Stacey Lipstein’s charming 900-square-foot bungalow in Toronto proves that big isn’t necessarily better.

Before Stacey, her son, partner and dog moved in, the Leslieville cottage was small, dark and dated. Despite being short on square-footage, the couple worked with what they had — transforming the space into a functional family home that’s big on style. Stacey has amassed a devoted following sharing her enviable interior on Instagram and this past year, opened a curated shop and salon in Toronto’s east end, named after her handle — Tiny House Mama Beauty+Goods.

Photo: Lauren Kolyn

Originally, Stacey and her partner hoped to add an addition to their home but after meeting with an architect, discovered it was out of budget. “The reality was far more expensive than we could afford and so we had to go back to the drawing board to create a better and more visual sense of space without actually adding more,” she says.

Instead of building more walls, they knocked them down: “By combining the living room and kitchen, we maximized the flow between the two rooms, making them both feel a lot larger. We also vaulted the ceilings in the bathroom and kitchen — bringing them up to 15 feet tall.” They let more natural light in, adding windows along one side of the kitchen and placing a skylight in the tiny bathroom. While most of the main floor is now open-concept, they widened the door frames in the connecting rooms to further open up the space.

The structural changes made a huge difference, but Stacey’s work wasn’t done. She worked her magic making every moment count with impactful and sensible design choices for small-space living. With these 14 tips, you can do it too.

1. Avoid small-scale furniture and instead choose pieces with multiple purposes and storage.

Photo: tinyhousemama/Instagram

“I’m not a huge believer in ‘small’ furniture,” Stacey explains, “I’d rather get rid of one piece of furniture in a room to make something work than have a bunch of small pieces.” For her sofa, Stacey wanted something large and comfortable enough to lie down on — essential as it also doubles as a bed when guests stay over.

Design News Alerts

Get the latest Interior Design tips and trends from Livabl sent to your inbox

“My nightside table/chest houses our linens and all of our art supplies. The armoire in my living room is where my television lives, but it’s also a blanket cupboard,” she says.

2. Sacrifice counter space for regular sized appliances that make a big impact.

Photo: tinyhousemama/Instagram 

Stacey could have gone for a smaller fridge but with a family to feed, it didn’t suit her lifestyle. Instead she scoured Kijiji and found a stunning vintage mint green fridge. Sure, it takes up a lot of space, but it infuses the kitchen with color and joy. It’s also the star of her Instagram, spurring thousands of likes whenever it makes an appearance.

Stacey recommends filling your home with pieces that you love and are functional, rather than something that just works: “Our previous home was even smaller than this one and we had European, small-size appliances that I both loved and hated. You couldn’t even fit a cookie sheet in the small stove. We lost a foot or so of countertop space, but we prioritized appliances that suited our lifestyle for this kitchen. I do not regret it!”

3. Paint your walls white to reduce clutter and let your accessories pop.

Stacey’s signature palette is bright white with pops of color. “I love white walls — they allow for a simple and clean backdrop where my colorful textiles and accessories can be the focus.”

4. Go big or go home with large-scale statement art.

Photo: Lauren Kolyn 

“Small spaces can feel extra small when there is a lot of clutter,” explains Stacey. “I enjoy large scale art which draws the eye in. We have carefully curated our favorite items to display and the rest is put away, making our home feel way more open.”

5. If you go bold with pattern, make sure it’s balanced with something neutral.

Keeping a small interior calm and cohesive is all about balance. “Less is more. If I have a couch full of bright pillows, I’ll pair it with a minimal coffee table or vice versa. I also like either a statement rug and simple cushions or a neutral rug with bold pillows,” she says.

6. Maximize floor space to create the illusion of more room.

Photo: Lauren Kolyn

For the bathroom, Stacey chose a floating sink over a bulky vanity to reduce visual clutter in the particularly small bathroom. “I always find if you can see more floor space, the room just feels larger,” she explains.

7. Forgo a kitchen island for a dining table.

Photo: Lauren Kolyn 

Without a dining room, Stacey got creative. “We needed a kitchen table and wanted an island, so we compromised by putting a kitchen table in the middle of the room to mimic an island. We can still meal prep there and sit together as a family, which we love.”

8. Bring the outdoors in — even if it takes up space.

Photo: tinyhousemama/Instagram 

While it might seem counterintuitive to add large plants to a small space, Stacey is a firm believer in the power of greenery to open up a room. “I love plants — even though they take up space, they instantly change the feeling of a room and make it feel airy and full of energy.”

9. Be mindful of the items you have in your home.

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s a philosophy that Stacey lives by: “I’m a lot more mindful of the pieces we buy and the stuff we bring into our home. I don’t just bring in pieces that will do. I have to truly love it to bring it inside.”

10. Even though purging is your friend, you don’t have to be a minimalist.

Photo: tinyhousemama/Instagram 

“We are really good at purging. Sometimes on Sundays people walking by can find loot on my front curb,” says Stacey (lucky them!). “It’s hard to keep everything to a ‘minimum’ with a small kid in tow, but we try. I wouldn’t say my design style is minimal, but more ‘boho farmhouse chic minimalist,’ if that’s even a thing,” she laughs.

11. Outfit the home with much-needed storage for unsightly items.

Photo: Lauren Kolyn 

Ogling her Instagram, it’s easy to imagine that everything in her home is a thing of beauty. Stacey’s trick is to put the unsightly items behind closed doors. “When we bought the home there literally wasn’t one closet, so we outfitted our home with some much-needed storage space. We created a designated mudroom with a wall of cabinets to store cleaning supplies and household items. We also have a laundry/utility room where the less pretty things live.” Stacey also loves storing kids toys in baskets and bins under the bed.

13. Rock a capsule wardrobe.

Photo: Lauren Kolyn

Along with maximizing the limited space, capsule wardrobes simplify getting ready in the morning. “My partner and I each have a single IKEA PAX wardrobe. Mine isn’t overly full. When something comes in, something goes out. Often, I’ll work the same six pieces for a season or two. Eventually, they get ruined because of my job and I know it’s time to work in a new look,” Stacey says.

14. Stay consistent with 15-minute tidying sessions.

“You can see my bedroom from basically every angle in the house, which means if my bed isn’t made or there’s clothes everywhere (usually the case) — the house feels out of sorts. Living in a small space takes discipline and consistency: you have to keep the house tidy, have a place for everything and remember to put it back. My house can get really messy, really fast, but then it also takes about fifteen minutes to get it back in order — which is a saving grace,” she says.

Developments featured in this article

More Like This

Facebook Chatter