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Courtney’s Corner: Maximize every inch of your home

Courtney Lake is a Bay Area based interior design and the voice behind the lifestyle blog, Courtney Out Loud. A graduate of Stanford University, he worked in high-tech marketing and events before launching his successful interior design...

You can live big in a small space

Tired of paying rent, this Bay Area couple opted to buy in downtown San Francisco. However, panoramic views of the bay came at a steep price: no second bedroom or office. See the simple things this couple did to live large without sacrificing style or comfort.

Travel through Europe or Asia and one of the things you are instantly struck by is the intimacy with which people live. Sidewalks are a crush of street vendors, pedestrians and bicycles. Alleys and streets are slivers of open pavement that split a sea of buildings. Homes are a compact floor plan of rooms, each sharing multiple purposes and uses. People live and use every square inch of their homes, and nothing is left to "occasional living."

When clients Jonathan and Peter came to me with their dilemma, I was instantly reminded of my time abroad. Their request was straightforward, but anything but simple — turn their one-bedroom condo into an area that could accommodate spaces for living, working, relaxing and a guest. Not too hard, right? The trick was that they wanted the least amount of furniture in the space possible, detested sofa beds but loved sectional sofas and wanted the maximum amount of storage possible.

So we implemented simple solutions to address their big requests, starting with furniture selection and furniture placement.

Option A

Small Space Floor Plan

Option B

Small Space Floor Plan B

As mentioned, the goal was to furnish the condo with the least amount of items possible, so we edited our selections and ended up with just the essentials. Surprisingly, going "big" with the furniture created a sense of openness and airiness in the space. But playing with the floor plan was essential in figuring out the perfect configuration of the scale pieces for Jonathan and Peter's needs. The main living area is one large space divided into four main zones: entry, kitchen, dining room and living room. The large pieces of furniture, in particular the oval marble dining table and sectional sofa, help delineate each area and call out their functions.

Hawthorne dining room

Each zone has to act in multiple capacities, especially the dining room and entry. The couple didn't want to dedicate precious floor space to an office, so the dining table doubles as an impromptu office on occasion. Situated in front of a window, the dining table is typically enshrined with natural light and provides a picturesque view. The Saarinen-style marble table was paired with Louis round-back dining chairs upholstered in a fun but contract fabric to ensure durable and stylish seating.

Hawthorne guest room

However, it is the entry that really pulls its weight by doubling as a guest room for friends and family. A standard twin-size bed is hidden in the velvet armchair. A multitude of sleeper furniture options have recently hit the market featuring modern slim silhouettes and arms, both essential to ensuring a clean aesthetic.

Hidden cat pan

What you do not see is just as important as what you do see in small living. Jonathan and Peter have two cats who rule the roost, yet you won't see a litter box anywhere in the condo. And no, their cats are not toilet trained! What was previously dead space in a cabinet build-out was transformed into a kitty litter "depot." Typically left open for the cats, a sliding door can easily be pulled down to keep the litter box out of sight when entertaining guests.

Hawthorne Closet space

Jonathan and Peter also made the wise decision to invest in custom closet organization in the main space. What was wasted space was turned into a double-height coat and shoe closet. During construction an electrical outlet was also installed in the same closet so it could double as an electronic device storage station, freeing up valuable counter space in the living area.

With space at a premium, these clients were determined to use every inch of their condo. Smart space planning, coupled with some simple tricks, allows them to live big in the heart of San Francisco.

Get more design tips from Courtney:

Mix it up with metallics

Tour this 1930s mid-century home

Rearrange your space for company

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