Sunday, April 27, 2014

Finding Space to Make Jewelry in a Tiny Home

My boyfriend and I live in a 625 sq. ft. house. (Some may consider it a shack, but it has forced air natural gas heat and picture windows, which I think qualifies it as a house.) It is a perfect square. It even has a flat roof.
The Shack (with sailboat detail because we live in the mountains)
Open plan kitchen/living area in the north half of the square, bedroom-bathroom-bedroom in the south half of the square. No outbuildings, no attic, no basement.
There is very little built-in storage: a small walk-through closet between the bedrooms and some kitchen cabinets and drawers. That's it. We do have a storage unit a couple miles away where we keep off-season items like lawnmowers and bicycles. Consequently, I eke out storage wherever I can, being sure to use furniture with storage features and not leaving dead space unfilled. I also want our house to look and feel like a home, so I try to pay attention to keeping everything attractive and neat.

Kitchen cabinets and drawers:

This house is where I store most of my jewelry supplies, and do most of my jewelry work. I admit if I were going to make large amounts of jewelry for sale, for a living, this house wouldn't work as both a home and a workplace. Although if I lived alone I could commandeer the whole house for jewelry crap without making anyone else miserable. So this post is really for hobbyists living in a small space. With someone else.

I have four small shelving units around the house--two in the living room, one in the kitchen and one in the second bedroom. This one in the living room holds tools and baskets of toxic chemicals (patinas mostly).
I also got rid of an old hope chest because it was too hard to get into (the top opened like a coffin lid, and the 100-pound television, DVR, DVD player, accompanying cables and assorted houseplants and knick knacks sitting on it made it useless for storage) and replaced it with an entertainment unit with shelves inside and sliding doors that is now full of jewelry boxes, cording, scavenged bubble wrap, photo props and tools I am too scared to use.
I keep additional photo props (like fabric squares and picture frames) in the end tables in the living room.
I buy my jewelry boxes by the gross from Paper Mart, and I can only fit some of them in the entertainment unit. I keep the rest in my car, in the trunk and the back seat. I also keep other shipping boxes in my trunk. I rarely need to carry people or other items or animals so it works fine.
This other bookcase holds wire and sheet, more tools, and various other crap. My sheet and wire used to just sit in the corner in bags and baskets on the floor. I'm thinking of getting more baskets to hold the spools of wire so it will look nicer.
I used to sit on the couch and use a coffee table as my workbench, but I found myself leaning over way too much and it was ruining my back, so I got rid of the coffee table and replaced it with a storage ottoman where I keep greeting cards and extra tissue paper. I use it for a footstool when I'm watching TV now. I don't work on the couch anymore, I use it purely for relaxation.
I traded in the coffee table for a little table from the kitchen. This table is my only work area now (except for sometimes the floor--see below). If I need an extra surface to put things while I work, I can bust out a TV tray. But I put my things, and the TV tray, away when I'm done because I like the living room to look nice.
I tucked a baker's rack underneath the protruding end of a countertop--I keep a lot of beads and findings in there. This used to be unused space. I'm thinking of making a little curtain for it, because the plastic containers are ugly.
The books that were on a bookshelf in the second bedroom were banished to the storage unit and replaced with beads and little plastic storage boxes where I keep finished jewelry.
I keep some shipping supplies in the second bedroom in or near the computer desk--tissue paper, bubble mailers, ribbon, business cards and washi tape. My postage scale is in here too. This is where I do my shipping, on the pullout tray of my computer desk. And on the chair. This wouldn't be feasible of course if I shipped a lot of stuff--right now it's only a few items a month, so no big deal.
I use the tumbler in the bedroom, because it's noisy. (The tumbler I mean, not the bedroom.) If I close both bedroom doors, then we can't even hear it in the living room. I have on occasion put a cardboard box over it to dampen the sound further. (I won't go into all the stuff stored under the bed.)
I do my torching (annealing and making headpins) on top of the chest freezer by the front door. We don't really use it anymore (the freezer I mean, not the front door. We use that all the time.) The freezer has been empty for ages (the boyfriend has been unlucky the last few hunting trips) so that's not a problem.
I do my LOS'ing on the front porch so as not to stink up the house. In the winter this is a drag.
I use a TV tray for taking pictures of my jewelry by the window. I always take my pictures here. Unfortunately I'm away from home during the daylight hours in the winter, so this means I can only take pictures on the weekends in the winter. Which is no big deal because I make such small quantities of jewelry, and I only do it for fun. Otherwise I'd starve.
I still do a lot of hammering on the floor--when I'm doing heavy stuff like embossing metals or cutting discs, it's just much quieter hammering on the floor. I put down a square of scrap wood and get it done. Unfortunately this is hard on my back, but I don't spend a lot of time doing this kind of work so it's all right.
I keep this scrap wood, along with my ceramic and stone tiles for photography, leaning against the refrigerator next to a fabulous chair my mom gave me. There's some tiles and stuff behind the chair too. I'm thinking of looking for an oval galvanized tub or something to put the tiles in so they look better, or maybe a really big magazine rack.

I also keep some things under and behind the couch.
I am thinking of getting rid of some of our wall art in the kitchen and replacing it with some kind of wall storage system to hang kitchen things, which would free up cupboard space so we could maybe get some kitchen stuff off the countertops. Then eventually one day maybe there would be room on the countertop for a kiln or a rolling mill. (Just thinking ahead.)
Apartment Therapy also has really great ideas for increasing storage in a small living area. Check it out!



  1. Thanx for the tour. It sounds like you are well organized.

  2. I live in a 775 sq ft apartment too, so I know how difficult it is. Even I have my stuff around the house hidden away in all sorts of shelves. I dont have a porch or window with natural light so thats a minus and of late its been hurting my eye. I am scared to do torch work is this small space, but after seeing ur place, i might give it a try. Why don't you get a solid wooden square stool for hammering. I use one ( it can be tucked away in a corner) with a thick magazine underneath the plate to muffle sounds and its better for your back

  3. This reminds me of when we lived in the apartment. My entire dining room was taken over by my jewelry stuff. You'd also find additional tools and beads scattered throughout the place. If there was even an inch of empty space, I'd shove a bead box in it. LOL!

  4. Oh my that's tiny. And I though our little 800 sq foot apartment was small, but then we also had three young kids living there too. I found there was no where to go when you were frustrated or just wanted some quiet time. It looks like you are making it all work and it really is a darling little home.

  5. This is the type of small house we HOPE to buy when Hubby retires in a couple of years, and we get rid of the monster we live in now. I love all your clever hiding places, Keirsten, and I hope I will soon be using many of them :)

  6. I actually lived in a shed back in my college was a little sturdier (I think) but it seriously looked like a backyard wooden shed. There were 4 of them that a couple rented out. It had 3 rooms and a bathroom but it was cute (kinda)...luckily I didn't make jewelry back then or have a bead obsession. Now I live in a 3br house with my husband and can't seem to find room for anything! :O)

  7. Great tour of your place! I am so into moving into a micro home in the near-ish future. One reason I gave up ceramics and went into beading is because of the massive amounts of stuff, both that you need and that you produce. I love beading because you can be creative and productive in a small space.

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I'm amazed at how ingenious you are at finding places to store your stuff in such a small (but nice) home. I do like the look of that chair your Mum gave you too :D

  9. It is always so interesting to see how other people manage in a small space. I too live in a tiny house, actually sharing with my ex-husband (weird I know) but the plan is for me to build another tinier house down the back garden. We have NO storage at all in this house, so everything is in plastic tubs all over the house. I am very lucky that he is so tolerant of my projects, I have every available surface commandeered, and like you, tiny work spaces all around the house for various tasks. My aim when I build is to have maximum efficient storage areas with counter tops to work on - kitchen and space will be secondary priorities!

    Thanks so much for sharing your home/workspace - amazing what you can do in a small space. Love the chairs too!

  10. Thanks so much this links up closely with a post recently about whether people meet the stereo types for their job. I must admit from the profession design of your blog and your gorgeous work I imagined a mansion, not something small than my average sized Australian home. :) Happy Crafting, I love feeling normal. I have shared this post with my fans.

  11. I love love love this post. You are BY FAR the coolest person I know, except for my husband, who was listening to this whole post and looking at the pictures as I read it aloud. He is in construction! jean

  12. I love this post. And had to laugh about the comments in the pictures. Brilliant.
    But I bet I even live in a smaller house: Since 2006 my husband and I are living in a truck, converted into a mobile home. We travel and work at the same time. Not a lot of storage space and I have to store all my beads after a day of creativity, as otherwise we don't have a place to eat (or sleep, beads are laid out on the bed) :)
    Here you can see our "house"

  13. Wow! Some of your storage ideas are just ingenious. Thanks for the tips.

  14. I love all the creative solutions you have come up with. I do have a studio, but it's always a freaking disaster because I am so unorganized and undisciplined.

  15. Wow - what a terrific post! And some of your comments had me laughing out loud. But honestly, I'm amazing and wildly impressed with all that you manage to do in that small space. Thank you for the tour!

  16. I am simultaneously laughing at your commentary and marveling at your mad creative space skills. You are living Tetris! I love what you have done, and that you share the good, the bad, and the reality!

  17. If what you make comes out of that space I am getting a tiny house. In fact we are moving to a smaller house right now I have been trying to juggle purging and the business so it has been a frustrating few months. I am just disgusted with the amount of stuff I saved, I think having more storage allowed me to postpone making decisions to get rid of stuff. I'm a fifty something and I am noticing that a lot of my peers are downsizing ten years ahead of schedule. Don't know if it is the economy or different desires as we get older and hopefully wiser, but I think it is a good thing. Congratulations to you 20 and 30 something's that figured it out early.


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