In case you were wondering...

In case you were wondering...

This blog exists to encourage all those who have ever wanted--and needed!--a tiny getaway close to home. A workshop, playhouse, garden shed, sanctuary, mini-greenhouse, studio, home office; whatever it is you need, it IS doable, with some sacrifice, imagination, and compromise.

It helps if you're handy, too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dealing with VERY small spaces--this is also one of our permanent tabs!

When You Only Have 10' x 10' of Floorspace or Less–Start Climbing the Walls! 
(tips on dealing with small spaces)

Several people have commented to me that this space would be too small for them, that it felt cramped, that their bathroom was larger than that...and to each his own!  I've always loved small spaces and spent much of my childhood in little tourist cabins, tents, or hiding out in my own forts under the front porch or the dining room table! 10 x 10 is what we could afford, what (theoretically!) fit within the City's guidelines as not needing a building permit (wrong), and what I wanted. Sort of an individual, freestanding cubicle--Dilbert would be SO jealous!

So how do you plan for such a small space, and make it work for you? Fortunately I wasn't planning to live there, so didn't have to have plumbing or a furnace...our "real" house is right next door.  Here are some of our strategies:

The obvious place for storage is the walls, as most tiny-house fans will agree–even though we have big French doors, a regular door on the North, and two windows, we still have a fair amount of wall space. I purposely designed the shed with no openings on the south, both for privacy (neighbors and a small state highway 3 doors down) and for storage space. Of course, floor to ceiling shelves on that wall (not as deep as many bookshelves, at 8") hold a lot of books, art supplies, coffee and teapot and more, with rectangular baskets for things that are better out of sight. (We left the bottom shelf about 12 inches from the floor and my bedroll/yoga mat fits under there along with a small footstool and the wastebasket. No extra floor space needed!)

The desk, studio lighting, and kitchen area fit on that wall too.

I planned exposed rafters, which give us a great place to hang things so they’re handy as well as up off the floor. Where the rafters meet the walls there are a series of small cubbies–my husband built a narrow shelf to extend that space so lots of books, art supplies and miscellaneous things can be stored there.


Joseph also put Shaker pegs below this shelf, to hold drafting tools, templates, scissors, T-square, and my tambourine and jacket, at the moment. A vintage clothes hanger with two types of hooks holds cups and small pots near my hot plate–all I need for coffee, tea, or soup in this small space.

Three small cubbies are wall-mounted hold other small items–more art supplies, microscope, matches, whatever. Two are above the desk, and one is by the North door.

An old magazine rack holds catalogs and watercolor blocks; the cubby is a gift from a friend.  You can see templates and a ruler hanging from a nail, and more goodies between the rafters and on the windowsill...and OFF the floor.
The broom, which takes less space than about any kind of cleaning tool, hangs from a vintage style hanger made from a board and two wooden spools.

Double-duty furniture and accoutrements work too. I found a great little step stool that lets me reach the higher rafter-storage shelves over the French doors; it’s sturdy and the top is hinged for storage. It holds mosquito coils, dustrag, window cleaner, extra matches, incense or whatever–all the unsightly-but-necessary stuff that you don’t want out on the shelves!

Sure, it was empty THEN...full, now!
Folding furniture is a great solution to limited floor space, allowing for a great deal of versatility–we have two camp chairs and a vintage folding chair that fits at my desk. The desk has a moveable drafting surface, so it serves double duty. A small oak TV table is just the right height for a laptop, when I need it (the desk is a bit too high.) A tabletop can hinge to the wall and fold away when it’s not needed. Even my easel is a small folding one–when it’s not in use it fits snugly between the desk and the wall.
The top will go up to accommodate larger paintings...
Folded up it takes almost no space...

The camp chair still folds, but it's a lot more comfortable now...

Of course I also planned for outdoor storage–the shed has its own mini-shed attached at one side for construction equipment, BBQ, charcoal, tools–you name it. (Right now it still has a lot of the construction stuff.)

You can store things under the building, too. That’s where extra wood is...

When you're planning on a small space, you have to think about what you REALLY need–some things, I’ll admit, as an artist, are there just because they please me aesthetically. But hey, that’s a need, too.


  1. Works for me, Kate...But then I have spent years-- early ones dreaming about them and later ones living in a series of tiny houses--
    cozy, inexpensive and that make my heart happy.


  2. That works for me, too, modern standards our "real" house is pretty small too--1100 square feet, but it feels HUGE. Small and modest is affordable--I got this one paid for back in the 90s, and the shed's paid for too.

  3. Great little synopsis with photos! I sure agree with bookcases for small spaces. I'm in a 700 square foot apartment and am adding my seventh bookcase (lots of craft & art supplies and books--hehe!) Love the wicker basket/magazine rack you have on the wall over the desk, too. Awesome to have your own little spot in the world. :)

  4. Thanks, Rita! I just finished a construction timeline page, at the top of this page...

    Shelves ROCK, don't they?! I love the willow rack, too...we've got one at home that holds hats and gloves, by the front door.

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  6. I recently had a studio/garage built, 12X24, to house a small antique biz and give me a place to build and paint my furniture etc. This being my first season(Iowa)it will be used to house my furniture till spring arrives again, no heat, no electric...YET!

    I live in the 100 year old house which had all the out buildings torn down when the 4-lane went through, so all of my work was done inside in the spare bedroom, my garage. I live alone, so there was no issue there.

    But my new blog, will show my progress through winter and the coming spring and whether I can actually use it as a garage in inclement weather..ha ha!

    I'm an artist du'junk and many other mediums and at 61 and living single, my mini biz is perfect for me, as my commute to work is only 50 ft..

    I'll be back, as you've inspired, as has Sandy from the blog My Shabby Streamside Studio...thanks!


  7. Sharon, I LOVE your blog! Great stuff, and beautifully presented. I'll look forward to seeing your progress...

  8. Cathy,
    this is a wonderful post with some great ideas. the little shelf to extend the rafter storage is wonderful, the basket and all the shelves. I dream of the day we get to put permanent shelving up. Still living in construction mode with our 20' diameter geodesic dome Sugar Shack.
    peace n abundance,

  9. It all takes time, CheyAnne. We've got lots left to do, but it's coming along...



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