My calculations figure we added 132 square feet to our living space since the new year. A 15% increase from our 900 square foot apartment. Not bad.
It’s not the first time we expanded our space without moving or renovating. Our first year we found space by by getting rid of things. This time, ironically, we added square feet by adding things.
Our apartment was set up well, but certain areas needed fine tuning.
- Office in the living room. I am incapable of keeping an office area clean. I hoped to figure out how, then share my insights. Nope. Plan B = Find a hidden place to be messy.
- Guests. Giving up the only proper bed in the master bedroom was weird. The air mattress and couch too uncomfortable. We wanted to give our guests a better experience.
- The kids keep changing. Our 7 year old reads himself to sleep now. The light keeps his sister awake. They needed more separation.
- Dad missed his tools. They were stored 80 miles away and he wanted them closer.
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t consider moving. We looked at bigger apartments, houses in nearby neighborhoods, and condos.
Then… Skyway dad got a new job downtown Minneapolis. We live in St. Paul for the schools and busing. The best commute to downtown Minneapolis from anywhere, turns out, is exactly where we live- downtown St. Paul – 15 steps from the bus stop. The 94 bus takes 20 minutes regardless of traffic thanks to “road shoulder privileges.” No parking expenses. No rush hour stress. I don’t think people living in downtown Minneapolis can get to work any faster – certainly not while reading, texting, emailing and preparing for the workday.
The new job meant we were downtown for good. A 3 bedroom rental has a $1000 premium over a 2 bedroom. We pay $1400/mo for a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 parking spot apartment ($1300 last year, $1500 on the upcoming lease – rent is definitely going up in Lowertown, our downtown neighborhood). A 3 bedroom would have cost $2400/mo.
So, no. A big, fat, no way to getting a 3 bedroom.
We committed to our 2 bedroom, our lives as renters, and started shopping, customizing, and creating more square footage with what we had.
1. LOFTS = 62 square feet extra
We lofted a queen bed AND a full bed side by side in the kids room. 28 sq feet for the full bed, 34 square feet for the queen bed = 62 square feet.
Putting them together side by side created a 10 foot wide platform that perfectly fit our 10 foot wide bedroom. The walls are the safety rails. Sometimes beds are up, and a TV, reading, and hang out spot below. Sometimes we have it as fancy bunk beds with each child getting a large bed and hang out space on the same level.
The bottom of each loft is 54″ from the floor. At this height both my husband and I can comfortably sit above or below with the 8 foot ceiling.
The lofts with 2 new mattresses added 4 additional sleeping spots to our apartment. We could sleep 10 before. Now we can sleep 14 (like sardines, but we can do it). We still play musical beds when we have guests, but the lofts create more options and more “normal” mattresses.
An unexpected side effect is the messy beds and piles of stuffed animals are now above of my visual range. As long as I don’t step up on the ladder, I don’t see the chaos. I guess, going vertical has its merits afterall.
2. STORAGE LOCKERS = 24 square feet extra
Storage is for hoarders. That’s what a proper minimalist would say right? I lived with my extra stuff for a year and a half feeling if I rented storage space I was failing as a minimalist. I do think living with my stuff helped to purge – always the first and most important step in creating more space – but at the end of the day, I still wanted a tub of Christmas decorations. I wanted winter coats away in the summer and golf clubs away in the winter. Plus Skyway dad wanted his tools back in his life for special projects. I was not going to find a place for a table saw in the apartment.
We rented 2 storage lockers in the building, each 3′ x 4′ or 24 total extra square feet for both.
Drawers are magic. We added 15 of them – 5 dressers, 3 drawers each.
Between the drawers and a storage locker we freed up our largest closet, or 46 square feet.
This empty closet is now the office.
Playing devil’s advocate you may say “dresser furniture takes away square footage.” Yes and no. I measure visual square footage more than actual square footage. The dressers are below hip level. If I can see the square footage above them, they don’t count. Plus 3 of the dressers replaced inefficiently used closet space, so only 2 dressers are really using floor space that was previously clear – that’s maybe 6 square feet.
62 + 24 + 46 = 132 extra square feet, the size of a 10′ x 13′ 3rd bedroom.
- Love the new office. It’s hidden away. It’s messy. You are not invited.
- The living room is bigger. We can play Kinect on the Xbox. A new addition since Christmas. You are invited. 🙂
- Guests have options. Queen loft/full loft/under the loft. With advance warning I can clear my office – stack papers to the side, roll out the chairs, fold the table – and you can sleep there. 6′ x 7.5′ sq. feet fits a queen mattress.
- The kids have options. Up/Down/Side by Side/Separate/Together/Lights on/Lights off.
- Dad has a tool shed on the 8th floor.
- Mom has a storage shed on the 7th floor.
P.P.S. After the time and expense creating our ‘expanded’ apartment, we unexpectedly found a condo to purchase 5 blocks away. I’m channeling my inner Graham Hill as we embark on transforming a poorly designed 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo into a well designed 3 bedroom + office, 2 bath + laundry, full size eat in kitchen, formal dining room and living room with a proper entry way and, of course, plenty of storage and elbow room in 1000 sq. feet. Wish us luck! I’ll post soon how it’s going.