Design & DIY

5 tips to make the most of small spaces through design

Rarely do our cottages compete with our homes in the square footage department, but look on the bright side: who wants to have that extra space to clean anyway? That means less maintenance and more time lounging on the dock. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your small cottage spaces.

Make furniture pieces work double duty

Why bring in a piece that has only one function when there are a variety of options that are multi-functional? Pullout couches provide soft seating and a place to sleep overnight guests. But forget the heavy, clunky hand-me-down version and opt for a more compact, sleek selection found affordably at your local big box or department store. Try a coffee table with built-in drawers to house board games, TV remote controls, and other small items that seem to gather at the cottage. An ottoman is a great addition to a comfy living space, but before you put your feet up, find one that duals as storage, where you can stash spare blankets, towels or pillows.

Scale is key

That overstuffed furniture may work in your great room at home, but there’s no place for it at the cottage. Look for couches, dining tables, and chairs that fit your space. Try a chaise lounge instead of a loveseat—it’s an unexpected option, but just as comfy. When it comes to your table, you don’t need something massive if you’re a family of four. For those occasions when you do entertain, like the annual family reunion, find a table that has an easily stored leaf (some even have a compartment built right in!). That way you can accommodate larger parties when need be, but you don’t have to sacrifice precious space every other weekend of the summer.

Build up

Shelving units are a great way to keep things organized and contained, but don’t stop halfway; try a floor to ceiling built-in. Not only does it make a great feature, but it adds much more storage than the average bookcase.

Lighten up

Dark wood paneling? Paint it out with a soft white. Nothing closes in a room like a heavy palette. Whether it’s dark paint or wood paneling, consider lightening even one wall. You’ll be amazed what a can of paint can do to lighten, brighten and give the illusion of more space.

Nix clutter

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many cottages are just crammed with stuff. Don’t be afraid to get rid of junky furniture—it does have a life cycle, respect it. Knickknacks can be fun at the cottage, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want your place to be mistaken for an antique stall! Give items like books, games and puzzles a home—either on a bookshelf or in decorative baskets that can slide under the coffee table. This will help keep things looking tidy and spacious!

In each episode of Weekend Reno, now on Cottage Life, the Channel, designer Michelle Mawby has one weekend to turn a tired cottage space into a refreshed haven. She and her team send the owners packing while they pull out all the stops to overhaul the space. The owners return as the transformation is revealed—a space the owners can truly enjoy during their cottage stays.

Learn more: Weekend Reno