Making a Small Luxury Condo Work Harder: The Inside Story

Making a Small Luxury Condo Work Harder: The Inside Story

Excitement one minute.

Disappointment the next.

Has this happened to you?

You’re thrilled to get a new job and sell your place. But discouraged (shocked) to see what size home it’ll get you in your new city?


You’re eager to downsize so you can simplify and travel. But dismayed (overwhelmed, horrified) to see how hard it is to squeeze into your new home?

You’re frustrated. Anxious. And feeling confused.

Wondering how you’ll make a smaller place work for the new life you want.

It makes me think of Edward, my client.

Edward is a sharp dressed, business savvy, international real estate developer. And he’s no fool.

When he downsized from a big house to a small, luxury condo he expected big things from his small space.

Here’s how I made Edward’s brand new, small, luxury condo work harder. Giving him more value for his money and a great life to boot.

Maybe you’re not a real estate investor. Or even bought your first home yet.

The great thing is these simple, small space lessons can make any home work harder.

No matter what size space you have.

How To See Space Like the Pros Do

Edward is good at his job.

He knows that success in his work starts with 2 key things.

Seeing potential. Then maximizing it.

He chose a condo in a gorgeous building under construction. Great location. Luxury amenities. High end finishes throughout.

But he saw more potential.

Edward knew even a shiny, brand new build could be made better. Surprising as that may seem.

That’s when he called me.

So off we went to tour the project and discuss.

Edward travels constantly between his offices all over the world. So he knew what he wanted.

The efficiency and ease of a hotel, but the comfort and familiarity of a real home. Space enough to entertain. But small enough to be a breeze to maintain.

A beautiful home that did everything he needed it to do.

And frankly, doesn’t that sound like what most of us are after?

So he chose a 2 bedroom condo with an excellent water view. But it was small. Much smaller than his previous home.

Time to focus on the goal.

How To Get What Everybody Wants


It’s what everyone looks for when buying a home.

Sure, location is important.

Natural light is great.

A beautiful view is a bonus.

But everything always boils down to SPACE.

Space to do all you want in your home, comfortably.

Space to put all the stuff you need, efficiently.

Space that works, beautifully.

But let’s face it.

Real estate isn’t cheap. So compromises have to be made.

Most often that’s space.

That can be scary.

Will you have enough room?

Will it do what it needs to do?

If you don’t have it, how do you make more of it?

Or feel like you have it just the same?

Edward had those very concerns. And with good reason.

So what was the plan?

1. Look for ways to make more space in the box you have.

2. Use tricks that make you feel like you have even more.

Why NOT To Accept Things At Face Value

With hard hats on, we walked through the rough, new space, builder’s plans in hand.

The plans showed what the builder proposed for the kitchen, bathrooms, and closets.

As well as the proposed lighting and ideas for furniture placement.

Emphasis on “proposed”.

These are ideas. Suggestions. And they rarely (aka never) reflect reality or your needs.

This is important.

Just because the suggestions are on paper doesn’t make them right.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to rework the floor plan.

For example, Edward chose the unit for the view.

A spectacular wall of floor to ceiling windows looking at the water. Like standing on the bow of a boat.

But the view was cut in half by a wall that led to the second bedroom. Not only blocking the best part of the condo, but making the space feel dark and cramped.

We needed more light.

Light creates space.

Lesson: Add more light, your space feels bigger.

We added light in 2 ways.

First, we took down the wall.

Now, the minute you walked in the condo, your eye was pulled from the entrance, past the adequate open kitchen and dining area.

And jumped straight to the expansive, light filled double living room, with an even broader view beyond.

Suddenly Edward was getting what he actually paid for. The view.

And it FELT huge.

What about the second bedroom, you ask? No worries. That asset wasn’t ignored.

True, Edward could receive overnight guests with the help of his well designed sofas. But he knew his needs could change.

Or if he ever sold the next person may want a closed bedroom or office.

So we moved what was in the separating wall, like electrical outlets and switches, to another wall in the bedroom.

Doing this allowed for 2 options.

A wall of cabinetry could cover the full end wall of the room. And include a closet, a Murphy bed (with a comfortable, normal mattress) and even an office space.

This would preserve the light, view and floor space but provide a complete, but hidden, bedroom.

Or a full wall could inexpensively be rebuilt in exactly the same spot down the road.

Second, we attacked the lighting plan.

Dark corners make a space feel smaller.

It’s as if where the light ends a wall begins. That convinces your eye that the room is smaller than it is.

So we double checked the placement, number and type of lights in every room. (And we made sure every light was dimmable for maximum control.)

  • Recessed lights were placed in all corners of each room to expand them.
  • Under cabinet lights were added in the kitchen to light work surfaces.
  • Strip lighting was added above the rods in the walk-in closets to see into every corner.
  • Over mirror lights were changed to eye level wall sconces in each bathroom, to create better light on the face.

No shadows or dark corners in sight.

Just functional, flexible, space expanding light.

How To Discover Your Enemy (And Make Him Pay)

There’s 2 things that waste your money in a small home.

And you need to find them.

  • Wasted space.
  • Hidden space.

Wasted space is brazen.

It mocks your money. It eats up your square footage and gives you very little in return. It’s not your friend.

And it’s usually found in closets.

Hidden space is sneaky.

It’s really just more evil wasted space…but in disguise.

It’s usually found in what looks like a perfectly good kitchen or bathroom.

Edward’s condo had both.

Not surprisingly, the worst offenders of wasted space were the 2 biggest closets.

The entry storage room and the master walk-in.

The storage room was an OK sized walk-in space. It sported a single, sad rod and shelf along one wall.

The problem was how much we needed that space to do.

Laundry, ironing board, multi season coats, boots, shoes, sports gear, bulk goods, suitcases, car stuff, vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, tools, light bulbs, a ladder.

It all had to go in there!

That’s when a tape measure becomes your best friend.

Lesson: Measure everything, and make every inch count in all directions.

Seeing what needs to be stored tells how much space you need.

And how it can be grouped together.

Knowing exactly (to the millimetre) how much space you have lets you take full advantage of it.

Every inch considered. Every inch used.

Like vertically, right up to the ceiling. Or leaving JUST enough room for function, like a door to open or for something to just fit.

This is the best version of tetras around.

And the most valuable.

Since it will easily double or triple what that very same room can do. Like having 2 (or more) rooms in 1!

Edward’s entry storage room became all that for him.

A laundry room, utility room, storage room and closet. It had space for everything and room to do it.

I found his master walk-in in the same, sorry state.

Just a single rod and shelf on one wall.

Adding double hanging space, drawers, shelves, hooks and pull out laundry bins on just 2 walls tripled what that little room could do.

Wasted space, be gone.

Now for that pesky hidden space.

A kitchen design might look good on the plan or in a showroom. But it won’t work hard enough if it doesn’t use all the space it takes up.

Lesson: Make sure you USE all the space you paid for.

Take Edwards’s kitchen, for example.

The cabinets were nice on the plan but they didn’t go to the ceiling.

The skinny wall cabinets flanking the range hood left unnecessary empty space between.

Space much better used INSIDE the cabinets than out.

I also found space hiding at the kitchen island.

Making the counter a few inches deeper created room for bar stools on the other side. Same space, more function.

A nearby niche created by a structural pillar could easily have gone unnoticed and unused.

It was awkward and small. But it was just big enough for a wine fridge.

A countertop and glass storage above and a bar area came to life.

Again, same space, more function.

But the sneakiest waste of space in a kitchen is doors instead of drawers.

Lesson: Add more drawers wherever you can.

Full extension drawers give you access to the very back of a cupboard. No getting on hands and knees to see what’s in the back. No pulling out things in the front to get to the back.

Swapping out drawers (or any container that acts like one) for doors everywhere possible, including pullouts in the pantry, makes every inch of your kitchen usable.

We can’t forget vertical space.

So that cavern above the fridge is the perfect spot for things that are big and flat.

By adding vertical dividers to that big open space gives trays, baking sheets, and serving platters an easy to access home.

This same formula made Edward’s bathrooms work harder too.

Vanities with drawers made sure he could use all the space inside them.

Adding a wall cabinet above the toilet took advantage of the open space to the ceiling.

And linen storage appeared.

No more hidden space undiscovered.

Or not pulling its weight.

As Edward and I took a walk around the finished condo he smiled.

Sure he had a smaller home this time around.

But he didn’t feel like he’d compromised anything at all.

And he knew he was making the most of every inch and every dollar.

And that made Edward feel great.

So try adding a little more light and more pull out storage.

Measure everything and play some home storage tetras of your own.

Watch your space (and YOUR smile) expand too.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

By signing up for this guide, you will also be added to my mailing list. You will receive periodic updates and special offers from me via email. I will not sell or distribute your email address to a third party at any time. View my privacy policy.

A No-Fail Guide to Choosing the Right Paint Colour (The First Time)