Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

3 Big Stores Get Into Small Spaces

There was a time, not so long ago, when furniture stores assumed their customers wanted items that would fit well in an over-sized dream home. Furniture was marketed with easy mortgages and cheap credit in mind. Well, those days are over.

With more people living in square-footage-starved cities, and more people renting, a growing population is reevaluating the dimensions of their dream home. A few furniture retailers are taking heed of this trend, marketing specifically to consumers living in small spaces.

Restoration Hardware released its “Small Spaces” collection earlier this year. It is, they claim, “A collection of epic proportions.” It’s sufficiently important to the company that it’s on their site’s main navigation bar. The collection is shown in 15 “small” spaces from around the world like the “Chelsea Penthouse” or “London Townhouse.”

These spaces don’t seem that small to us, and there are no dimensions to contradict our impression. The furniture looks suspiciously similar to other pieces in the catalog: the big space love-seat becomes the small space couch; the end-table becomes the coffee table. Perhaps it’s relative. Maybe RH is catering to people who are transitioning from 4K to 2K sq ft of living space.

IKEA has been in the small space fray for a while now. The video below shows a number of ways you can use their products to squeeze tons of utility from a small space. They claim small space living is “not about giving up your dreams. It’s about shrinking them, just a little bit”–whatever that means. The video is pretty creative and compelling.

Many of their stores feature 375 sq ft mock-up apartments. The author visited one the other day and found the layout pretty nice.

The furniture in the apartment, like RH, seemed like their normal furniture plugged into a small space. Unlike RH, IKEA seemed to understand the necessity for storage in a small space; there were shelves everywhere and two of the walls had large storage systems.

They made what seemed like a strange choice, decking the living room with a big couch. It was strange until you sat in it and realized that a comfy couch is pretty important to demonstrating a space’s livability.

West Elm also features a small space collection. A couple of their pieces actually seemed to be designed for small spaces–not just a normal piece with a small space sticker slapped on it. In particular, the Storage Bed Frame and Rustic Storage Coffee Table (below) would be useful additions to a small space. The latter model’s tabletop lifts to provide a desk space if you find yourself working on the couch.

What do you think of these collections? Are they marketing gimmicks or indicators of they way people will live in the future? Or both? Have you bought any of these products? What was you experience? Let us know.

  • alm

    I think Ikea is in it for the long haul.
    It looks like someone at RH is a fan of the old HGTV show Small Space Big Style.

  • Pamm

    I hope some people at RH connect to this site. I have loved their design sensibility for a long time, but even their “small space collection” remains too big, too deep for sofas, and altogether too far (for me) skewed to manly design — if that’s their market, OK — But they have no feminine spin on any of their designs that work for me. And their fabric and color options for upholstery are too limited (as are most others such as Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, etc.). I need microfiber suede in many colors. It is easy to clean and maintain. High maintenance linen and nothing but neutral shades is a deal killer. And, please. Five pounds of recycling with their “books” seems a bit excessive.

    • DavidFriedlander

      thanks for the comment.
      we get their catalog at our house and it’s criminally large.

  • I really like the storage coffee table/desk, but the price seems high. Same with the bed. I’m sure I could build that bed myself for less than 20% of their price.

  • Maile Keone

    Please keep writing posts like this- hopefully as Pamm has pointed out, someone from the big box folks will finally get it right. Kudos to Ikea for showing how it can be done. I love the small space examples in their stores.

  • di

    It’s not about trying to cram a large household into a small space. It’s about changing old habits.

    Rather than a desk or table, study with a handheld computer and dine with a plate in your lap. Rather than closets, cupboards and shelving, store items in baskets beneath a daybed or sofa bed.

    Reconsider a weekly wardrobe, weekly groceries, one-pot recipes, raw foods, etc.

  • Miss Marie

    Small space living is not just for young singles – seniors are also downsizing to save money, energy and time. But our bones hurt and sofa beds don’t do it. Pulling down a Murphy bed at night is also difficult. There is small and there is tiny. Sometimes small is more practical. But going from 3,000 sq ft to 1,000 sq ft is still a move in the right direction. And these posts are helpful.

  • Mr. Buffet

    I saw the Rustic Storage Coffee table while traipsing around West Elm. When I checked the price, my jaw literally dropped and hit the coffee table! The price tag equals to about 7 coffee tables from Ikea 🙁