You won't believe this nature-inspired, storage-MacGyver, Toronto studio renovation

You won't believe what all fits in this small space!

The offbeat occupant: June, University admin monkey, hobby seamstress
Other occupants: Just me!
Approximate square footage: 90 sq. foot studio
Lives in: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When did you move into this home? 10 months

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live?

The boarding house I moved into was located on the western edge of the Annex — a trendy residential neighbourhood on the west end of Toronto's downtown core. The majority of the houses in this neighbourhood were built in the early 1900s — massive, red brick, multi-storey affairs with high ceilings and ancient hardwood floors. The street was lined with huge, old maple trees and cast iron street lights, and was absolutely gorgeous in the summer and fall.

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What makes your home offbeat?

I was escaping a particularly unpleasant roommate situation, and needed to get out on my own ASAP. The housing market in Toronto was/is completely ridiculous, so moving into a boarding house was one of the only ways I was able to afford something "on my own"(ish) while still remaining in the downtown core — close to where I work.

I love interior decorating, and I especially love a good small space living/storage design challenge, so having my own little room to rent and play with was a perfect opportunity to flex that muscle while keeping costs relatively low.

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What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge?

My room was nine by ten feet. Ninety square feet. That's it. There was no closet, and I had a queen size bed to accommodate. The paint was peeling and the walls had a million tiny nail holes to fill. The windowsill was chewed to bits by age and neglect. However, the ceilings were a decent nine feet high, so I built upwards.

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I'd had the idea for some time to make a loft bed out of some old scaffolding, and this was the perfect opportunity to give it a shot. I bought a used set off of Craigslist, cleaned it up, threw my mattress on top, and my couch underneath. I stuck with tall, skinny storage units for clothes and cleaning supplies. I strapped all of my crafting supplies and other things on the underside of the scaffolding with bungee cords to keep them out of the way, yet easily accessible.

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What's your favorite feature of your home?

I was really pleased with the transformation of my room; it felt like it had a totally new lease on life afterward. My boyfriend had gone overseas for a month and a half to work on his PhD, so I was happy to have a creative project to throw myself into, to occupy my mind and my time.

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I loved the huge windows that took up almost one whole wall of my room, and I loved that the whole room felt cozy, yet still airy and not cramped when I was done fixing it up.

I also enjoyed the feeling that came from paring down my possessions in order to fit everything into this tiny little living space; the minimalism was freeing, and made life (and moving out later on) that much simpler.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home?

If you're going to make any improvements to a rental place and the landlord is cool with it and agrees to reimburse you for some/all of your work, get it in writing before you start. Get them to sign an agreement. I didn't see a cent back from the work I did, and they were likely able to bump up the rent for that room after I moved out.

And put up some rails or guards around your bed if you're going to be sleeping six feet up in the air. Just a thought…

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  1. I did the exact same thing when I arrived in Toronto (Bloordale) from MB nearly two years ago. I had just about the same amount of space and all my worldly possessions. My uncle is an accomplished woodworker and with a PDF of instructions of OP Loftbeds, we managed to assemble a loft bed for my queen mattress (made of 2x4s – your scaffolding idea seems better). Underneath was space for my keyboard, a tiny desk, a nightstand and an Ikea chair. Rest of the room had a dresser, small closet, and another nightstand.

    It was cute and functional!

  2. I love this!

    Green is such a lovely colour to live with, I end up using greens and greenish greys over and over, especially light warm shades because I love how they reflect light back and give a feeling of space but with warmth and less starkly than pure white. I also love how good white and wooden furniture looks against them which allows the colours of your bits and bobs to pop out, giving you tranquil yet colorful at the same time. This room looks like real haven!

  3. This is completely amazing! You took a space that could feel completely suffocating and made it bright, open, airy, and totally inviting. Good job!

    2 agree

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