As young families turn to condos when looking for a starter home that suits their budget, interior designer offers two rules: less is more and storage is key.
Jennifer and Matt McChesney knew when they decided to stay in their Liberty Village condo after the birth of their son that they would have to be ruthless about how much baby “stuff’ they acquired — or risk having their home look like little Carter was its sole occupant.
“We had it in our minds already that we had to limit what we brought in,” Jennifer, 31, says.
The couple, who welcomed Carter earlier this year, decided for financial reasons to forego a bigger home and knew they could make their two-bedroom, 777-square-foot unit work.
“We were comfortable enough in the first year to give it a try knowing that he wouldn’t be mobile and running around or need a backyard or basement,” Matt, 33, says.
The McChesneys are one of thousands of Toronto families who are bringing up baby in a small space. Thanks to Toronto’s hot housing market, young families are turning to condos when looking for a starter home that suits their budget.
The average price of a detached house within the 416 area code hit $1,053,871 in September, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. That’s left many young families on the losing end of bidding wars, says board president Mark McLean.
“They just want to get established and they’re struggling to get into that first home with a yard,” McLean says. “So a lot of them are saying, ‘Hey forget that, let’s look at condos.’ ”
Jennifer likes that condo living has forced them to keep clutter to a minimum. They only put three functional pieces of furniture in Carter’s nursery: his Child Craft mini crib, which will convert to a toddler bed; a small rocking chair; and a wall unit from Restoration Hardware that includes a change table, plenty of clothes and book storage, and a laundry hamper.
The unit “is one of the things we splurged on, but we knew we needed to maximize storage and have something that was functional,” Matt says.
Interior designer Dvira Ovadia, principal at Dvira Interiors, offers two rules for living in small spaces with a baby: less is more and storage is key.
“It’s about choosing savvy products that are also kind of cool, that have a design edge to them, so they don’t look too bulky or heavy in your space,” Ovadia says.
A wall unit is a perfect way to cut clutter and accommodate both parents’ and baby’s things, from an entertainment system to baskets neatly lined up on shelves that are filled with toys, Ovadia says.
Benches and ottomans with storage inside keep items out-of-site but within reach, as can low boxes under the sofa or bed.
Ovadia also suggests eschewing baby furniture and investing in dressers and shelving in contemporary styles that baby can use in childhood, or that can be used down the road in a guest bedroom. The same goes for lighting, paint and wallpaper, she says.
Meanwhile, Jennifer says a move from the condo is likely contingent on if and when Carter gets a sibling, and a larger condo or a townhouse are not out of the question.
“We forget how little babies are and how little space they actually need,” she says.
Despite couples such as the McChesneys making it work in a highrise, the city of Toronto knows it has to act to ensure the availability of family-friendly units.
According to 2011 census data, 17,500 households with children live in Toronto’s downtown core, but the inventory of larger family-friendly units can be thin, particularly downtown.
Buildings are carved into small units: with more to sell, developers can recoup their costs, says Toronto Real Estate Board president Mark McLean.
A 2014 report from the city’s planning department included a number of recommendations, including that the city mandate that condo developments include, or be able to adapt to create, units with larger floor plans.
The city is in the midst of a one-year study of its Official Plan as it pertains to Toronto’s condo development, the results of which will inform changes to policies and guidelines to make highrise living more accessible for families, says Kerri Voumvakis, director of strategic initiatives, policy and analysis at Toronto City Planning.
The results of that study will inform changes to policies and guidelines to make highrise living more accessible for families, she says.
Baby will love dining out, or in, on Lobster
Parents love this high chair not only for restaurants or visiting friends, but to save space at home, too. The fabric is easy to clean and it folds flat, so you can keep one in the car or take it on vacation.
Lobster high chair, Phil&teds, $79.99, snugglebugz.ca
Put baby on Cruz control
This streamlined stroller is perfect for navigating city streets, but still has ample storage underneath for toys, snacks and the day’s shopping. The stroller grows with baby from infant to toddler, and folds up to put away in a closet or corner.
Cruz stroller, Uppababy, $679.99 with silver frame, $699.99 with chrome frame, uppababy.com
Bedtime has never been so easy
Parents swear by Child Craft’s cribs, including the convertible minis that get bigger as baby does. Some models that go from crib to toddler bed to daybed to twin can be harder to find here, but the company is working to get all models available to Canadian families.
London Euro Mini Convertible crib, about $275, childcraftbaby.com
Bouncing baby boy or girl, no batteries required
Baby controls the bouncing of this small and sleek chair right from birth. Or, mom or dad can help out by bouncing the chair with their hands. When baby is able to walk and sit up, the bouncer converts to a toddler chair.
Bouncer Balance Soft, $229.95 for cotton, $249.95 for mesh, Baby Bjorn, babybjorn.ca
Keep the bulk out of the bathroom
When bathroom space is at a premium, the Puj is the perfect alternative to a bulky baby tub. It snaps together from flat to basinet in three quick moves so baby can comfortably bathe in the kitchen or bathroom sink. It then flattens out to be hung on a wall or behind a door.
Tub, $55, Puj, puj.com
Sources by: Toronto Star