To be clear, this is a tip for small spaces, not teeny tiny spaces. Sometimes I hesitate to write this kind of post because I think about what I would have said while living in my last apartment. Namely: “Yeah, right.” But small comes in all sizes and now that I’m in a larger but still modest space, I have to remember that.
Maybe I should start with an introduction. This is our new square table. New is a relative term and this table’s already been with us for a few months and kicking around this planet for a lot longer than that, but I haven’t gotten around to writing about it, so new-to-you-and-me is maybe the best way to phrase it.
Anyway, she’s a big old chunk of a table with chewed up legs and plenty of knicks and scratches, which is precisely what I was hunting for. I wanted a table that could be a workhorse. I wanted a space that I could cover with newspaper and pot up my herbs. That someday Faye can finger paint on without anyone hovering, watching for spills. But also one that we could scrub up and set nicely and use to serve guests a candlelit dinner. I wanted a table to live with, but more importantly, a table to use. I’d been seeing this table in Fork + Pencil, a local antique consignment shop, for months before I finally took the plunge and brought it home. Turns out, she was exactly what we needed.
The Ikea Ingo table that we bought off of Craigslist from a neighbor for a song and painted a deep blue was perfectly fine, but at just 29.5 inches wide, it had a width problem. In fact, I think that a lot of smallish rectangular tables have a width problem—especially when it comes to grabby toddler hands and trying to crowd a table with place settings and serving dishes enough for big families. Long and skinny can work for a crowd. And short and skinny will do pushed up against the wall and used for a couple. But short and skinny in the middle of a room can be tricky.
If there is the space, I think a square table can be an oft-overlooked answer to maximizing it. Even though our new table is about four inches shorter than the old one, its being a square means we end up with significantly more surface area without feeling like we’ve crowded our space with something significantly bigger than what we had. I’ve found that it’s easier to squeeze an extra guest—or four—given the expanded surface area.
Across the river in the East Village, my sister Cait has a slightly larger square table. At weekly dinners at either her apartment or ours, we can seat six comfortably and on weekends when my parents are in town, we’ve both managed to squeeze in eight. If you’re on the hunt for something similar, both tables are stamped with the ‘Hecho en Mexico’—and we’ve been told they’re likely the product of a mid-century Mexican furniture boom. Regardless of the provenance, I love our new table mostly because it’s not so precious that I’m afraid of damaging it and it’s full of character enough to fit in with the rest of motley crew.
Best of all, it has the advantage of all vintage and antique furniture, which is that barring disaster it will retain its value if we ever decide to sell it. And shape aside, this bulkier table has also been helpful for us as we navigate Faye’s learning how to walk. Our old table was so lightweight that she could actually push is across the floor. This one has some pleasing heft and stands its ground better in the face of our lovable tyrant.
What about you guys? What’s working in your spaces? Square, round, rectangular, or otherwise?
Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #121, RIGHT HERE.