Urban Updates | Small Space Design Solutions

I have been taking on the huge feat of remodeling my condo kitchen and bathroom. (You can read about my kitchen mini-makeover on Jamie’s blog at Jai La Vie.) I’ve been constantly updating my space since I bought the condo almost three years ago, and now that I am finally a little less poor, I’m ready to tackle bigger and more permanent upgrades. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced has been finding proportionate appliances and fixtures that fit the space, are functional, and of course are also beautiful! I did my research and scoured the internet for ideas and inspiration, searched through many stores – both online and brick and mortar – trying to find the best fit and the best deal for small space solutions. What I found however, is that what is “small” to most people is not actually THAT small… come live in NYC and I’ll show you a truly small space. As we are almost through the biggest DIY of my life (well, so far), I figured I’d share with you the key pieces I finally settled on to best utilize the footage in my urban kitchen and small bathroom.

• Dishwasher

Like many city apartments, I did not previously have a dishwasher. It was a good experience… I think everyone should live without for awhile to learn to appreciate such luxuries as a machine that does a chore for you. I promise I will never put dishes in the sink because I am too lazy to open the dishwasher!

My options were either a small 18″ dishwasher OR a full size 24″ dishwasher that fits under-the-sink. I went with the GE Spacemaker under-the-sink style. Yes, I’ve heard the complaints (mostly in online forums – probably from people who aren’t living in truly small spaces) about how inconvenient it would be to rinse and load a dishwasher from the side of the sink… but it is more inconvenient to a.) not have a dishwasher or b.) have to run the dishwasher every day because it’s too small to hold all your dirty dishes. I actually had an 18″ model in my first NYC apartment (and Jamie has one now) and it wasn’t super practical.  And back then, I cooked much less than I do now! Since the options are not limitless for those of us with space constraints, I think this was the perfect solution for me. It is a bit more expensive than other models (and I “splurged” on the stainless steel), but extra space is priceless, right?

GE Spacemaker Under Sink Dishwasher

GE Spacemaker Under Sink Dishwasher

• Washer/Dryer

Again, I didn’t have a washer/dryer at all and neither does my building so it was something I knew I wanted. In college, I studied abroad in London and our flat had a little washer/dryer combo in the kitchen. And guess what? We have them here in the US too! I ended up with the Haier 1.8 Cubic Foot Ventless Combo Washer Dryer.  It’s about the size of a dishwasher and it does a small load of laundry and dries all in the same machine. After it washes it switches to a dry cycle so you don’t even have to take the clothes out. The whole cycle takes about two hours, but it can be left unattended. The machine can be hooked up temporarily or installed permanently as I’ve done in my kitchen. They are a little pricey but I scored big after scouring Craigslist for several months. They are actually pretty common around the NYC area.

Washer Dryer Combo

Washer Dryer Combo

• Refrigerator

Quality apartment-sized refrigerators are surprisingly hard to find. I wanted stainless steel and I wanted a small footprint –  the less space the fridge takes up the more space left for me…and my dining table. Since I have super high ceilings  height over width was ideal for me and I finally found everything I wanted in the LG LRBP1031.

It even has some extra features I never seen before – especially in a such a compact size:

“The Electronic Temperature Controls provides precise temperature control in the refrigerator and freezer sections. Having the fresh food section above the freezer, bottom freezer refrigerators put the food you use most at eye level. This unique bottom refrigerator is ideal for any home or office that enjoys performance, organization and design in a compact size.”

LG small fridge

Bottom Freezer Refrigerators Have Always Been About Convenience
Having the fresh food section above the freezer, bottom freezer refrigerators put the food you use most at eye level. This unique bottom refrigerator is ideal for any home or office that enjoys performance, organization and design in a compact size.

Electronic Temperature Controls
Provides precise temperature control in the refrigerator and freezer sections.

Multi-Air Flow Cooling
Designed with vents on every shelf for even air distribution and longer-lasting food freshness.

Quick Freezing Drawer
Allows for twice as fast freezing time to lock in freshness.

Counter Depth
Models meet the edge of 24″ counters (without the door) for a seamless look.

• Bathtub

I don’t really like a standing shower. Unless of course it’s a nice big open oasis with a waterfall shower head in a huge bathroom with a separate free standing tub, maybe looking out onto my own private beach… but that’s not happening for me today, or any time soon. More likely, in an urban apartment, it’s small, has plastic walls and feels like a coffin. At least it makes for quick showers. Fortunately, there is a happy medium. Indroducing the Bootz 46.5″ Bathtub – for only $139 it really is a bargain. I got mine from Home Depot – they actually didn’t have it in the store (even around NYC) but I ordered online for free in-store pick-up. It works great, it feels spacious and it looks beautiful.

Before finding this I actually almost purchased a motor-home bathtub! I don’t know if that was going to work or not but I was really going to try it… these are real small spaces !

Bootz 46.5" Bathtub


Last but not least, the commode. I was ready to spend big bucks on a fancy expensive toilet just to get the compact size. I also considered the tankless models, but my boyfriend wasn’t crazy about the idea. In order to access the tank you must get inside the wall, and it also has much more specific installation requirements, but I still don’t think it’s a bad option for the right apartment. Anyway, Home Depot came through again and as with the tub, I found this model online only and had it shipped to the store. The American Standard Colony Fitright 2-Piece 1.6 GPF Round Toilet has a depth of only 24.5″ which is even shorter than the pricier Kohler models I was looking at. (The average toilet depth is about 29″.) Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality and it’s turned out to be the perfect fit (literally) for my small bathroom. Look at me… impressed by a toilet. #gettingold

Fitright Toilet

This throne is fit for a king!

I hope that all of my research can help you out on your next small space endeavor. Unfortunately all micro apartments are not as functional as those innovative under 400 sq ft spaces on display by Ikea. But hey, they’re inspirational!

Ikea Display

Check back soon for updates on my finished project and share your own with us in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s