The Art of Living in Small Spaces

How to make the most of a house that isn't huge.


A small, circular cocktail table from Random Harvest is easy to navigate around and doesn’t impede traffic flow. Photo by Robert Radifera.

Row House Proud

1,100 square feet

Yes, a family of five can live happily in 1,100 square feet, contends Kristin Try, owner of Gingham & Grosgrain Fine Art & Interiors.

She and her husband, Greg, share a Del Ray row house with their three daughters, ages 6, 8 and 12. They’ve lived there since 2005.


The dining nook’s built-in banquette includes lower storage for cookbooks and kitchen appliances. The end chairs are from Red Barn Mercantile in Old Town Alexandria. Photo by Robert Radifera.


“We love living in a smaller home,” says the designer, who also does fine art paintings on commission—from a studio in the same little house, no less. “The key to making it work was reconfiguring the former kitchen and dining room to create one open space for spending quality time with family and friends.”

Working with Brian Elias of Equity Renovations, and within the home’s existing footprint, Try removed a nonstructural wall between the kitchen and dining room to make the communal areas less compartmentalized.

“The important thing was keeping circulation flowing, so I also chose to do a kitchen island instead of a peninsula,” she adds.


Space-savers in the kitchen include a tall, narrow Bosch fridge (designed for tight spaces) and a built-in cubby for the toaster oven. Ceiling fixtures by Circa Lighting. Photos by Robert Radifera.


A Pottery Barn secretary marks the transition from foyer to living room and can serve as a desk, a bar or a buffet serving area. Try wallpapered the backs of the upper cabinets for visual interest. Photo by Robert Radifera.

There’s a lot packed into that tidy island—including a sink, dishwasher, 16-inch-deep pantry, built-in spice rack, utensil drawers and more—which Try designed with professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal.

While it may be small, the kitchen is crafted with top-grade materials. The custom oak cabinets are finished in matte-gray paint, and the countertops and backsplash are marble.

Other furnishings are equally thoughtful. Just beyond the island, an antique trestle dining table sidles up to a built-in window seat that doubles as a banquette. “We can seat eight to 10 people for a party,” Try says. “It’s also where the girls do their homework while I make dinner.”

The adjoining living room also serves multiple functions. It contains a sofa and chair for lounging or entertaining, plus a tall secretary, which can do double duty as a desk or bar.

“Ours is a cozy, happy home,” Try says, “and shows that quality can exist even in the smallest of spaces.”


Project Credit: Gingham & Grosgrain, Alexandria,; Rachel & Co., Bethesda,; Equity Renovations, Arlington,

Categories: Home & Design