Think small | September 16, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - September 16, 2011

Think small

In the era of 'tiny houses,' many are maximizing their spaces

by Carol Blitzer

Nobody likes to admit to hoarding. But, face it, once you've accumulated ... stuff ... it's hard to imagine just getting rid of it.

Unless, of course, you're faced with downsizing, setting up new quarters in a dorm room or simply moving away and paring down.

IKEA has come up with some nifty solutions to what to do with all the stuff we've acquired over the years — or even days — and simply don't know how or where to store it. In a series of vignettes, IKEA's interior designers have proposed "small space solutions." Furniture or cabinets are tagged with clues, such as "I am a double tasker."

Here's a sample of what was found on a recent tour:

* a fold-out sofa bed with the above tag;

* a wardrobe with sliding doors (so no floor space is taken up by swinging open the closet doors);

* a side table that opens up to serve six;

* a kitchen table that does triple duty as a desk, craft center and eating area;

* folding chairs that could be hung on hooks;

* a vertically organized closet, with two sets of baskets, two hanging rods and a roll-out shoe shelf;

* a handy hook in the few inches of space where the closet didn't quite fit the space, allowing room to hang a folded ironing board;

* a hinged mirror that opens up to reveal keys on ... more hooks;

* chairs that can be stored in a stack;

* lids attached to magnets hung above the drawer for stacking-pot storage;

* a twin bed with two mattresses stacking into a couch, similar to a trundle bed, but with way more storage underneath.

"The idea is to make use of storage without feeling surrounded by clutter," Jennifer Reboh, interior design manager, said. That means utilizing walls, maximizing odd spaces at the side of closets or tucking things under or inside cabinets.

Several of the store vignettes suggest multipurpose for the small rooms. One offered a sofa with stacking end tables with a bed up a ladder in a loft, screened by a curtain. Opposite the couch are cabinets with a roll-out desk to hold a laptop computer, plus space to store files. Along the same wall, a kid-height counter with a chair accommodates a small child's toys and books. A flat-screen TV rounds out the room.

In another, which could be inspiration for a guest or summer house, a row of three bunk beds sleeps six, with curtains cordoning off the spaces.

"We use textiles to communicate a room within a room," Reboh said, pointing to the bunk beds, the loft bed, as well as in a walk-in closet.

Both Reboh and Vanessa Garcia, IKEA's local marketing specialist, emphasized the flexibility of IKEA's Pax closet system, with its customizable interior fittings that include baskets and storage cubes.

In one vignette, pieces of two Pax closet systems are placed back-to-back. On one side is a walk-in closet; on the other the bed is centered between two cabinets. Across the room is a narrow side table that can be rolled over the bed, to serve as a desk, just in case one wants to work in bed.

Not all the designs are super modern. The Hemnes series offers a more traditional look, including a hutch that opens to become a desk.

"Organization is key to being able to live in a small space," Reboh said. "The box doesn't do anything, but organizing lets you maximize a small space."

Many people dream of a large, country kitchen, but in reality have small spaces, she added. That's how IKEA came up with the stove and sink on a peninsula (or island, depending on how much space one has). Plenty of hooks hold those odd-shaped sieves, sifters and ladles that tend to get lost in drawers.

Recently, IKEA has invited customers to upload pictures showing just how well they've utilized their products. To see what others have done, visit (or check out the design blog, or YouTube,


For more Home and Real Estate news, visit

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at


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