Friday, July 1, 2011

Bulky Pieces Can Still Have a Role In Small Spaces

I got the link to this cute DIY mobile children's reading nook, on wheels (featured on kojodesigns) from Apartment Therapy.  It is made largely from re-purposed materials, which I love.

It got me to thinking about small spaces and big pieces.  On one hand, my gut reaction to moving into a smaller space is "let's shrink all our furniture."  I have gotten rid of a large amount of furniture in order to truly downsize, and I still worry about the size of my furniture.  My kids have these bulky, chunky wood bunkbeds, for example, that we've decided eventually have to go in order to have a more slender alternative.  I just don't want to be bumping into furniture in the apartment, and I also think that too much furniture will make the place look much smaller than it is. In all spaces, the amount and size of the furniture should be appropriate to the space.  

But there is another risk, which is the risk of giving the place a stark look by over-minimalization.  I think having a few well-chosen, chunky pieces can balance out an otherwise fairly minimalist approach.  I also think that clutter is the bigger danger in a small space than bulk of furniture.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Switchplates and Small Touches

The whole point of this blog, besides simply being my account of my family's experience in downsizing is this:

1. Whole families, with children, can downsize successfully.
2. Even when a whole family is doing it, downsizing can be done in style.

With regard to item #2, my feeling is that one of the issues in downsizing to a small space is that small, finishing touches make a much bigger difference.

I've been thinking about that lately because all of the sudden, I have begun to feel that switchplates are of utmost importance.  They simply finish off rooms.

Here are some of the fun switchplates I've been admiring on Etsy:

T-rex by Joel Nakamura

Lotteria Men by ShrineOn

Double Aqua by TurnMeOnArt

Guadalupe from exiconoclast

Day of the Dead from LuCrafts

Madrid by funkychickendesign

No Hydraulic Table Necessary

We went with the apartment that has the dining area.  Although I still want to make the dining area a reading nook and get the hydraulic table, but realistically, um, that's not going to happen.  I'm going to bloom where I am planted instead!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lessons From Small Space, Big Style #23 Part 4

The lesson for me in this one: Remote-controlled hydraulic tables paired with curved sofas are surely drool-material for years to come LOL.

Lessons From Small Spaces, Big Style #23 Part 1

Lesson 1: One unifying element makes a world of difference!

Lesson 2: One unifying element also allows more variety, which is so much more fun and livable than stark minimalism.

100 Square Feet of Bliss Video

I actually think that a bedroom designed to be just large enough to fit only the bed is a more comfy, dreamy space in many ways than one like we'll have that is designed to fit more. Manina and I had friends living in Albany, NY at one point who had a bedroom that could only fit a bed. It was a little awkward in terms of getting on the bed, but it also felt like entering a room of fluffy clouds. Lovely!

Lessons From the Nate Berkus 250 Square Foot Makeover

Here is a fun link to a re-designed apartment by Nate Berkus:

When I see stuff like that, sometimes I can't help but think, "yeah, well, try that kind of a challenge with a family!"  I'd love to challenge Nate Berkus with my own family's apartment.  But I guess in a way, I'm facing this challenge myself.  Too bad I am not nearly as capable as Nate Berkus.

Anyway, while the style of this particular apartment is not my own style, I really love the creativity and the nod to an antique method of room decoration.  It totally seems to fit the woman who actually lives in the apartment, which is the whole point of good design, I think.  Not to mention that the chandelier really is gorgeous (and I'm not even much of a chandelier person).  Even if nothing else had been done, that chandelier would have been lovely.

So lesson #1 is that one well-planned piece (like a chandelier) can really help transform a space.

The second thing that occurred to me as I watched the video is how much clothing this woman has.  You may recall that we have designed to take seven outfits each.  This move is about sustainable living for us too, and having seven outfits we like will be enough. 

Lesson #2 is perhaps the most important lesson I've learned yet in this journey.  The lesson is that the problem with moving into a smaller home isn't needing more space, it is needing less stuff.  The less stuff you have to store, the more room you have to live.  I am eager to start living!

Engineering Eye Candy

Before getting serious again, here is some more engineering eye candy...some folks, apparently, can make walls move and automate their entire space.  I'll be dreaming on!

Oh, and similarly, here is a link to a well-designed space that would work only for homeowners who can build their living areas according to their own specifications.  Another reason for dreaming on:

In Limbo

We have been assigned a three-bedroom apartment in student housing.  Unfortunately, I went to look at the complex, and I ended up having many concerns about the buildings and grounds, so in a couple of weeks I will be going to look at the complex with only two-bedrooms so we can decide whether to ask to be switched. 

The big difference between the two apartments, in my head, isn't the third bedroom (although I realize for my kids, especially my daughter, that is the big difference).  It's also not the lower square footage, although I think to Manina that makes a big difference.  If anything, I am in a "less is more" mood lately in terms of square footage.  For me, the difference is whether we have a dining area.

Here are the floor plans, for comparison.  I'll keep you posted on what we decide.

The apartment we have been assigned.

The alternative option under consideration.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fingers Crossed!

The school is running late in getting housing offers out.  We don't have anything in writing, but they told us over the phone that they plan to offer us a three-bedroom apartment in the only building shown in the post below that has three bedrooms.  I am almost afraid to talk about it for fear I will jinx us and turn the news from good to bad.  So my fingers are tightly crossed, and I am just praying that the offer arrives in my email box today.

Meanwhile, the photos again, just with the one complex by itself and the three-bedroom sample floor plan only:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ah, The Anxiety!

Today is the day the graduate student housing office is supposed to be sending out offers on apartments.  That means today is the day I may or may not find out whether we have a place to live next year, and where.  I say "may or may not" because after I was informed that today is the day, I realized I am unsure whether these offers are being sent by snail mail or email.  Based on what I have read, I am fairly certain the offers are coming by email, but I don't know for certain, and if they are, why don't I have one yet?  It's almost noon! Does this mean I am not getting an offer?  They may not have an apartment available for us now, which means we will be in limbo for quite some time while they work themselves through the waiting list when people accept and don't accept the offers.

How long do I wait until I call?!

Can someone please figure out how to shut off my anxiety-induced push-the-refresh-button-every-ten-minutes-on-my-email-page behavior so I can focus on my work today?  Seriously! 

Twice I drafted an email to the graduate student housing office to inquire about whether the offers were coming by snail mail or email, and twice I deleted these draft emails for fear that if I sent them the person who has patiently dealt with me for months would finally lose it with my constant questions and decide not to offer me any place to live at all.  [Edited to add: I finally sent a quick email after writing this post.  I am just going bonkers waiting!]

I am losing my mind.  So in an effort to direct this nervous energy, let me share with you some more details. 

The housing application allowed us to request three places to live.  We started with the limited "family housing" apartments, of which there were basically two.  The first one looks something like this:

There is a very simple playground appropriate for younger children, in three sections, and there is a community room and kitchen in addition to a "Parenting Coordinator" (as well as a couple "Preschool Coordinators") who are supposed to facilitate community life.  There are outdoor grills and picnic tables.  And I understand the community is really lovely and diverse.

All the apartments have two bedrooms.  This is the sample apartment floor plan:

There are hardwood floors in the living room and bedrooms and linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom. The only overhead lighting is in the kitchen and bathroom, so it looks like lamps will be important.  There is some extra room for storage in the communal basement, and there is coin-operated laundry on site.  Heat, hot water, and wireless is included in the rent, but electricity is not included.  An "upgrade" to three bedrooms is not available because all units are two-bedrooms.

The next family housing apartment complex, which I hope I requested on my application (I am paranoid about all this stuff, I submitted my application at three in the morning, and my memory is failing), is:

There is a simple playground and there is a community room in addition to a "Residence Life Coordinator" and arts and craft programs for children and adults (as well as a "Preschool Coordinator") in order to facilitate community life.  There are outdoor grills, patios, and picnic tables throughout the complex. 

There are two and three-bedroom apartments available.  Here are their sample floor plans:

There are hardwood floors in the living room and bedrooms and linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom. I don't know what the lighting situation will be.  There is some extra room for storage in the communal basements of each building, and there is (coin-operated?) laundry on site.  Heat, hot water, and wireless is included in the rent, but electricity and gas (for the gas stove) is not included.  An "upgrade" to three bedrooms is available for just a little more than the rent of all two-bedrooms in all the complexes we requested.

The final option, which we consider our backup because it is the smallest and least family-friendly, is the housing that is on the exact campus where I will be.  It belongs to my particular graduate school.

There is a very small, simple outdoor play structure outside the apartments, but they do not often serve as family units, so we may be the only family in the entire complex.  I do not believe there is a community room, and I understand that the housing tends to attract "introverts" because it is not set up to provide a sense of community.  There are no grills, picnic tables, etc. with these apartments.  I think these apartments may also be the smallest.

The floor plan for this option is already posted here.  Just click the "where" tab above.  I also have some pictures of one of these apartments posted.  Just click the "tiny kitchens" link on the right side of this page and look for those pictures in the posts that pop up there.

There are furnished apartments available, which might be helpful if we decided we didn't want to move any furniture, but I didn't request one at this point.  The floors appear to be all lineoleum throughout these apartments, with basic carpets laid down like large rugs on top. I don't know what the lighting situation will be.  I also don't know if any storage space is available, but there is coin-operated laundry on site.  Heat, hot water, electricity, and internet (wireless?) is included in the rent.  No three-bedrooms exist in this complex.

All the complexes basically have the same cost, with the difference between them being mostly in what utilities are included and whether an "upgrade" to three bedrooms is available.  The first complex I show here is just $10 more than the others for a two-bedroom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Note On Color

Everything I am reading seems to imply that we will be able to paint the walls in our apartment, whichever it is, as long as we end up on campus.

I must say, I am feeling very mixed.  There are so many ways to use color on walls in small spaces to bring them to the next level.  All the below photos come from Apartment Therapy.  I've credited all photos and linked to the original.  First, check out this baby titled: "Laura's Sophisticated Studio:"

However, I've noticed that a bright white works magic in expanding spaces and making them feel less cluttered.  Check out how welcoming and yet crisp everything looks in the space below. It's not my own style, but I can really appreciate the choices here including the value of the bright white walls (are those white/sheer curtains on the window, as well, or am I seeing things?).  In this apartment, which is named "Jordan's Light, Location, & Vibe," if you look in the far right corner of the living room you can actually see the fold-out dining room table I was looking at on the IKEA website:

And I also love some colors but wouldn't want to feel bathed in them, which I think is a bit of a risk in a small space.  In the below case, I feel uncomfortably bathed (just my own personal preference), but probably moreso than I would have felt with a less reflective oven.  This is called "Lindsay's Little and Luxurious:"

And then there are a lot of possibilities for making a place "pop" without necessarily painting a wall, or at least not a whole one.  The apartment below is the just the coolest teeny tiny apartment at 270 square feet.  Yes, if you check it out, you will find that it is cluttered (which I am hoping our place will not be) but at 270 square feet, if you are interesting and actually live in your space, what can you expect?  In many other ways, it is so my style.  This great space is called "Melissa's Maxed-Out Minimalism" for some unknown reason:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Form and Function!

So a friend of a friend has this amazing musical furnishings business.  Amazing!  You have got to see it:

The inspiring and motivating website is  On the surface, me sharing this here may seem a bit, well, odd. Most of the time on this blog I've been looking at space-conserving furniture, and of course loud furniture would be problematic with the thin walls of our little "dorm apartment."  (Besides, at this stage in my life I can't even come close to being able afford it anyway, as tempting as it is to justify, say, the Treasure Chest xylophone as something that could still be fit into a larger downsizing scheme.)

But I am posting this here anyway because it serves as a wonderful illustration of my basic take on furnishing our apartment.  I have so little space to spare that *any* piece I have should really be both functional and beautiful.  If it is not one or the other, it will diminsh rather than give the sense of "growing" the space.  At the rate we are moving, it may be a year or two into our downsized life before we get to that point, but that is the goal.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Time Has Flown!

Okay, so it has been a while.  Life, especially at work, has kept me very busy, and now I am in crunch mode.  It's not looking great.  I think this is the point in the process during which it would be normal to freak out a little.  Here is the latest:

To-Do With the Old House
  • Pack: Started
  • Get rid of stuff not needed: Started (just took a big load to the thrift store this weekend)
  • Store any stuff to be kept for some later date: Started
  • Do necessary repairs or updates on the house: Started, but not much done yet
  • Paint areas of the house needing new paint
  • Clean the house from top to bottom: Started
  • Stage the house to get rid of it
  • Get out of the house to make it easier to get rid of: The family is on target with plans to move May sister is even flying out that weekend to help
  • Get rid of the house (Rent it out?  Sell it?): No luck with Craigslist or "For Rent" sign, so meeting with a rental agent tomorrow...will shift to sale strategy in late May

To-Do For the New Apartment
  • Decide on an apartment: Have generally narrowed down our options to on-campus housing
  • Rent the apartment:  Have put in student housing application
  • Set up utilities (including finally getting cell phones): Have been researching cell phones and cell phone plans
  • Design the apartment: Have been researching design for small apartments
  • Unpack
  • Buy any necessary items
  • Try to achieve the design (this will be divided into more bullets once it is clear what the design entails)

To-Do For the Move in General
  • Get jobs: Masasa has first interview this week
  • Figure out a good schooling situation for the kids: Have visited the majority of magnet schools, and we are keeping in touch with the schools since we didn't have a CT address in time for the lottery
  • Enroll the kids in school, if applicable: See above
  • Get bikes and a laptop
  • Teach the kids to ride bikes: As of baby girl's birthday, both kids now have a bike.  Hopefully baby boy will fit on his hand-me-down bike by late summer.
  • Get in shape so downsizing to one-car isn't too traumatic: Manina has started working out daily
  • Find new doctors, therapists, and all that stuff: Started research
  • Do all the change-of-address stuff

Friday, February 4, 2011

Progress Report

To-Do With the Old House
  • Pack: Started with a small number of items that are not needed in our home at this time
  • Get rid of stuff not needed: Started, as I pack
  • Store any stuff to be kept for some later date: Started, as I get things packed
  • Do necessary repairs or updates on the house
  • Paint areas of the house needing new paint
  • Clean the house from top to bottom
  • Stage the house to get rid of it
  • Get out of the house to make it easier to get rid of
  • Get rid of the house (Rent it out?  Sell it?): Have hung up a "for rent" sign and posted a listing on Craigslist, even though it is early

To-Do For the New Apartment
  • Decide on an apartment: Have generally narrowed down our options to on-campus housing
  • Rent the apartment
  • Set up utilities (including finally getting cell phones)
  • Design the apartment: Have been researching design for small apartments
  • Unpack
  • Buy any necessary items
  • Try to achieve the design (this will be divided into more bullets once it is clear what the design entails)

To-Do For the Move in General
  • Get jobs: Have sent out 10+ resumes for Masasa and 1 or 2 for Manina
  • Figure out a good schooling situation for the kids: Have visited the majority of magnet schools
  • Enroll the kids in school, if applicable
  • Get bikes and a laptop
  • Teach the kids to ride bikes
  • Get in shape so downsizing to one-car isn't too traumatic: Manina has started working out daily
  • Find new doctors, therapists, and all that stuff
  • Do all the change-of-address stuff

Friday, January 14, 2011

On Perceptions of Stuff

We're behind schedule, but have slowly started packing up our home.  Many items are being given to friends, donated, or in some cases, recycled or tossed out.  Some is getting packed up to bring with us, and the rest we'll hopefully be able to fit it all in the basement and attic of my parents-in-law. 

When I look at the stuff still waiting to be packed, I often think "We don't have that much.  It shouldn't take long."  And then I get into the work of it, and it seems to multiply somehow.  Here's a good example:

Manina decided to head out to her parents house this weekend, since it is a three-day weekend and the kids won't have to be at school on Monday.  At this point, whenever she goes, I send her with at least a box or two for storage.  I am starting to feel like a box or two at a time isn't going to get us into the shape we need to be in fast enough. 

So I told her I wanted to send her with as much as possible this time.  We'd already begun sorting through and packing away Hanukkah and Christmas stuff, seeing as how the holidays just ended, so I figured that was a good place to start.  When I picture that stuff where we normally store it in the attic, it seems like it takes up about four square feet of no more than double-stacked boxes.  This should have been so easy!

After much sorting and a concerted effort at beridding, I still found myself in the dining room several hours later with two large boxes, one long flat box, and four medium-size and small boxes filled to the brim! 

I need to start taking pictures so you can see what I mean.  It is amazing how much stuff one can accumulate even with a strong desire to be minimalist.  If this is any sign of things to come, getting the "small load" we plan to take with us to our apartment to actually fit into our apartment might prove to be even more challenging than we think.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Out Is Good For the Downsized

One big need I anticipate as a downsizing family is opportunities to get out and about rather than stay cooped up in our little apartment, especially during school vacations and on the weekends.

In this post I will be collecting ideas for things for families to do in New Haven (my new city).  I'll definitely take suggestions, if any one out there reading this is familiar with the area.  I'll add to the list periodically.

Of course, I can't wait to join the New Haven Free Library!  Not only will they be our go-to resource for books (many of our books are going into storage, so we won't be buying books regularly in our downsized life...instead, we'll keep a basket of library books on our bookshelf to help us stay organized and not lose track of those books), but the library has numerous free events.  And they have downloadable ebooks and audiobooks.
I hear the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is impressive for its size and child friendly.  With my Yale ID card, I can get us a family membership for one year at the rate of $50.  Would need to figure out a way to budget that, or see if they loan admission passes at the local library.

Edgerton Park looks like a great resource with some fun events and even community gardening opportunities (inclusive of instructions and guidance provided to novices like me).  While this looks like mainly a summer resource, with a few exceptions, I'll keep it in mind especially in case we end up staying in New Haven year-round.

The Connecticut Children's Museum for kids 3-9 looks great!  It is open on Fridays and Saturdays only, however, and does not appear to have an annual membership.  Each visit would be $7.50 per person ($30 total for the whole family), so this unfortunately probably can't be a regular stop for us.

It looks like without even needing a student ID card, the Eli Whitney Museum has an annual family membership cost of just $45 annually ($25 individual student membership), and it seems to have a lot of cool programs and opportunities (though many pretty school-centric and not maybe as open-ended as we need).  It does look like many of the programs and opportunities seem to have additional fees.  This is another one to either budget for or consult the library about.

There are also at least a couple of options for skate parks.  The outdoor Edgewood Skate Park is free, I am assuming, and should be good for at least two or three months out of the academic year.  There is also an indoor skate park in North Haven, which would be great for the winter months, but is too expensive to go often.

The Yale University Art Gallery is apparently something of a small, free, art museum, so you can't beat that.  I am sure "child friendly" is a relative term for all families, but I can see stopping at the museum on occassion with my kids for a short round, one floor at a time. 

Though I am not a big sports fan, I do want my kids to have the experience of some live sports games over the course of their childhoods.  Besides, Manina enjoys sports.  I was excited to see that we could get myself and the kids in for free to a Yale Athletics football game (and I hope/suspect there are discounted tickets for folks with Yale spouse IDs).  I can get into Yale basketball games too, and get the rest of the family in for fairly low cost.  Hockey is a different story.

The New Haven Parks and Rec has some relatively well-priced outdoor educational programs, including winter programs such as snowshoeing.  If we end up living in New Haven to the extent we'll pay taxes as residents, I think we count for the lower rates. 

By the way, I have to plug this.  New Haven has a BooksnParks program!  Is this too cool or what?

And finally, there are more items from the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs.

One Key To a Small Space: Thoughtful Decor

So tonight I learned about Wall Tattoos and Wall Decals, which apparently (at least in some cases) are removable and therefore a good option for renters. 

Here are a couple links:


urban wall sticker Cubes and Squares wall decals (set of 9)
DeZign with a z

Not in my budget, but fun to look!

Well, apparently there are some on Amazon too.  Maybe there is a way to work something fun into the budget. Here are the ones with the best reviews there, in the "restricted budget" range:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Maybe I Was Little Harsh (IKEA Might Be Okay, Afterall)

After posting my IKEA rant, check out what I came across on their website:
NORDEN/OLLE Table and 4 chairs red, white
I can't tell if it is flimsy (it looks like it has potential to be wimpy, which may be why it didn't catch my eye in the showroom), or if there is really room on the table for four place-settings, but the concept looks like some of the more expensive stuff I've admired elsewhere.  I am not a fan of white tables, but I actually like the red and white color scheme in this picture. 

Here's the way the table looks upon folding:

NORDEN Gateleg table white Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
Of course, the set is probably out of our price range, even though it isn't terribly expensive as tables go, and I am still not sure what we'd do with the chairs between meals.  Luckily, IKEA offers a version without chairs so we could still potentially use, say, folding chairs.
NORDEN Gateleg table white Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
They also have a "natural wood" version sold without chairs:
NORDEN Gateleg table  Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
Perhaps there is some potential there, even though the thing could fold a little more neatly:

NORDEN Gateleg table  Length: 35 " Min. length: 10 1/4 " Max. length: 59 7/8 " Width: 31 1/2 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Length: 89 cm Min. length: 26 cm Max. length: 152 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 74 cm
Searching on Ikea's website for desks, I also found some interesting ideas, even if I am not in the market right now for a desk.

These, for instance, are a bit boxy, but similar to desks featured in a number of small-space living design websites recently, placed flush against the wall as if to disappear in it:

BESTÅ BURS Desk red Width: 70 7/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Width: 180 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 74 cm
BESTÅ BURS Desk black Width: 70 7/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Width: 180 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 74 cm
BESTÅ BURS Desk white Width: 70 7/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Width: 180 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 74 cm
And this seems altogether too bulky for our size of space, and it is not really my style, but it does present an interesting set of storage-desk combo options:

EXPEDIT Desk  Width: 45 1/4 " Depth: 30 3/4 " Height: 29 7/8 "  Width: 115 cm Depth: 78 cm Height: 76 cm

Don't Go To Ikea! It's Not For Small Apartment Living!

When Manina and I lived in a small home an hour's drive from an IKEA, I had a few wonderful shopping trips there!  It was great for creative storage containers, and did wonders for our Montessori age 0-3 homeschool setup. 

The one item we bought that required significant assembly was a disaster, and required a return in the end, but as long as we stuck to items that didn't need us to go to alternate sites for pickup (the things that require only a little assembly, IKEA keeps either on the floor or in the storage area right before the checkout), we seemed to do okay. 

I liked that IKEA was interested in innovation, and I liked that IKEA demonstrated some ecological awareness, talking from very early on in company history about things like using wood from sustainable resources.  So understand, all in all, I was an IKEA fan.

For a while after we moved to that house, I would pour over the IKEA catalogs, which really were more like big books, for inspiration.  When I knew I was headed to IKEA -- usually a trip necessitated by my work -- I'd get all excited and spend the days ahead planning the visit. 

Then we moved to a slightly larger house a two hour drive from IKEA.  We learned that it was worthless to try to order something online, and we were well-stocked enough for our home that we didn't need anything enough to justify the drive.  So for a few years, save for one or two trips, our relationship with IKEA has been on hiatus.

Well, the big news is that where we will be living next year is most likely going to be within two or three miles of IKEA!  It all seemed so perfect, when I first realized.  After all, when folks talk about strategies for living in small spaces, IKEA does tend to come up in conversation.  What a blessing, I thought, to have IKEA right there for all my small space creative furnishings.

And just before Christmas, while in our new city touring the local elementary schools to get an idea of what lies ahead for our future, I gave myself a solid block of time to peruse IKEA.  I didn't have money to spend, but I had my notebook and was all ready to plan out my apartment.  I was pretty hyped! 

What a disappointment.  I looked around, completely uninspired, for as long as I could tolerate, and left at least an hour before planned.

Did IKEA change, or is it just my changing needs? 

My hunch is that IKEA is running on fumes of an earlier time.  Here is what I found in my IKEA trip:
  • Most of the same "inspired ideas" setups, or small variations of the same setups, on display in the showroom.  Nothing to see here folks!  Move along!
  • A couple new innovative items, but mostly the same products, or small variations of the same products, that I chose not to buy when I first moved to my small home an hour from IKEA in 2002.
  • A lack of some of the products I first loved at IKEA, but hadn't yet gotten around to buying.  For example, whatever happened to the ladder you nail to the wall for kids to climb?   (Oh, and don't bother trying to contact IKEA through their website to ask them.  They will never reply.)
IKEA, if it ever was, is no longer the go-to place for small apartment living. 

First of all, perhaps because Target has been breaking new ground for itself repeatedly over the last few years, IKEA resembles the sprawl-version of Target.  Sure, they have more showroom floorspace, but that means you'll be taking a hike to see the same types of products, and if you've been to IKEA more than a time or two, you've seen it all before.  If you need a go-to place, Target seems as good a candidate as any.

Second of all, I can't help but feeling like when I am in IKEA, I am getting the supersized American version.  Sure, the furniture is still on the modest end in terms of sizes, as a whole.  If you want a couch, yes, you better be ready to say "how low can you go?" when you sit down.  But I don't get the feeling that IKEA is designing their stuff for American showrooms with the person living in a small space in mind.

Check it out.  Just click over to the ideas and inspiration section of IKEA's website and look at the type of rooms they think you'll be living in.  Sorry, but for a place with a reputation of being the go-to place for those of us living in small spaces, I think that is crap.  Out of eleven featured space, I see only one...maybe two...places that would look remotely recognizable to those coping with low square footage.  Seriously, just click the link and see.

Click on sofas, and then the first item under sofas, which is "fabric sofas," and the first thumbnail you'll see is this:

EKTORP series



Dealing with a teeny, tiny kids room where you have multiple kids sharing a space?  Don't get too excited.  You will no longer see a trundle or bunk bed at IKEA, and sadly, IKEA has never taken to perfecting the Murphy bed concept in inexpensive form.  The best they have to offer is this...
KURA Reversible bed dark blue Length: 78 3/8 " Width: 41 3/8 " Height: 45 5/8 " Mattress length: 74 3/4 " Mattress width: 38 "  Length: 199 cm Width: 105 cm Height: 116 cm Mattress length: 190 cm Mattress width: 96.5 cm
I'll give them credit.  It's nice and streamlined, and it gives you some floorspace for a desk (if it is tall enough...I can't tell and don't recall), even if your child does have to remember not to trip over the "threshold," but what to do with more than one child, I have no idea.  Without a trundle or bunk, I can't figure out how any two beds are not going to take over my children's room.  Would I need to buy this and a second bed to put inside and perpendicular to this one, making an L-shape I suppose??  Do they have a second bed made to accompany it?  Not that I can tell.

And let's move to the dining room, shall we?

I posted earlier about some dining table options I easily found at my local "discount furniture store."  You would think a store known as the go-to place for folks living in small spaces would have some equally attractive options for families without a lot of square footage.  Aside from the one small table (might seat one...maybe two) that folds out from the wall, which I might use for adding some counterspace to my kitchen but that clearly couldn't accomodate my family of four, however, I left the dining showroom feeling frustrated.  I mean, they did have this...
FUSION Table and 4 chairs brown-black Width: 35 3/8 " Height: 29 1/2 " Total height: 29 7/8 " Seat width: 21 5/8 " Seat depth: 15 3/8 " Seat height: 18 1/8 "  Width: 90 cm Height: 75 cm Total height: 76 cm Seat width: 55 cm Seat depth: 39 cm Seat height: 46 cm
...which would neatly tuck away the chairs.  But then what?  Because that table would take a huge hunk out of our living room floorspace that we can't afford.

 They did have some flimsy-looking, so-not-my-style drop-leaf tables, such as the one pictured below, and some equally flimsing-looking tables that expand outward by pulling a leaf from the bottomside of the table.  But they were clumsy and unimpressive, and they did not inspire in me any confidence that they could withstand two young children.
MUDDUS Drop-leaf table white Min. length: 18 7/8 " Max. length: 36 1/4 " Width: 23 5/8 " Height: 29 1/8 "  Min. length: 48 cm Max. length: 92 cm Width: 60 cm Height: 74 cm

As for the kitchen, I can only say that I am still looking for creative combinations of appliances that lead to reduced numbers of appliances being needed.  I would have loved to have found, but did not, a full system of stainless steel stacking pots with small or collapsible handles that take up a very small amount of space.  And I am still looking for creative combinations of cooking utensils and the like for the same reason.  Clicking on "kitchen organization," for example, leads to thumbnails such as:

CELEBER series

And I found far less in the way of convienent, compact kitchen appliance and utensil storage than I remember.  Though, I think it is commendable that they have a number of different nice "hanging hooks" options for hanging a wide variety of things on the wall.

Maybe IKEA could hire me as a product designer.  I have a lot of good ideas for families of four living in less than 550 square feet.  Or maybe I should check their international sites to compare what they offer.