How to Decorate a Small Row House

I will start with a disclaimer. There are no wrong ways to decorate a row house (interior) of any size as long as the occupants can roam about freely. Safety is always first. Tripping over things and getting hurt is bad. That being said, the sky, or roof in this case, is really the limit in terms of how you want to adapt your row house to suit you.

Yellow and green, wood siding, Federal row house in Philadelphia.

However, that’s probably too obtuse to be helpful and, if you’ve arrived here, you are probably looking for some actionable suggestions. After viewing hundreds of row houses, as well as living in a rather small row house, I do have a few concepts I’ve noticed over the years.

Less is More

Obviously, the smaller your house is, the less room you have for things. If your house is feeling a little cramped, you might have to review and purge. You may have to forgo having a huge collection of whatever you like. Or, maybe just one collection instead of several. We have seen several homes with collections. But, these collections are highly curated and hold the best of the best of what the owner really loves. And, the best collections are in harmony and balanced with their domestic environments.

That brings us to a universal truth of small space living…

Keep Only What You Love

It’s so hard to part with that interesting sculpture/furniture/art/plant your aunt Gertrude got you that takes up half your living room. You sort of tolerate it because she’s your favorite aunt. You don’t want to hurt her feelings. However, although her heart was in the right place, it’s likely that Aunt Gertrude has never actually been in your house and has no idea that the sculpture/furniture/art/plant, which seemed pretty reasonable under the showroom’s 30 foot-high ceiling, takes up so much space that she can’t come to visit because the front door no longer opens for anyone larger than a very petite super model.

Believe me, she’d rather visit. Perhaps pass it along to a friend who lives in the suburbs or on a farm.

If keeping the item(s) is unavoidable, embrace the next concept for happy small spacing living…

Off-site Storage

Typically, where you have small living spaces, row houses or apartments, you will find mini-storage rental. Storage is great for things that you absolutely don’t want to part with, like holiday decorations, but that you clearly don’t need in your home all year-round. Although we manage to make-do without storage since we opted for off-street parking for our car, I would really be happy to put the following things into mini-storage:

  • Air conditioner window units (I don’t want to talk about why our central a.c. still doesn’t work, grrrr)
  • Christmas decorations
  • Off season clothes (Our local storage is near enough to visit daily if needed)
  • Room heaters (don’t ask about that either, see above)
  • Dehumidifier

I imagine swapping things from the storage unit would be like Christmas or a birthday. Probably much more exciting than just tripping over the things like we do now.

With less stuff, it’s easier to…

Keep it Clean and Tidy

There is no avoiding this. You have to really do your best to keep things clean and organized. The good news is that with a smaller space you have less stuff and less to clean. A cleaner house is more healthy (less dust and whatnot) and it promotes a calming demeanor.

Finally, a small recommendation… or two.

Utilize Things with a Dual Purpose

Beyond having things in your house that fold, collapse, roll, and generally adapt to what you need, when you need it, this is more of an approach towards everything. Look for the unintended dual use of things. Stools can be tables, for example. Or, getting a really sturdy kitchen table that can also be a place to prepare food. Buy furniture you love and use it for any/every purpose you can imagine. For example, I put my bed on risers and now it’s a good height to cut fabric on for when I turn our bedroom into a sewing studio.

Other than those suggestions, you’re on your own. As uniform as row houses tend to be on the outside, there is nothing that says the inside of your row house can’t be the most unique, most creative, most awesome house in existence.

As as side note, if you live in a historic home, do not renovate the inside to look modern. That’s really where I would draw the line. The best historic homes are ones where the inside and outside are not at odds with each other. If you want an old “looking” home with a modern interior, buy a 20th Century revival or reproduction.

 

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