Small Space Living for Families

Small Space Living with Karla Dreyer: Urban Families

More and more cities are becoming densely populated and with that developers are building more attached homes that include both apartments and townhouses. With the increase in urban populations, vertical living dominates many city landscapes. With increased apartment living in major urban centre like Vancouver, Toronto and New York City – there is also a need for more family-centred dwellings. In this weeks’ feature, we spoke with award-winning interior designer, Karla Dreyer on how to make small spaces functional for families, a challenge that often comes up.

Rent it Furnished: As someone with children, and as a lifestyle and design expert, Im sure you have had clients who are apartment dwellers and have families.  What would you say is one of the biggest challenges for families in smaller spaces?

Karla Dreyer: I can relate to this as I’m a city dweller as a family of 4 and it’s tight quarters! I really think it starts with getting very clear on your style, what you love and what you can get rid of. You need to be constantly editing so that even your small space feels spacious to you.

RIF: What are some tips you can offer to families looking for condo, loft or non-traditional family homes?

KD: I love that more families are going the so-called ‘non-traditional’ route of condo living. I’d say think vertically. Bunk beds with storage are great for kids. Tall, thin bookshelves, furniture that is double duty like poufs or a coffee table that has storage. If the space is small it can still be designed beautifully, it’s all about being more intentional with what’s in the space, how you function and what your family lifestyle is.

RIF: When you are designing a space for a client with children how do you ensure that everyone has their needs met?

KD: It really is about how the family lives and functions in the space. For example, is the family room is for lounging and family movie nights? That will dictate the choices in furniture and storage options. Select a comfortable couch in a non-fussy fabric, a rug that is family friendly, cushions you can lay on. My kids use our coffee table as their play table or the dining table as where they do homework.  Think of how you can use one space for many things. When you know how the room functions and how you want it to feel, it makes choosing the actual items that much easier. Also, you don’t need to get smaller furniture. Most times, regular furniture fits just fine and will make the space appear bigger. It’s as much about functional pieces as creating spaces that work for your family.

RIF: What tips can you give families moving into a small rental space with children?

KD: For rentals, I love using decals for kids. They love them, and decals have come a long way to have the look of wallpaper but can be easily removed.  I always say paint the walls white if you can. It will make the space feel fresh and new. Use baskets everywhere when you are designing a space for kids, they are great for everything and anything and can easily be tucked on top of shelves, underneath coffee tables or organized into rows.

RIF: What about loft living with a family, or one room shared spaces be configured? How can this tricky layout be designed to make everyone happy?

KD: This is where you can create zones and rugs can be your best friend. In open spaces, you really need to define each space. Where you hang out, where you eat, sleep, areas that can provide some much needed privacy and of course storage pieces. Using bookshelves to provide some visual separation between main living areas and bedroom areas is a great way to define space

RIF: What is some necessary furniture or design tips for children’s bedrooms?

KD: Bunk beds, baskets, bookshelves. Go neutral in the basics and then let them add colour in the accessories.


RIF: What are some of your go to, multi-purpose furniture pieces?

KD: I love poufs and using them as extra seating, as small tables and footstools. My kids play on them all the time. There are also lots of fun coffee tables that double as seating and storage. Also picking dining chairs that can double as living room chairs can save on much needed space.

RIF: Lastly, where is your go to shopping spot either locally or online or both for the best multi-functional furniture?

KD: west elm, EQ3, CB2 all have some of the pieces I’ve mentioned. Resource Furniture is another spot that really specializes in small spaces and multi-functional furniture. Structube is another spot that has great condo size pieces at affordable pricing.

The Takeaway

Whether your family is about to move into a small urban space or you’re already living in one, making your space work for everyone will allow you to not only enjoy urban living, but also make your entire family feel comfortable. Selecting furnishings and using an interior designer mindset to ‘think vertically’ can help you to utilize as much space as possible. If you’re renting an apartment, check with your landlord or property management company for permission before painting or adhering anything to the walls. Or you can have one of our professional property managers to assist you.

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Rent it Furnished is a leading provider of luxury rental property in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa & New York. We represent over 3,000+ luxury furnished and unfurnished properties, providing full property management and investment real estate services to local and international clients.  To rent, buy or sell investment properties, please contact us at your local office.

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