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Small place? Create focused use areas.

This Boulder condo is warm and inviting.

Feeling cramped?

My daughter Zoë and her husband Joe lived in a 570 square foot condo in Boulder, Colorado. Zoë was pregnant with their first child, our soon-to-arrive granddaughter, Liliana. They toyed with the idea of renting out the condo and moving to a larger space, but ultimately decided to stay. They loved the site high up against the Front Range next to the Open Space trails. Planning ahead, Zoë asked me what they could do to make the space more livable.

Your new mantra: no wasted space!

In small space design, the obvious mandate is no wasted space! In the original design a diagonal wall cut across their Living Room creating a 45° corner in the adjacent bedroom. There were double doors between the two spaces. This worked during Joe’s bachelor days, but soon there would be three living there. My approach was simple: remove the diagonal wall creating more space in a newly squared off bedroom. This also created a small vestibule at the entry with enough room to place a chest of drawers for hats, gloves, and gear opposite the existing closet. In the bedroom the new corner became the location for a built-in floor-to-ceiling shelf unit.

Boulder condo bedroom

The squared off corner of the room provided an area for built-in shelves.

In designing for a small space, I create “focused use areas.” The original living area that served as living room and kitchen was long, and proportionately narrow, and all-inclusive. So to define the desired uses of the space, we built a half-wall of open bookcase dividing the living room from the kitchen. On the kitchen side of this unit we built a small, desktop for study, home office and laptop. While sitting at this desk you can see out of the window to the left and facing ahead, over and through to the chairs and futon of the sitting area beyond.

This sunny desk area provides a practical location for a laptop and iPod.

In the kitchen we fabricated a peninsula out of butcher block and pine where four or five stools create a very serviceable dining area for entertaining, food prep, unpacking groceries, etc.

Desk and shelf unit divides small living space into focused use areas.

This project was low-budget, high impact – a big living area inside a small house design. When we came together during a visit out west, we all pitched in: Joe, our son Jesse, and I did the carpentry. Zoë and Anne provided support in other essential areas like iPod management, food prep, cleaning and material runs, and of course, dreaming of our “new arrival.” In other words, we had fun!

We wanted to make a strong color statement to empower and unify the overall living area. Joe found just the right shade of earthy golden warmth and WOW, it all came together.

We reworked a long, narrow space and created small but clearly identified, designated “focused use areas” – for reading, sleeping, studying, storage, food prep, yoga/stretching, shelves for books, and room for a crib!

Small projects like this require perseverance. Joe, Jesse and Zoë completed the finishing details, such as painting, installing new electrical fixtures, some floor repair, walk-in closet shelving, and the installation of hardware.

Down the road when it came time to sell the place and move on, this sun-filled corner unit condo sold with ease and in record time too.

One Comment
  1. Zoe #

    Let me attest to the effectiveness of this design approach. Upon completion, our little home felt spectacular – warm, bright, and spacious!

    Thanks to the insights of The Healing Home and Nicholas Borrell Designs, this condo went from cramped and cluttered to spacious and functional … and Joe and I served dinner for five adults and a newborn, comfortably!

    February 27, 2012

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