6 design lessons we can all learn from tiny homes and micro suites

Micro suites are a quickly growing building trend in the Okanagan and throughout BC, but in other major cities, they are simply called “apartments.” In densely populated cities like New York, Tokyo and Paris, it isn’t unusual to pack your entire life into a space that is 300 square feet or less. In Kelowna, homeowners are just getting used to the idea, and many of the new micro suites are commonly thought of as student housing that isn’t designed for “real life.”

We’ll be the first to admit that these tiny spaces aren’t suitable for every lifestyle, but there are some great lessons that they can teach us about design and living, whether your home is 500 square feet or 5,000.

Photos: Giphy.com / small & tiny home ideas

1. Less is More

When people live in a small space, they learn the value of things. There is no space for “stuff,” so everything you purchase must be practical, and everything that you keep must have a significant value (sentimental or otherwise). We could all stand to do a purge from time to time, but people who live in a micro suite live that life every day and are better for it. Even something as simple as gift-giving changes as you begin to value experiences over goods. For example, a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant rather than a vase or sweater, which the homeowner then has to store.

2. Storage Space is Everywhere

Most homes in North America waste a lot of space. In cities where square footage is at a premium, homeowners learn to make use of every nook, cranny, and wall that’s available. Toe-kicks in the kitchen store baking pans and drawers are concealed under stairs, and the walls are covered in cabinets, shelves and hooks that allow items to be easily hung up off the floor. No space, no matter how small, goes to waste, keeping the home clutter-free and making the most of the available floor space.

3. Socialize With One Another

One of the things you sacrifice when you live in a small home is the ability to entertain – after all, throwing a lavish dinner party in a dining room built for two just isn’t a reality. Instead, people who live in small homes and embrace the “tiny house movement” need to make a concerted effort to socialize outside of the home. In Paris, a regular part of the daily routine is meeting friends for drinks or dinner after work. These social opportunities keep everyone from going stir-crazy in the small homes and also serve to fill the greater human need to interact with others. Not to mention you spend less time in front of the TV and more time supporting local businesses with your friends!

4. Transforming Furniture

When your bedroom, kitchen, and living room are the same space, you learn to think outside the box. Everything in your home needs to do double duty, and this goes double for furniture. While Murphy Beds (wall-beds) are typically thought of as the slightly uncomfortable sleeping surface that allows the in-laws to get some sleep in your office, they are actually an incredibly practical piece of furniture that more and more homeowners are considering for their daily lives as a means of increasing floor space and decreasing visual clutter in the master bedroom (Yoga, anyone?). You can also get sofas that transform into bunk beds, shelves that double as bike racks, and art that unfolds to become chairs (and there’s a lot more where that came from).

Photos: 44/floor

5. Build Up, Not Out

One of the number one things that we can learn from micro suites is the need to build up, not out. Even if you own a large lot, building up allows you to keep more of your outdoor space without sacrificing square footage. In tiny houses, tall ceilings allow homeowners to add a loft above nearly every surface, so the bed tucks neatly above the kitchen, bathroom, or walk-in closet and creates a cozy place for sleeping.

6. Let There Be Light

Do you know what makes a room feel really small, really fast? Poor lighting. No matter how big your room is, if you don’t have natural light, it will always feel a little cramped. This is a design principle that people in small homes understand very well, which is why small homes often contain huge windows, “walls” that are made of semi-transparent glass, and window coverings that offer privacy without stifling the light. It’s amazing how natural light feels like a breath of fresh air in the home.

The team at Apchin Design typically works on large, luxury homes in the Okanagan and Western Canada, but great design is great design, no matter what. There are always new products, techniques and ideas that we can use for our clients, and it is important to consider the options. Luxury homes have more in common with micro suites than you’d think!

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