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10 Small-Space Tips From Beach Cottages

06/18/2015 05:45 pm ET | Updated Jun 18, 2016

By Laura Gaskill, Houzz Contributor

Even if you live nowhere near ocean waves, there's a lot to be learned about small-space living from the design and style of beach cottages. If you live in a compact cottage (no matter where it is), consider these 10 tips from beach homes that make living with less square footage look like a breeze.

1. Choose a simple, refreshing exterior color scheme. Enhance a small cottage with a coat of white paint on the siding, and bring details into focus with a single bright accent hue on the shutters or door. Sunshine yellow, aqua, turquoise or navy look fresh and beachy.

2. Use a ship's ladder instead of stairs. Traditional staircases can take up a shocking amount of square footage. So, while a ladder won't work for everyone, if you can handle climbing one, it can save a great deal of space in a compact cottage.

3. Extend sight lines with windows and glass doors. The farther the eye can see, the larger a space seems -- so go big on windows if you want your small cottage to feel more spacious. Sliding glass or French doors are even better, because they let in tons of light and increase indoor-outdoor flow.

4. Go bigger with seating, smaller with tables. A big couch can seat more people than a cluster of chairs, and it looks less cluttered, while small, portable tables won't trip anyone up in navigating a small space. To sneak in even more seating, try adding a window seat, or tuck a pair of ottomans beneath a console table.

5. Boost ceiling height in main spaces. If you have a bit of unused attic space to tap into, consider raising the ceilings in the main living areas. Just as with looking through windows and glass doors (see No. 3), having a higher ceiling can make even a tiny cottage feel spacious.

6. Cover walls and ceilings with white shiplap. White wood boards covering the walls and ceilings throughout a cottage shout "beach house." Also, the clean palette and crisp lines make a space feel larger than it is. Hang artwork sparingly to make the most of the space-enhancing power.

7. Add a loft space. In a small space, every square foot counts. Even if adding a loft would provide enough room for only a single guest bed, a kids' play space or a sliver of a desk, it can be worth it. For a home with a small footprint, keeping some of the ceilings high (see No. 5) while providing a bit of second-floor living space can offer the best possible compromise.

8. Use a partial wall to divide space. Fitting multiple uses (dining, living, kitchen) into one main space can pose quite a challenge. One clever way to deal with this quandary is to install a partial wall as a divider between two of the spaces. Here, a low wall becomes part of a dining banquette on one side and provides a backdrop for a sitting area on the other.

9. Choose a round dining table. A round table is easier to walk around in a tight space, and it allows you to squeeze in an extra spot or two when you have drop-in guests. If it's glass-topped, all the better -- clear materials like glass and acrylic take up zero visual space, making your room appear larger.

10. Live outdoors. Decks, patios and other outdoor living areas can make a small home feel much larger -- especially during good weather! And compared with the cost of renovating or adding on to the interior, putting on a spacious deck and investing in some great patio furniture is a bargain.

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