It's All Relative. Or Is It? 230sqft. Really?

Square footage.

For a growing family, there never seems to be enough.  For a couple downsizing, the existing space can feel overwhelming. Years ago, when I helped my sister renovate her first condo, I thought 300sq ft was positively tiny. Although, it was chock-full of functionality, it was still small.

Kalli George Interiors was approached to provide a design concept for a ‘bijou’ lower level rental apartment on trendy Bloor St. The building itself dates back to the 1930s. It has beautiful original millwork, radiators, and an interesting layout.

You can never really tell how large a space is until you create the floor plan. Even then, the computer software will include closet(s) as living space. Bar none, the best indicator of ‘living space’ square footage is what you’re ordering in flooring for all areas. Even then, remember that tile goes underneath the tub, base cabinetry and yes even in the closet. You get the jist……..

Once the floor plan and design concept was completed for this unit, it came in at a whopping 230sqft!

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Right about now, you’re probably raising your fists in the air and yelling at your computer screen. “Where  have you been Kalli? Under a rock? Condos are getting smaller and smaller. You’ve heard of micro-units right?” Yes, I have. I’m also curious about container homes, but that’s altogether another blog.

This rental suite is just about the perfect example of how micro units aren’t really a new thing. They go way back. Remember, this one is a building from the 30s. That’s right. Art Deco, the Flappers, herringbone flooring, and geometric shapes.

Kalli George Interiors’ mandate was putting the trendy back into this rental suite. So what does one do when they need to upgrade a rental suite without breaking the budget? Moving the location of the toilet and kitchen entry would dramatically change the function and flow of the unit. It would also put a serious dent in the budget.

Knocking down a section of an 8” thick concrete wall is expensive. Let’s not even begin talking about plumbing stacks. Then again, this is the basement. No level below – not even a crawl space. This unit is part of the foundation.  If there was ever a time to be careful about walls – right about now would qualify.


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One 36”x24” closet throughout the entire apartment and a radiator which spans half the wall. ‘Nough said. We can simply cover the radiator or upgrade the entire wall. Our proposal included 24” kitchen cabinets on either side for more storage and a top. This solution will use up an additional 5” of floor space. The trade off ? No need for a clunky TV media unit and more storage for the tenant.


When space is at a premium, the oven and refrigerator need to shrink to 24”. If we moved the kitchen entry into to the other end, we could fit an oven and refrigerator in an L-shaped kitchen. Again, cost was a factor, so we needed an alternative.

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Once the client opted for a cooktop, the kitchen design quickly came together. One wall was devoted to cleaning while the other was about cooking. A 24” ceramic glass cooktop shares the wall with the refrigerator. Although one isn’t included, a wall oven would have fit just as nicely in this area.

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The electrical panel - a problem that isn’t so easily resolved. It has to be free of clutter and accessible at all times. Cannot confirm when this was last updated, but the original solution was to offset the bank of upper cabinets. It’s an unoriginal solution. We are proposing a pantry with the upper shelves dedicated to the electrical panel. Makes for a more unified look.

Now let’s talk about that space between the ceiling and the cabinetry. Why? It serves no purpose other than to collect dust. Take the cabinetry to the ceiling. Sometimes, it doesn’t add more storage, but is it ever more visually appealing!


Worryingly, there was a time when the toilet was placed right at the door. It is seriously unsightly. The general contractor and I spent a couple of hours trying to puzzle this one out. With no lower level, it is nearly impossible to figure out the plumbing until we dig up the floors and start making decisions from there. This presented too many variables for a unit that needs to be finished and back on the market for the next tenant. Toilet stays.

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Not gonna lie. The tub/shower is in bad shape. The existing colour, the unsightly shower panels and the ageing baseboards don’t do it any favours. It’s a rental unit therefore, no fancy tiling. We are neatly stacking the subway tiles. Then again, simple is sometimes more impactful.

The vanity area as a whole will receive a much welcome upgrade. The unsightly pipe on the corner will be boxed in and serve as a wall for shelving. Floor space is at a premium so time to maximize the vertical potential.

There is room to move the vanity further along towards the bathtub. Except notice the direction of the plumbing. It means an unsightly hole on the side of the vanity to accommodate the plumbing.  I’m proposing not fighting the plumbing. Instead keep it exposed and use  the area for serious additional storage.

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Forget the traditional vanity. Instead create a solid surface top and add a vessel sink. Expose the plumbing with contemporary plumbing connectors and……boom! A swanky vanity and actual storage to boot.

Finally, keeping it simple with the finishes. A unified colour scheme that runs through the entire apartment.  I think it's quite a calming palette. Should make the unit appear even larger than what it is.

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With unlimited funds, you can pretty much do anything you want. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices about what and how to do it. However, a little thought and creativity can go a long way from taking something unsightly to functional and ‘really nice’.