Just 700 square feet / 65 square meters for a family of 5? That’s a very small apartment for all of you! …we hear this quite often! How do you fit? How do you make it work?
There are two opposing trends in today’s housing market for families:
Go bigger and bigger, getting a house with a garden
or the exact opposite encapsulated by the tiny house movement.
With house prices in urban centres around the world skyrocketing, finding a golden medium as a family home is tricky.
We are a family of 5 and were faced with this issue of shortage of housing for our budget, when we decided to go small. We decided on buying a small family apartment. Our move was as much a lifestyle and sustainability-led choice as a financial one.
We bought a 65 square metre, 700 square foot apartment in Sweden’s 4th largest city, Uppsala, and plan to develop the apartment with flexible spaces and pod-style sleeping quarters.
Advantages of a small family home
While lots of families strive to bring up kids in sprawling suburbs, there are lots of advantages of living in a built-up urban environment. These include the cost of living and the easy access to amenities. The most important one for us is winning time with less time spent commuting and on housework. This leads to spending more time available as quality family time.
In a small home, while we strive for everyone to have their own personal space, we are closer together and do end up spending more time in each other’s company. This can lead to frictions, but, inevitably, in the long run leads to better compromising and social skills for us all.
Buying a small apartment is cheaper than the equivalent in the same area.
After the initial injection of funds into renovations and customising our space we are bound to be saving money living in a small space. There are two major factors contributing to this. Firstly, we are using less energy to heat and light our small flat. Secondly, we are forced to consume less, as we physically cannot fit it in our apartment.
Summary of advantages of a small family home:
– More quality family time
– More sustainable lifestyle
– Costs less and saves money
Challenges of small family homes
There are, of course, challenges and compromises in living in a small space. In our modern society there is such a high pressures to consume more and more and thus end up with so much stuff. As a family, it’s almost impossible to be minimalists, but we cannot afford to follow general first world consumer trends either. There are tough choices. (We’ll discuss this later though.)
Clever storage is a priority. However, we also don’t want to suffocate ourselves with cupboards and storage solutions everywhere.
The kids don’t get their own rooms. They have personal sleeping spaces only.
We compromise on family activities: we have one TV and that’s in our family room and kitchen. While we are doing quiet activities, homework on the dining table no one can watch TV or play on the XBox.
Hobby spaces are much more difficult to carve out.
Summary of challenges of a small family home:
– There are more compromises about things and activities
– Catering to hobbies and extras are more difficult.
Renovation priorities in a small family home
Where to start is always a dilemma. It’s easy to think to start with the spaces you spend most of your time together in, where you host guests, but in a small apartment for a big family, it’s a bit different.
Creating flexible spaces
It’s important to understand your space, know which walls can be moved, which are structural. Most of the time, structural walls may be removed too, with adequate reinforcements, hinging on calculations from structural engineers and work carried out by qualified builders.
The process, for us, started with understanding what our lifestyle priorities were. Things like sitting down for breakfast and dinner together at a dining table, all snuggling on a sofa large enough to fit 5 of us and hosting large dinner parties of 2-3 families around a big table. That’s an awful lot to squeeze into a small apartment!
Some of the thinking process we discussed about how to make the most of a small living room dining room.
The first task was take down a wall between the bedroom and the kitchen to make this our family room and kitchen. It’s a cosy and flexible space.
If you are considering changes to make your home more family-friendly, there are some easy changes I discuss, based on researching this for our renovations.
Room-by-room updates for our small family home
Sadly, we don’t have the luxury of living somewhere while the renovations take place. This whole process is a huge game of tetris, where things move from one place to the next and the next, till we create a permanent space for them. It’s a slow and frustrating process.
If there is one thing I could change, it would be to have less “stuff” and be more organised with the things that we do have. Slowly we do start seeing results.
The large bedroom was the first room we decorated and furnished, as this room was empty after our summer break. Our lodger had been staying there.
This was going to be our master bedroom. However, just as we were finishing with that room and had started on the boys bedroom, we decided there was a better use of the spaces. Our plans, after much discussion changed. We decided to go for sleeping pod style tiny bedrooms.
The boys planned bedroom became our master bedrooms with an incredible amount of storage planned in.
Kitchen- small and child-friendly
The kitchen renovation wasn’t scheduled for a couple more months, but the status quo just got to us: the mess, lack of practical storage, the single induction hob, tiny oven. So we jumped ahead a little and started on the kitchen.
It was designed with kids in mind every step of the way. All the things they need on a daily basis is accessible for them without a stepladder.
Our small kitchen has some unconventional aspects for sure, like I actually took away space- a corner- of the already small kitchen. Have a look at our first walkthough, where I discuss some of the design decisions and look into our cupboards and drawers to show you what we’ve done so far. There are finishing touches to do still and lots of decluttering, finding new places for our campervan and sailboat cutlery, crockery and tools.