flexibility in a small space


i think i have figured out the secret to living in a small space, long-term, with a growing family: flexibility. this front room (pictured) is the largest room in our house and it has served us as a dining room for the past five years. but, our lives have changed a lot in the past year and gone are the days of large gatherings and drawn-out meals (for now). in 2016, our large dining room wasn’t getting much use, but our sofa and netflix subscription (housed in our chilly basement) sure was. our dining room table is a special piece of furniture, though, and this is the only room in the house big enough to hold it. it was a tough call to disassemble it and put it into storage downstairs (so long, old friend), but i also knew it was silly to have roughly 20% of our limited square footage taken up by something that wasn’t serving us in our current season of life.

i think if you’re open to reimagining your space and you have the patience, energy and creativity to get after it, then you’ll never really run out of room, no matter how small your space might be. i try and think of our house as 800 square feet and not as a living room, dining room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. because our second bedroom was, in fact, an office for a while. and before that it was a walk-in closet. and our living room was a dining room and our dining room was a living room and our family room downstairs was a gym and now it’s just empty — waiting to be repurposed (master bedroom?) if we stay in toronto. of all the most common uses of indoor space — bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, family rooms, dens, dining rooms, breakfast nooks, playrooms, music rooms, craft rooms, gyms, offices, etc. — most people don’t need all of these things all at the same time. at one point, i needed an office because i was working on my graduate degree in the early mornings and on weekends. it was very helpful to have a room where i didn’t have to tidy up my books, notes and computer after every use. but i completed my degree about six weeks before frankie rose was born. at that point, we needed a nursery and i didn’t really need an office anymore; we changed the function of that room and, just like that, our space still fit our needs.


of course, being open to reimagining your space means being willing to break down your rooms, rearrange or discard old furniture and (if you’re me) repaint as your needs or interests change, but that’s a lot easier and cheaper than moving, especially if you’d be looking to move to a bigger space. at this point, i still don’t know if we’re moving west this spring, but decision day is nearly here. childcare is a competitive sport here in toronto and frankie rose has been on wait lists since she was a mere thought. our first choice place will be letting us know if we have a space for september by the middle of march and pierre and i decided that, if we still don’t have a firm offer to relocate to bc by the time we hear from the preschool, we’ll be accepting the spot (assuming she’s offered one) and staying in toronto for at least a few more years.

if we stay, i can already imagine all the different ways we can rearrange these six rooms as frankie grows up. when you include the basement, we actually have more room than i know what to do with. the point is, as long as we’re open to reassessing and changing how we use our space and don’t let an idea of what a room is supposed to be or what it has been trap us into using limited space inefficiently, then there’s really no reason we’ll ever need to move. we may be moving on for another reason (c’mon oceanfront), but it won’t be for lack of space! do you use any of your rooms unconventionally? or have you made any dramatic changes to rooms to accommodate growing kids? please share!