Design Crew

Posted on Sat, 2 Jun 2012 by midcenturyjo

Got a problem? Need some help? Just standing there shaking your head? Don’t know what to do? You’re not alone. Send us a link to photos of your design quandary and let the Desire to Inspire design crew help you…. that’s you lot… the readers! This week’s problem is from Tiago.

I just moved to a small apartment near to São Paulo‘s center, and I’m struggling to get something out of it. It has 1 very small kitchen that is opened to a living room, a bathroom and a bedroom. My main problem is the living room. It has 3,75mx3,75m and faces a 1,80m sliding door to a small terrace. There is a counter (30cm) that watches the kitchen, and it helps sometimes (to eat) but is very annoying in other (my computer doesn’t really fits on it).  Right now I have a small table in the middle of the room with my TV on it and a 2-person sofa looking to it. But, as I’m a architecture student, I need somewhere to work, and it’s very hard to find this space! Do you have any recommendations, photos or ideas?

Caroline says:

Looking at the picture again I think itvwould probably be better to place your new ceiling-high storage/working unit where now your bar is. You could make it run from the wall to about the middle of the current bar (aligned with the wall behind the bar, left of the entrance), so you will screen off the kitchen a bit more. That storage-wall would also tackle the issue of covering the ugly tiles. It would be great if you could chop off the rest of the bar…

It would help a lot to see a photo of the wal where your sofa is placed right now and have some measurements, but this is what I would do (hope it fits!)
I would put the sofa on the wall facing the kitchen (just under those selves) and the tv on a tv unit (or table) on the wall where I presume you have your sofa right now.
You can unscrew the wood counter and put a table there against the corner. Not the perfect solution, but you would gain the place to work you're asking for and you could move it to the center of your living room if you have gests for dinner.
Hung a thread curtain over the kitchen counter to separate spaces.
Hope this helps!

acpgee says:

I'm assuming you are on a student budget, so I would recommend the following:

Unscrew the countertop facing the kitchen and replace with a thick slab of plywood or MDF that is wide enough for you to work on. Stain this in a nice unnatural colour (I like grey, olve or navy) and coat with polyurethane. Just store the original counter in a closet or under the bed until you move out. If the new shelf is much bigger you might need larger brackets as well, but I doubt it.

Brenda says:

Making assumptions based on the pics, it looks like you are not allowed to put holes in the walls since nothing is hung on them. Also I'm guessing you are on a strict budget, and a renter opposed to owning. Keeping these in mind, here are my thoughts. Hope you can picture it well enough.

You have a bit of a storage issue seeing the bags and the throw all crate on the floor. So first things first, ditch the bar/counter piece. It is easily removed from what I can see (just store it away until you move out). I would pick up a thick enough piece of plywood roughly the same size as the bar board. Using the exact same holes the brackets use (remove the brackets too), screw the plywood board flat against the wall. I would stain or paint the plywood as well. This way you can screw a row of hooks into it to hang your bags, scarves, etc and the screws wont go through to the wall as long as you're not using long screws. Stores like Home depot will do cuts for you, so no worry having to do it yourself.

Don't do anything to block the kitchen and the brick style tiles. It would feel too cut off and claustrophobic being it's so small. Work with the look instead of trying to cover it up. But store the toaster oven when not in use if you do not have the counter space to keep it. Also, as a commenter above suggested, ditch the wall mounted shelves. Store them if they were there when you moved in (which I'm assuming too). They really do take away a lot more than you'd imagine.

On the far wall where the floor lamp is (toss that btw, yuck) build or buy a shelving unit. A inexpensive option is plain ol' plywood cut appropriately and have them run the length of the wall. Held up by foundation/cinder blocks *gasp*. I know I know, kitschy taboo, but in this day and age it is a nice industrial look. Again, stain the boards to match or compliment the floors. Two shelves would suffice, just make sure you place felt under the bottom block to protect the floors. So now you have a great storage area to put all your books and misc. The television can sit on the top shelf, with some decorative items and whatever else you wish. Two matching table lamps at each end would ground it along with giving you nice looking decent lighting.

Flip the sofa so it is facing the new shelving unit but bring it in closer. Use what you are using now for the television stand as a coffee table. Throw an inexpensive rug down in front of the sofa, just make sure it is the appropriate size and ground it by butting it up to or placed under the front legs.

Last but not least, butt up a table or desk against the back of the sofa. Be creative and think outside of the box if you can't find and actual desk to fit the space. A glass topped, open bottomed console table would be perfect with a shield back chair for seating. Look at antique/vintage shops and flea markets. Also reuse centers. I have found amazing chairs through them, all for very little to no money. Whatever it is make it slim, but not as narrow as the bar area you're working with now, and long. Decorate it minimally with a smaller lamp and you have yourself a workstation and a place to eat.

I would also take down the blinds, replace them with curtains. A cheap but tasteful option is a drop cloth (trust me). Twenty bucks will get you a 9×12. Cut it to size, put in some grommets and you're set. Unless of course you are the creative type and want to venture further, but they really work well just as is.

I hope I at least gave you the spark for ideas, good luck!

I would remove the bar from the dividing wall between the kitchen and the main living area, and place your TV up against the opposite wall. If you are renting store it and replace it when you move out.

I would then add a table against the wall you cant see in the image, it will need to be a small one. You can use this for dining, as well as for working on. If you are not renting or are allowed to screw into the walls, invest in a folding table that attaches to the wall. That way you can fold it out of the way when you are not using it. Get folding chairs as well, and screw hooks into the walls, so you can also fold and hang these when you aren't using them.

Buy some nice, matching storage baskets or crates, and use them to store your laptop/office stuff/general other stuff while you are not using it. Use one per category of stuff (ie shoes, office supplies, text books, etc). That way the space will be clutter-free and will feel bigger.

It looks like you might have a lovely view … make the most of it and lose the blind, unless someone overlooks your apartment. Without a blind, the window will make the room seem bigger than it is.

Ugh, I left a bit of my comment out. I meant to say: Remove the bar from the part wall between the kitchen and the living area, and put the sofa there. Then place your TV up against the opposite wall.

Jolene says:

Here's something that hasn't been mentioned yet. Rather than removing the bar, enhance it by finding or making a table that is the same height as the bar. Place it in the space between the bar and the patio door, creating an "L" shaped workstation. The new table could be 2-3 feet deep, and you could still use the bar for dining, if desired. Mount the TV on the wall above the bar and get rid of that hot mess of cords at all costs! 🙂 A rug, a coffee table and two items of seating of your choice would then seem to fit well in an "L" shape in the living room area. From the pictures, it seems the space would benefit from light or white modern furnishings. I'd try to steer clear of dark/black selections. One big focal piece of art or a poster would look nice under the shelving, whereas a number of small items makes it look cluttered and small. Good luck!

peggy says:

Hi Jo! Do you ever post "after" shots of these dilemmas? Some really good suggestions come out of these posts and I am so curious how people solve their problems and if they take any of the suggestions into account.

Gabriela says:

You are a future architect, give us a floor plan or something and being in Architecture school find some inspiration there. There are a lot of books on small spaces, but honestly, as an Architecture student myself, I would recommend DIY blogs. There are a lot of great ones (try for ideas).

Find inspiration, but make it your own.

First of all, put that TV on a wall, on a shelf or just hang it. It's not a centerpiece. If you can't hang it, just move thing from the middle, to a wall. Again if you can't put screws in the walls, find standing shelves , try Ikea or just go buy some plywood, or wood and make it yourself, it's so easy and rewarding.

Make your apartment cozy, remove the blinds and put curtains up. Find some good photos, drawings, sketches, match them so they can go together and hang them. Ask whoever rented you the apartment if you can paint, do something neutral that matches your furniture. Try something like coffee with milk, you can take a risk with something bold, but it probably better to do just one wall in another color.

You can also put a desk between the door and the bar, on the wall with the door, it would be interesting, and it doesn't have to be the same height as the bar, lower would look good, because it will be a different material that the bar, and it looks stupid if you connect them at the same height. Don't do anything to that small bar, it looks very good, at least in pictures. I'm not loving the stone in the back, it would so nice if you could tear it apart. It's too massive and too high.

I don't know, hope I helped somehow.

Penny says:


For a quick transformation I would put your tv in the corner under the shelving bar area as there is lots of socket access, this leaves space at the other end of the bar for a small area to eat if required. I would put your sofa against the wall opposite the wall where the tv would be. Try and find a nice coffee table or pick up some pallets paint them up and put castors on so you have a central coffee table, your standing light in the corner behind the sofa and a nice rug and voila. Simple, cheap and it doesn't involve ripping bits out etc. Hope this helps 🙂

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