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Home visit: How we live big in a small space

Small is a state of mind! In this compact home, one family has found the recipe to living large. The ingredients? Making more of what they have with double-duty furniture. Making it personal, with displays and space for the things they love. And making it calm, with simple tricks to keep stuff in order. Take a tour!

A woman stands in a galley-shaped kitchen with white door fronts, a wooden bar table and small dining area at one end.
A woman stands in a galley-shaped kitchen with white door fronts, a wooden bar table and small dining area at one end.

A big world view

Two years ago, Marcia and her husband Daryan packed up their lives and their two children, crossed an ocean and started a new life in a two-bed apartment in Lisbon. “I had one suitcase – a big case – but just one, for me and the kids. And a feeling that I would come to love our little home with its view over the city’s rooftops to the river, the beautiful colours and the character,” says Marcia.

Live in colour

“Our kitchen has been a place of discovery for me. I’m a doctor with two artist sisters and a photographer husband – I’m not the creative one! Last year we had a small kitchen fire. In the process of fixing the damage, I thought how I could warm up the cool whiteness of this room. I added wood and colour, grey walls, blue crockery, green plants. I was creating – a feeling of cosiness and welcome.”

Display small reminders of happy times

“We’re on a journey to make this home more like us. Home was Rio. The pattern of the black waves on these IKEA plates reminds me of Copacabana. I like being able to see them. That’s why I love the picture ledges we’ve hung in the kitchen. I can store things, but also display them. My cookbook collection that I always use, some trinkets and plants. It adds character to the room without clutter.”

A small spot full of joy

“The sun room is my favourite spot. It works hard – we eat here, I work on my thesis, and it’s great to start the day with a coffee here. We make the small space work with stools we can stack for extra seating, a bench that doubles as storage and a flexible attitude to the way we use our table – some days it’s piled with books, some days snacks, some days it’s Zé, the cat, catching sun rays.”

The good part of living small is being together. That’s how we tend to live – close, sharing our lives and being together most of the time. A small house is good for that. To bring us together.


Create positive vibes

“We’re a family that cheers life. We really do! Every Friday, we celebrate. Everything that happens – even the little things. We have a party in the living room with games and food at the coffee table. This is a room made to bring the family together. The sofa was our first ever IKEA purchase. It’s a sofa-bed so family and friends can sleep well when they visit!”

Make room for your passions

“I came with one suitcase, Daryan came with six – filled with his books and vinyl records. They are his babies and the KALLAX shelf that holds them is his favourite spot in our home. There couldn’t be a better solution for him. His LPs fit each square perfectly and he can use the top of the unit to make a display of his beloved cameras.”

Get creative

“I love our gallery wall. The pictures are by Daryan – portraits of Brazilian musicians and photos of places we’ve visited. It took time to hang but it was worth it – it draws attention from the TV! We wanted a low bench for our TV so I did a small fix on our LACK table! The taller legs are meant for the long bench but the small one is the perfect size (and now height) for Daryan’s record player!”

We’re working out what matters to us. To be positive, to balance work and life. And to make a home that feels good to us, with nice things to see and to touch – simple lines, wood, soft materials, natural light and earthy colours.


A safe space

“My home is my escape, my healing place. I’m used to working long hours, in stressful environments so I want my home to be a place where I can relax and recover. Creating warmth and cosiness does that for me. Those good feelings you get from the soft touch of blankets and rugs, scented candles and meaningful decorations.”

All that we love is here

“I started reading about minimalism before we made our big move. I really found myself in the idea that too much stuff wears you down. When I packed, I had a mantra: ‘If I don’t remember I have it, let it go.’ And like that I downsized from a walk-in wardrobe to sharing a small wardrobe and chest of drawers with Daryan. It’s been great to let things go. Now all we have is what we love and need.”

We love to see our customers get creative with our products. Go for it! But please note that altering or modifying IKEA products so they can no longer be re-sold or used for their original purpose, means the IKEA commercial guarantees and your right to return the products will be lost.

Follow Marcia and Daryan @ourhome2 @daryandornelles