Living large when space is lacking

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

I admit it: I'm a size queen.

I have a serious love of big houses.

I love the way my feet echo on the hardwood floors and the way my voice carries a little more than it should. I love the interior design possibilities when the rooms are large enough for any new and brash idea. I love moving through the rooms and soaking up that airy feeling.

But I also love old houses, and many old houses are on the smaller side. They have tiny rooms tucked here and there, bathrooms that scream out for more space, staircases that are impossibly narrow, and sometimes -- the most ironic issue of all -- massive bedrooms but not a single closet to be found.

Then comes the question: How do you make a small house seem larger?

Tricks for creating space where there is none

Old houses offer up plenty of challenges, but the issues of space can be solved with a few clever tricks. Best of all, you can employ these tricks without making any structural changes to your house, which means that your restorations can go on as planned.

Furniture does double duty.
When you choose furniture for your old house, make sure it is something that can either hide a storage space or serve as a storage space itself. A gorgeous tallboy chest can be perfect for storing linens. Boxes of all sizes can be tucked under high sofas or stacked neatly in corners. Those tall, elegant beds of yesteryear need just a long bedskirt and you have instant storage space. Get creative!

Let there be light. Dark rooms look even smaller, so lighten things up. If you don't need the window treatments for privacy, get rid of them. If you do need privacy, consider sheer curtains that block the view but not the light. Hang them on delicate cafe rods to keep things feeling airy. If you need to replace doors, look for those with glass inserts -- but only if they suit the spirit of the house, of course.

The seasonal switch. Make the most of a small closet or armoire by using it only for the clothes you are actually wearing during any given season. Winter clothes come out when the temperatures drop, and summer clothes go in the clever storage areas you have found under the bed or in the attic -- then switch it up when summertime hits.

Purge, purge, purge! Create a rule for things that you never wear or don't use -- if you haven't touched it in six months, it's time to send it to the donation bin. This is an absolute necessity for anyone who lives in a small house, whether it's an old one or not.

Outbuildings are wonderful things. If you simply must have more room despite your clever storage options, it's time to go outside the house. A small outbuilding can give you plenty of great space for storage, and that means you can avoid more extreme measures that might interfere with the historical look and feel of your home.

There really can be a place for everything and everything in its place -- it just takes a little more time and effort to make it happen in an old house.