As featured on Fox Chicago
JENNIFER LITWIN’S SENSIBLE TIPS FOR FURNISHING SMALL SPACES
While buying a first home or condo can be a major accomplishment, furnishing it can be especially challenging for buyers of small homes who want to make their living space functional and comfortable, yet practical for entertaining and accommodating overnight guests.
Home furnishings expert and author, Jennifer Litwin, says there are many “tricks” to making a small home more functional and appearing more spacious.
“I recommend using oversize mirrors in small rooms to make them look roomier and give them dimension,” she says.“I also suggest using furniture that is tall, with lots of storage, rather than wide. For example, a buffet with cabinets above it can be used for storing dishes and china.”
Litwin has been dubbed the “Sensible Shopper for the Home,” and is known for her trademark “chair rating system” used to rank furniture stores nationally, according to price, service, ambiance and quality. She says what’s hot now is dual-purpose furniture used for daily living as well as entertaining.
“Homeowners today want to buy practical furniture,” she admits. “That’s why all the major furniture chains like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel are showcasing furniture that is multifunctional. A perfect example of this is the captain’s bed.”
LITWIN’S TOP FIVE “MUST HAVES” FOR SMALL APARTMENTS, HOMES OR CONDOS INCLUDE:
- Sleeper sofa. A couch or chair that also serves as a bed is a necessity. Inflatable mattresses have replaced stiff bars in couches. Cost Plus has an oversized chair that turns into a sleeper sofa for $699 and a studio sofabed that folds down and sleeps one for $399 (cushion sold separately).
- Tray Tables. Whether stored in the closet or used as side tables in your family room, tray tables are great for entertaining. Some of the more decorative ones can be used all year-round and are great accent pieces for the home. Target’s tray table sets are in walnut and beechwood and the cost is $69.99.
- Folding Chairs. Made of metal, plastic or wood, folding chairs can be used around dining tables or placed in living room and dining room areas to seat extra guests. The trend today in folding chairs is a chair that isn’t floppy, like the old folding chairs, often with safety closures, and doesn’t look or feel like the older-model folding chairs. Many of these chairs look good enough to leave out year-round. Ikea boasts folding chairs indurable plastic for $8.99 a piece and Terje folding chairs in beechwood for $12.99 each.
- Dual-purpose ottomans/coffee tables. In all different fabrics, ottomans can provide storage for items and can serve as tables, foot rests or extra chairs. Another up-and-coming trend is the coffee table that raises and lowers to become an eating table. Target has a brown leather storage ottoman available for only $69.99. Cost Plus has a beautiful brown leather cube for $95. It’s a great place to put the pieces you don’t want out for the company to see!
- Futons. Futons no longer look like the clumsy, unattractive versions seen in the 80’s. Today’s host can feel comfortable having guests stay in the updated, contemporary futons, many of which come with magazine racks and drink holders. Affordable Futons offers a variety of futons in the $150-300 range, and you can even select your own mattress (included in the price), and fabric. This is currently the best value in extra sleeping surfaces.
“I also recommend having easily portable or inflatable items, like chairs and mattresses, that can be stored in the closet, and taken out when company comes,” Litwin adds. She recommends buying a good electric pump. Walmart’s Coleman Queen-size double air bed is only $49.32 and includes the pump.
With sixty-five percent of all furniture shoppers browsing first online, before walking into a store, Litwin recommends online shopping because many large retailers offer discounts online that aren’t available in their stores—discounts of up to 30%.
“And when shopping in local stores, don’t forget to ask for a 15 percent discount on furniture items,” she adds. Designers generally get a 15 percent discount, and Litwin has found that furniture salespeople will offer the same discount to the end user, especially in a down economy or a slow season.
A contributing writer for Consumers Digest, magazines and television news programs around the country, Litwin is the nation’s leading home expert. She is the author of Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever! (Random House), full of practical tips on how to get the best quality furniture without getting ripped off. With Litwin’s expert techniques, buyers can become well-educated, confident shoppers when purchasing furniture. Litwin is also the author of Furniture Hot Spots: The Best Furniture Stores and Websites Coast to Coast, in which she rated 500 furniture stores carrying a variety of inventory, nationwide. Litwin received her MBA from the University of Chicago.