Our 620-Square-Foot Family Home is Bursting with Color, Fun, and Unexpected Functionality

published Sep 10, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids. Join us over on Instagram for more!

Cubby. Real solutions for unreal times.

Join us for a weekly dose of fresh, modern ideas for life at home with your kids.

We knew from the start that we wanted one forever home, a place that our 2- and 3-year-old could spend their entire childhood. But as we were starting at the bottom of the property ladder, that meant we couldn’t afford a huge place. So we purchased a new build, and while it wasn’t particularly large, we focused on making our 620-square-foot home work for us. It took some creativity, and a lot of thoughtful DIYs, but we’ve settled into a groove that has made our home truly special for us.

We quickly set about removing the boring magnolia colored walls in favour of something a little more us. Every room is a mix of bright colors and bold patterns, blended with functionality that is suitable for children and adults. 

Here are the top tips we picked up along the way:

A room can serve a dual purpose — even your kitchen  

Rarely ever did we all sit down to eat together in a dining room. We are a busy family, and we are always on the go. So instead of keeping this large room as a mostly unused kitchen-diner, we transformed it into a kitchen-playroom, focusing on an area for the girls, which includes a table and storage.To make the space feel cohesive we focused we used light, pastel colours. The playroom has an ice cream theme, while the kitchen is themed around a rainbow gingham print. Pops of colour, used in different ways, helps the room feel connected as a space.

Having this dedicated play space helps prevent piles of toys in every room, and provides the girls with a space that they can get messy. The pastel colours are a reflection of our family, and make the space feel inviting, warm, and friendly. 

Think about vertical storage in terms of tiers

This is a must to make a small house work for your family. Good storage makes tidying easy, but it also means that everyone can find what they need. IKEA is a great place to look for storage. We used the Trofast units with circular labels for each of the trays. Instead of selecting the same color for each tray, we alternated pale pink and white, creating a bit of extra visual interest. The girls can find what they want in an instant, and they can also tidy it away just as quickly. Excitingly, there are a number of small businesses that create ways to use these same trays as toys too. Toys by nature makes wooden inserts for the trays, and The Sticker House makes incredible stickers for Ikea products to transform them to become part of the play. 

And don’t forget the top of your storage too. We filled glass jars with crayons and craft supplies to make everything accessible, yet attractive and colorful when displayed in the open. A rack allows all the mats and notebooks to stand upright, maximizing the most of the space. For washi tape, paints, and other items that don’t need to be readily accessible, we added a pegboard, which also serves as a place to display all the girls’ best pieces of art. By thinking up, we were able to turn this wall into a functional space that also stores everything we need it to.

Small spaces can have BIG style with some thoughtful decisions

Hallways and landings are easy to overlook. They can be seen as a transitional space rather than a feature, but they can provide real opportunities to be creative. These are often the spaces that everyone sees in your home, from delivery drivers to house guests. We always feel like your hallway needs to reflect who you are, as it can say a lot about you. From our yellow and black polka dot front door to our strawberry adorned hallway, it is clear to all callers that we are a family that values expression, creativity, and perhaps a little eccentricity. We applied berry decals to the door, and printed berry art from Lorna Freytag to frame. We even added a little strawberry doormat! By creating thoughtful call-backs to the theme, we keep everything feeling cohesive. The scalloped trend is very popular right now, but we used it in an unexpected way by painting the inset of the door, rather than the top of a wall. 

The girls find the space fun too, small as it is. We let them be part of the creative process when we designed it, and learned that pink is a must for our 3-year-old. But we didn’t forget about functionality, adding a painted blue drawer for mail and bills (use the same color as your walls for a subtle, built-in effect), a mirror for quick touch-ups before heading out the door, and a decorative bowl for our keys.

Upstairs, we added a gallery wall that expresses so much about our art-loving family. We love bold colors. It’s been so much fun collecting beautiful pieces from lots of artists across the country. Some of my favourites have to be the furby print, my Adore every inch papercut art and pink and red hope screen print. 

Making a gallery work in this space wasn’t easy. It required a big ladder to safely put the top pieces up. We made sure to plan the top of the gallery wall and leave the empty spaces at the bottom, which were easier to fill as we acquired new pieces. We made a lot of mistakes initially and had several frames fall on us. We learnt to buy good quality command strips, choose frames that were light, and remove the glass from them before we hung them. The whole space feels cohesive and joyful. We tried to make sure that all of the prints had pink in them to ensure this. This statement wall gives us our daily reminder that we should be colorful, to fight the system, and to embrace our inner Wednesday Addams.

Divide the bookshelves in half

Our living room doesn’t look like a standard living room, and that’s just how we like it. The focus isn’t on the TV, but rests on our shared love of reading. This big library wall was achieved with several IKEA Billy bookcases. We opted for the tallest and shallowest ones, so we could make use of the wall, without encroaching too much on the floor space. The bookcases are filled with our books at the top and the children’s books at the bottom, so that my daughters can easily reach their favorites. Allowing the room to feel equally accessible for the adults and children really makes the space feel fit for purpose. That’s the magic of a family space! A few shelves have also been set aside for toy display, allowing us to rotate what is available, or lay out books and toys on a theme, like for holidays or special occasions.

We added a cozy sofa and kid-friendly ottoman/tray combo nearby, so that our girls could grab their books and settle right in. When organizing books, be sure to have a clear system. Rainbow color works well if the books are the same size. For the children’s books, you can sort them further into paperbacks and hardcovers picture books, nonfiction and board books.