Welcome to The Shoebox, Refinery29's small space advice column. With the help of Homepolish interior designers, we'll tackle all your cramped living woes — from where to store your stuff to how to make 500 square feet feel as open and unique as you are. This week, we're seeking solutions from Mandy Cheng.
Question: I often have friends from out of town come to stay on the pull-out couch in my living room, but unfortunately, that means they're basically in the middle of everything. What are some ways to make that area feel homier and more private for people who are staying over?
Mandy's Answer: When guests stay over, try re-arranging the furniture slightly so the living room doesn’t feel cluttered with the bed pulled out. Push the coffee table and any accent chairs further away so there’s a clear walk path around the bed. If you have a side table, consider moving it next to the bed so it acts as a nightstand. Add a quick read, a vase of flowers (or move a plant there from another room), a reading lamp if possible, and a candle. Try to shift things around so that space feels more like a bedroom.
Also, room dividers are great for situations like this if you have overnight guests at your place often. There are so many options out there now with beautiful patterns and cutouts. These can serve as room decor when not in use. With a room divider, maybe a tree that you already have pulled up next to it, and the suggestions above, you’ll be able to give your guests privacy and coziness.
Question: I don’t have room in my apartment for a legit desk, but I do feel like I need a place to store my grown-up papers and things, and to operate from when I’m working from home (right now, that place tends to be bed, which I know isn’t good). Help!
Mandy's Response: I used to live in a studio with zero space for anything so I completely understand! My first suggestion is to maximize your wall space from floor to ceiling. Is there wall space where you could add some floating shelves? Then you can purchase some organizers for paperwork and arrange them nicely on the shelves along with some pretty plants and decorative objects.
The next suggestion is to consider trading out any accent or side tables with something that offers storage. If you have sentimental reasons for keeping something, does a bin, basket or crate fit under it? This could be a great spot to house your items, or to relocate something else to make room for a dedicated office section.
And finally, there are some pretty cool collapsible and folding wall-mounted desks with integrated storage like this one from Allmodern. If you currently have a bookshelf, consider replacing it with one that has an integrated desk like this one from West Elm.
And finally, make sure all your furniture is appropriately sized for your space. I realize that we’re all ballin’ on a budget so replacing things isn’t always an immediate option, but try to plan for the long-game and consider what items can be replaced for smaller pieces in exchange for a dedicated desk area.