Industrial designer Dirk Dieter lives in a 250 square foot house that probably was originally a warming shed for local fishermen. "This house has an interesting history of people who lived here, trying to live very humbly and inexpensively," Dieter, 47, said as he guided an understandably short tour of the property. He has opened it up inside, added all of 20 square feet plus a garage. He lists a number of tricks for designing for small spaces:
-- Nix doors that swing. Find cabinets with sliding doors, and use curtains or shades to partition off space. (Dieter's "laundry room" is a nook stashed behind a natural-fiber shade.)
-- Multipurpose furniture, such as Dieter's futon, and folding furniture, especially chairs, add flexibility. These pieces do not have to be ugly; Dieter has found modern and comfortable chairs at Ikea and Design Within Reach.
-- Put furniture on rollers for easy cleaning and access to partitioned areas. Some rollers come with brakes or locks, providing stability for beds and couches.
-- Build into the walls to create nooks and display areas, but don't build into the room with molding, baseboards or even door and window frames. Even carpet intrudes on space; Dieter used bamboo on his floors. "Basically, everything that comes into the room, I'm taking away," he said.
-- Make cardboard prototypes for possible additions to make sure they'll fit into the scheme of everyday life. Dieter even put up a mockup of his range hood to confirm that yes, it really did need to be just 3 inches deep to ensure that it wouldn't regularly meet with his head.
-- Think vertically. Narrow spaces between cabinets and appliances create storage for pans and cutting boards. An Ikea accessory that affixes to the ceiling and floor provides a full-length mirror and hat or coat hooks. Dryer stacks atop washer.