This Family of 5 Lives in 600 Square Feet—Here Are the Space-Saving Items They Use Every Day
Plus the one purchase where they went large.
Published Sep 22, 2022 12:50 PM
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Heather Summers struck the New York City real-estate jackpot the day her agent gave her a virtual Zoom tour of a sun-drenched apartment overlooking Central Park. Sitting in her Sacramento home, surrounded by packed boxes in preparation for the big move east (her husband was set to start school at NYU Law), Summers knew she had to snap it up for her family of five. The caveat? It’s 600 square feet—less than half the size of their house in California. “We downsized pretty drastically,” recalls Summers, who now runs the blog Summers in the City, documenting their new life in Manhattan.
In order to make their cross-country move less stressful—and to simply fit in their new apartment—Summers sold almost all the furniture they owned, with the exception of a few things she couldn’t part with, like their bed frame, a dresser, and the sofa. While the couple’s three daughters, Lennon, Georgie, and James, all under age 5, don’t take up a ton of room, Summers knew they’d need to maximize every square inch. “And so we thought, well, we better get rid of everything and start over after we’ve seen what the apartment looks like in person,” she says.
Now settled in their snug spot, Summers shares the 10 pieces they bought to keep their space feeling calm and collected, from a $30 towel rack to a perfectly sized bedroom desk.
The Shape-Shifting Bookshelf
My husband is an avid reader, so we weren’t going to get rid of any books when we moved. I love that Burrow’s shelves (we bought four of them) are modular. We originally had plans to mount them in a row, but the electrical panel is in the most awkward place ever, throwing off our idea. We ended up putting one of the units on the other wall, creating an L-shape display.
The Kid-Proof Sofa
Everything serves a really thoughtful purpose, even our sofa, which is deep and cozy. It’s great for lounging but also ideal for the girls to play and jump on. It’s bound to get dirty (it’s white!), so we draped a linen slipcover over it—that way it’s not so precious. The idea of not sacrificing on cozy, beautiful pieces to make an inviting sitting area was really important to us: We added pillows from Sanctuarie, an armchair from Kaiyo, and a sheepskin rug from Jenni Kayne to complete the living space.
The Hot Wheels
One of these rolling carts sits next to our stove, giving us around 6 extra inches of countertop space (it’s a good spot for a spoon rest, olive oil, or cookbook). We have another in the bathroom, where we store lotion, skin-care products, and spare toilet paper. When you want something, you can just scoot it out when you need it and then push it back into its corner.
The Streamlined Spices
We mounted our spices right above the oven so they’re always out of the way. More important, the uniform jars by Evermill automatically make things look less cluttered.
The Shareable Toy Storage
Having our girls share everything has served them well (they’re about 18 months apart, so they’re into the same toys). It also keeps stuff in their bedroom to a minimum. The items that they do play with live in four of these Hay crates, which we keep on their bookshelf when not in use. They’re stackable, so we could always buy more and take them all the way up to the ceiling if we need to.
The Movie Night–Ready Basket
I love baskets that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. We keep one of these containers, crafted in Mexico from palm fiber, in the living room for all our blankets.
The Large (Yes, Large!) Dining Table
Our most recent purchase is a large secondhand table we got from Kaiyo that’s about 60-by-30 inches. My husband was skeptical at first, but we were happily surprised at how it makes our space feel bigger. We can fit six people around it comfortably; the girls can spread out when they do crafts; and it serves as a place to prepare food. It’s a huge lifesaver already.
The Rental-Friendly Towel Rack
Because we couldn’t drill holes into our tiled bathroom walls, we were able to get away with hanging this rack up with heavy-duty Command hooks, and it does the job: It gets towels up and off the ground.
The Out-of-the-Way Bed Lights
Our Serena & Lily bedroom wall sconces are one of our biggest splurges. By having plug-in lights that go on the wall, we save space (there’s no bulky lamp taking up room on a nightstand).
The Wall Desk
My husband uses the desk in our room the most, as he typically has a ton of reading to do in the evenings. We found this CB2 one on Facebook Marketplace and didn’t expect it to fit, but it’s the perfect squeeze.