system are great options.

For example, the Container Store sells a $633 wall-mounted Elfa shelving system that's designed both as storage space and a kid-size desk. For adults, similar office shelving and desk systems cost anywhere between $335 and more than $1,000.

A good way to save space without spending too much is to turn old dresser drawers into under-the-bed storage containers, said Kathy Wilson, editor of TheBudgetDecorator.com. In a small bedroom, it's essential to put things in their place. "Keep clutter to an absolute minimum," she said.

To create the illusion of a larger room, Wilson advises painting woodwork and trim the same color as the walls. Also, use light colors and make sure that curtains and blinds don't block the window. "You want as much light in the room as possible," she said.

Elizabeth Mayhew, special projects editor at House Beautiful magazine, lives in a three-bedroom co-op apartment. Her 8-year-old son's room is a "classic New York shoebox" -- about 6 1/2 feet wide by 12 feet long.

To maximize the space, she had a cabinet maker build floor-to-ceiling drawers and cabinets on one wall of her son's room. Everyday items are in the bottom three drawers. There's also a tiny desk.

"You have to maximize every bit of storage," Mayhew said. "You have to use that space under the bed. you have to use your wall space efficiently."

Mayhew says trundle beds are great for a kid's room if your child has friends sleep over. Or, for studio apartments, a day bed such as Pottery Barn's $650 Savannah daybed (another $50 adds a trundle) can make a decent couch during the day and a twin-size bed at night.

She's not a big fan, however, of bunk beds: "It dominates the room," she said.

Another of her decorating tips: Use a striped rug to give the illusion of space.

Wall beds, also known as Murphy beds after inventor William L. Murphy, are another option. They are popular among empty-nesters who want their guest rooms to double as exercise rooms or offices, says Kristin Johnson, marketing director for Old Creek Wall Bed Factory in Corvallis, Ore.

About 70 percent of the company's business comes from that market, she said, with the rest coming from urban dwellers in places like New York and Washington. The company's fold-down beds cost $1,900 to $2,500 and can be installed by the homeowner.

"People are trying to find new creative ways to use and optimize their space and keep it as a functional space but also get the most use out of it," she said.


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