Wednesday, September 12, 2007

RW: Small Spaces

Jennifer Crusie is taking fifteen minutes a day to tidy up and organize her home office, and has been posting pics on her blog to show her progress. Go, see, and applaud; she's tackling a monster job.

I don't have anything quite as impressive to show off, but here's what I did with one corner of my office back on Labor Day:

The new book nook

This space is very small -- 21 inches by 49 inches, and right by the door, so I scratched my original idea of wall shelves. The minute that door slams, stuff would fall off the shelves. I couldn't fit anything under the shelves, either, except maybe a very narrow credenza, which I don't need there. This is also the corner of a second-floor room under the roof peak, and at five feet up the wall slopes inward at a 45 degree angle, so I thought shelves would look a little weird.

I finally decided to build a non-traditional bookcase. I made this one from two organize-it wire storage unit kits (Target, sale price $14.99 each.) It's the sort of thing college kids use in their dorms and apartments; very light and open (which lets my books and carpet breathe, and discourages silverfish and spiders.) It's simple to assemble, as there are only two components and they all snap together, and if I get tired of it, I can take it apart just as easily.

The bookcase that PBW built

I fit two rows of paperbacks on the top shelf, and one row of heavier trades and hardcovers on the lower three. Altogether, a total of 269 books. Yes, I counted. I do things like that. I still had enough room to tuck my laptop case between the side of the bookcase and the wall, and I can hang my library book bag from one of the top corners.

Another thing I try to do in little spaces is put some art in them. The wall above the printer table next to the new bookcase needed something, so I hung a lovely SF painting I own by Jose Antonio Torres Jr., aka Tony Taj, that turned out to fit the space perfectly:

SF art by Tony Taj

What do you guys do with your small spaces? Any ideas on how to make better use of them?

Added: I've got a guest post up over at Romancing the Blog today on freeware and shareware.


  1. Anonymous4:08 AM

    What ya need to do, see, is put another double-thick row of paperbacks on top of the ones on that top shelf, and more paperbacks double high in the front of the other three shelves, and then it'll look more like my shelves. You can easily maximize the space by cramming 500 books into it.

    I've been thinking I need to get rid of some books, but then I look at them, and they're all so good...

  2. Ssssh. I'm trying to read spines.

  3. Damn it Buffysquirrel

    There was no way I was going to spit coffee on office space clean up. I was positive!! Now I have to clean mine.

  4. I have printer envy.

  5. I moved my writing area from one small space to another recently. The key for me is to avoid clutter.

    I also blogged and posted pictures this weekend because of Jenny, too. :)

  6. Anonymous8:07 AM

    If you paint the far wall a darker shade than the other three, it makes a small room look bigger and warmer.

    I have the same wire rack shelves but I use them to hold all my craft cases, material, and scrapbook stuff (used to sell it but five moves in a two year span tend to put a damper on that).

    I've found that most assemble-yourself cabinetry doesn't work for me. I don't know, so I have open plans. I use the wal mounted brackets with movable shelfing (relatively inexpensive if you buy it at a home improvement store). That way I can adjust the height and width of shelves as needed. For small spaces it can also do for a desk in a pinch.

    I just moved in to a new house so I have to arrange my desk. Maybe I should do the same thing for organization. 15 minutes a day would be awesome.

  7. Buffy, I'm trying to read spines too. You take the top row, I'll take the middle row and maybe Maggie can do the bottom row.

  8. Not an idea for space, per se, but I just reclaimed a small den off our living room that used to be the boys' playspace when they were little. It's a long rectangle with no door (just an arch between it and the living room), but it's MINE! :)

    We're in the process of a living room makeover and by next week, I'll have gotten rid of the huge overstuffed chair that got stored in my new office because there was no other place for it. Then the room won't feel so much like a shoebox.

    I did invest in a full spectrum desk lamp, anticipating the upcoming winter doldrums fast approaching in the Northeast. And I have the desk in a corner, with windows both in front of me and to my right.

    Lynn--I have those 'leggo' shelves too and they do warp over time under the weight of books.

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  10. The first thing I thought when I saw all those books was : "Holy crap... that's all the books she's published, isn't. Sonuva..."

  11. Anonymous11:25 AM

    I love both of the blogs -- I'm so nosy. I recognize the Merks manual, ee cummings and the tatooed lady in red...
    I'm in the basement, in a 5.5' by 10.5' space, but as ljcohen said, "it's mine." If I look up through the window well, past the half-dozen spider eggs, I can see the lilac bushes. Since their show is rather limited, and spiders still bug me, I think I'm going to hang an old stained glass frame there after I get some loose pieces re-set. Today I rearrange the desk!

  12. Since dh and I may be moving into a smaller office space, we've decided to get a partner's desk instead of having both our desks in the room. That way there will be more room for bookshelves. :) We're also utilizing the closet and putting filing cabinets in it.

  13. I'm jealous! It may be small, but at least it's a space. I'm stuck with the corner of the living room at the moment. Of course, this gives me a good view of the kids and whatever it is they're arguing over at the moment.

  14. Hmmm, art on the wall/shareware...

    Now, if we all post pictures of our writerly artwork, then we could sign up to swap and each book would have some wonderful new print on the wall for inspiration. Well, some libraries do it! Unfortunately, not my library.

  15. Nice organization! And I love the painting.

    We're doing things like trading pieces of furniture for combinations. I.e., our bed, dresser, and two bedside tables is going to be replaced with a bed that has a bookcase headboard and under-drawers. 1 piece of furniture instead of 4, more space. Doing the same thing for the kids.

  16. Anonymous5:26 PM

    I envy your organization. I've just moved from a two bedroom house to the master bedroom/bathroom of a family members house. I never knew I had so much ... junk. It is a bit overwhelming right now.

    Hopefully, I'll get motivated to get off my duff and off the computer today and beat the unruly clothes pile into submission. I've got big plans. :)

    I like the ideas - I might have to snitch a few of them to tame my mess into a living area.

  17. I am the world's worst at organization. This painful confession always shocks the folks at work because I'm darn near OCD about my space there, and don't get ma started on how picky I am about my charts.

    I won't even let anyone else hole-punch anything that might go in them. I am SO not kidding.

    But at home? Well, my house only has one closet. It's a two bedroom with a nice-sized kitchen (I can always use a bigger kitchen, of course), a living room, a dining room, and a spacy utility room, but only that one little closet for all my crap.

    Thus, it's always a shambles in here. Shameful, I tell you. I hang my head in woe.

  18. Anonymous11:57 PM

    I'm planning on adding shelves to the laundry room at my boyfriend's place. Yeah, there's no place to put the extra towels or toilet paper or anything! Well, if there WERE any extra towels or toilet paper or anything. This IS a boy's house...

    But whatever goes up has to have the things that help bolt the shelf to the wall. Earthquake territory.

  19. Jeez, between you and Jenny Crusie . . . I need to stop admiring the tidy spaces you two created and dig into my own messy, hard-to-navigate, I-swear-those books-multiplied-on-their-own, office.


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