Sunday, March 15, 2015

5 Ways to Maximize Living Space with Babies

5 days post birth with Gideon in our 1-bed flat
When I was childless in 2012, I knew a family in our Manhattan congregation with six children and one on the way who lived in a studio apartment.  I gasped when I first learned this little fact.  How was such a feat possible, and why were they excited to have one more under such circumstances?

I moved back to London heavily pregnant and we soon had Gideon in our 550 square foot, one-bed flat.  We thought we would move soon to accommodate our addition, but then the Husband got a new job and was called as bishop of our congregation in quick succession. We ended up staying till G was 14 months.

In those 14 months, I often thought back to that family of 8+ living in a similar sized space in Manhattan.  I tried to replicate what I had learned about them and incorporate a few more space-saving ideas, including the following:

1)  Buy carefully.  Advertisers can make babies into money pits, but you don't need to buy what they are selling - psychologically or otherwise.  Yes, some contraptions can make life easy-temporarily, but stuff can complicate your life and make it more expensive, as the cost of an item isn't solely its ticket price: there is the cost of maintaining it, storing it, and disposing of it.  Babies need to be fed, slept, changed, stimulated, and loved.  Very little of that requires money.  The family of 8 had one Sunday outfit for their five boys that they wore every Sunday (the girl was much more spoiled, as she should be).  I operate around the same concept - one nice outfit per season/growth phase.

This velvet Ralph Lauren footie, a gift from another NYC friend, was G's going-to-meetin outfit for three months.

2) Acquire and create dual-purpose furniture and rooms. I have loved buying furniture in our new home that serves two purposes - a Victorian high chair/potty, a bench that doubles as a clothes drawer, a chest that doubles as a coffee table, a mantle that doubles as a couch, and a chair that folds into a ladder.  Beds that are couches by day, and that fold out into larger beds.  In our old flat, our living room doubled as the nursery, the bedroom as the office (pictured above), and the bathroom as Gideon's sleeping area.

Other than our piano and table, this is the most expensive piece of furniture we own - all handmade by yours truly.  Upholstery fabric is not cheap! 

I think Lance would prefer this 100 year old chest be hurled back into the sea...

This is one of my favourite furniture purchases - an old printer's toolbox with legs added for £30 at Kempton Markets

1920s French chair...

That also becomes a ladder

Our bed is a couch by day, kingsize bed (with the hidden trundle) that fills our room by night

We painted and then shabby-chiced this victorian highchair/potty.  The hole is covered with a slate during meals.

3) Remember that babies are small.  They do not require huge nurseries, or even tiny ones.  My creative cousin, Mary Romney, slept her firstborn, Parker, in a closet in their first New York apartment.  It was his own little room, and the crib fit.  Babies need their own space for long nap and night sleep that can be blacked out and white noised as necessary, but only a little bit.  Our toddler currently sleeps in a large walk-in closet - his own little room.  Our five month old is in the large bathroom adjoining the nursery.  Both have their own private (but small) space, leaving the nursery free for their playthings and the au pair or guest bed.

4) Think vertically.  Our neighbours right now have split their two, 20 ft tall rooms into two rooms each - vertically.  She lived on a canal boat growing up, and he is handy, so they were able to be exceptionally creative with their space.  We had more vertical than horizontal space in our bathroom (also G's bedroom), so we purchased a baby hammock and screwed it into the ceiling.  We could still shower (in the dark with a candle - it was wonderful) while he was sleeping.

5) Incorporate the Outdoors. Good views with good lighting can make a small space feel big.  If the window views are incorporated into the thought-space of the room, it not only is inspiring, but it can make the smallness of the room lost in the largess of the outdoors.  If you live in the northern hemisphere, find a space that faces south so you will be blessed with maximum amounts of light that will brighten your space and make it feel bigger and happier.

The windows in our last flat were inescapable elements of our tiny flat.

Living in a small space has its advantages to be sure - it forces you to be organised and to simplify your life.  Cleaning happens quickly.  It can also bring a family together by requiring them to actually live together.  Finally, in a place like London, it has enormous cost savings.


  1. Wow love this post. So many creative ideas.


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