If you have ever lived overseas, you are aware that most people in the world live in much smaller spaces than people in the United States and Canada. Most European flats contain half or a third of the square footage of most apartments in the USA. Necessity is the mother of all invention, so when you are stuck in tight quarters, you make do with the space you have.

While I have plenty of space in my home in the United States, I also have a property in Rio de Janeiro close to the beach that is more like a very large New York City hotel room. Since space is at a premium, I have come up with a lot of ways to use every bit of wall, counter and cabinet space.

Here are some of my favorite options for creating livable space in a small apartment. I have Stackable Washer and Dryer for SpacesavingCredit: BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commonsalready put some of these ideas into practice, while others are in the works.

Full-size stackable washer and dryers are now available that take up half the space as traditional side-by-side units, but still allow for the same volume of clothing.

Cube or rectangular wall-mounted boxes serve as a bedside table and storage area inside. Plus you can place items underneath or it open space to allow for easier cleaning of tile or hardwood floors.

Floating shelves at varying levels add interest and functionality allowing you to use vertical space in a tight environment. If you have high ceilings, try using the space above doors for shelving space.

Custom shelves for odd shaped or inaccessible walls in your home are a great way to take advantage of vertical space that would otherwise go unused. Take advantage of all corners in tight areas with corner shelving.

Carve out drywall areas in between studs to create a recessed shelf in the wall. You can piece drywall and mud it, or tile the area. This idea can also be used in showers to create space to hold shampoo.


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Pocket doors or sliding doors take up a lot less space than a full swinging door in one Pocket DoorCredit: Slidoor via Wikimedia Commonsdirection. The space behind a traditional door must remain free for it to open all the way. Not so with a pocket door, or if wall structure or electrical or plumbing are issues, a sliding doors that rolls on outer tracks along the wall.

Customized bookshelves add usable space in out of the way areas. Built-ins are a great way to add style and functionality to your home.

Bed drawers built into the frame allow use of space underneath the bed. These areas provide a convenient place for clean linens for that particular bed as well as a storage area for off season clothing.

Daybeds with an under trundle bed are a great option for small alcoves in your home.

Bunk beds are a great choice for families pressed for space.

Sturdy hanger hooks placed in the ceiling joists can hold things like bicycles and other items vertically to get them out of the way.

Storage Ideas for the Kitchen

Storage Space Ideas for the HomeCredit: Amazon.comUnder cabinet sliding rails allow you to hide anything from kitchen trash cans or allow easier access to pots and pans with convenient slide out trails to get to what you need.

Hanging pots on a wall fixture, underneath upper cabinets or from the ceiling above a bar saves space.

Replace coffee tables with trunks that allow storage inside.

Replace your oven with a 24 inch gas range which has all of the functionality of a normal sized range.

Replace your refrigerator with a 24" model to save space and energy. These types of refrigerators have all of the traditional functionality of full sized models.

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Spacesaving Ideas for the Bathroom

Pedestal Sinks Save Space
Credit: Gürkan Sengün via Wikimedia Commons

Pedestal sinks save space by eliminating the storage area for towels and other items underneath. They are typically smaller than vanity counters also. You will have to adjust for sink space up top, but wall mounted tooth brush and other glass shelves can provide added space.

Wall-mounted toilet offers space savings in small bathroom because they contain no outer tank. The bowl is mounted into a harness with bolts into the wall. The tank and flushing system are contained entirely within the wall. If you are concerned about leaks or water in your wall, a panel is left to easily access the area.  These types of designs save a lot of space without a center toilet pedestal and upper tank.

Wall-mounted vanity cabinet for towels or wash clothes work great in combination with pedestal sinks.

Over-the-toilet shelving takes advantage of real estate that is often times missed by space constrained home owners. Do not use that area for decorations; use it for functionality such as a standing shelving unit that straddles the toilet, or a wall-mounted version that sits directly above the tank.

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If you really have a tight bathroom, you can go the European way and do what is called a wet bathroom.

How is that?

Well, imagine a shower head that shoots water out from with behind the wall of the toilet, or from above. The idea is everything gets wet and stays wet for the most part. That is not really my thing but I have seen them in Brazil also. Americans really do not have any idea how most of the rest of the world lives.

Hopefully you will never have to consider anything like a wet bathroom, but the ideas presented in this article should give you some solutions to reclaim some space from a tight living area.

These types of items can be found in most retailers that have home stores. Ikea has a whole line of space saving products as well as some other online retailers.

When I return to Rio, I plan on mounting my LCD on the wall and getting rid of my nightstand and replacing it with a wall mounted shelf. I have already implemented several of the ideas in this article and I am looking forward to discovering more.