Sharing Space in Urban Homes

It’s a common deterrent for those looking at urban homes, condos, and apartments: “We just can’t find a place big enough.”

For those who live alone, are married and child-free, or cohabitate without children, this might not be an issue; one or two people can easily squeeze themselves into a small living space and get comfortable there for a long, long time. But, what about those of us with children? Not just that, what about those of us who want multiple children?

How can a large family (I’m talking about a family with at least two children) find a place that’s affordable, while allowing each family member enough room to stretch their legs every once and a while?

Some options to consider:

1. Share your bedroom with an infant/toddler.

My husband and I lived in a loft apartment when our son was born and, therefore, ended up sleeping in the same room as our son for the first 18 months of his life. We started with a co-sleeper attached to the bed, then moved it to the wall next to the bed (4ft away), then to the other side of the room (about 20ft away). This arrangement is not nearly as inconvenient as one might think and comes in really handy for a mother who plans on nursing her children past their first year. In such circumstances, this arrangement is actually more convenient. In our new home, our son sleeps just on the other side of our bedroom door (but usually ends up in our bed at about 6am each morning anyway). Frankly, we have grown accustomed to him being nearby and we like it that way for now.

It should not be assumed that, once a couple discovers there is a baby on the way, they must shop around for a two-bedroom home. Sharing a room with your child may not work for everyone, but it’s at least worth a shot. You can all be perfectly comfortable sharing a bedroom for a very long time, before you ever need to consider “upscaling.” And, when the time comes to shop around…

2. Reconsider “bedroom.”

Why does a toddler (or a preschooler, for that matter) need a large bedroom? I can understand a parent’s desire to create a space unique to their child. (I feel that desire, too.) But, is a separate room really necessary? Take a quick search through home design blogs and you’ll find examples of excellent kids’ space built into closets, attics, breakfast nooks, lofts, and other odd places. A child can be afforded plenty of privacy, seclusion, and creativity in any sort of space, regardless of size. (This includes even tiny outdoor spaces, which are often overlooked when it comes to providing space for kids.) When did our idea of “bedroom” expand to include a private library, playroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet? With a little creativity, any extra bit of space can be transformed into a bedroom for a small child! And, when all else fails…

3. Think “Bunkhouse.”

I grew up in a house where both me and my two brothers each had our own bedroom, so I understand the desire for individuality, privacy, and space. And I know that there are many benefits to living in a large home–especially when considering entertaining guests. But, just because there are benefits to each family member having individual private space, we shouldn’t feel like we are neglecting our kids by making them share their bedrooms. In fact, it might be in their better interest to learn to share space now, before they find themselves in their freshman year at college, fighting with their new roommate over whose job it is to wash the window.

I’ve seen some amazing ideas online for shared bedrooms for kids–everything from a preschooler sharing with a newborn, to preteen siblings (a brother and sister, nonetheless) learning to give each other space in a room where space is limited, to four sisters sharing a room well into their teens. From my own experience, thinking of the friends I’ve known throughout my life who have siblings, it seems that most shared their room at some point in time. I might venture to say that, with some exceptions, most would not have had it any other way. Sharing a bedroom teaches children cooperation, consideration, and aids in bonding. Think: summer camp every day.

Sure, there are some sisters who end up as enemies from childhood spats in their shared room; and there are certainly stories I would have rather not heard about shared boys’ rooms. But, we all need to learn to share space eventually and we shouldn’t feel guilty if we start our kids young. Heck, they might end up as best friends because of it!

I guess my point is pretty simple:

If we think that a growing families necessitates a growing home (which often insinuates moving out of the city), we are missing out on the ways we can adapt the space we currently have to meet our growing needs.

Why can’t a family of four be comfortable in a two-bedroom home?
Why can’t a family of six live in a three-bedroom home?

I know that there are obvious caveats to this: to keep the average person sane, there must be at least some private space or some way to get away from the others–a quiet reading nook, a cozy bathroom, a backyard patio. So, that’s where creativity comes in!

What’s the coolest space adaption you’ve seen a family make?

Photo credits:
1. Apartment Therapy
2. oh happy day
3. Cookie Mag

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3 thoughts on “Sharing Space in Urban Homes

  1. We lived in a one bedroom with three kids in Chicago. Granted, it was a transitional space and not permanent, but we made it work. My husband and I have often foregone our own personal living space for our kids' needs (at this stage of life) and thus when we lived in a one-bedroom, this meant our bed was pushed up against a loft bed under which housed their toys. Now we live in a three bedroom apartment in the city (in Italy…where everything is smaller) and this means a constant need for organization and creativity in re-thinking our space. We have tons of bins for storage, toys and all of our furniture is functional…sometimes multi-functional (our couch has storage under one side, our kitchen bar table is made of an Ikea storage shelf with a counter on top, the kids have toys that FIT in bins, which means huge plastic junk had to go. We have balcony space that is divided between grown-up space and kid stuff…. they play on their side and typically don't interfere with ours. We have a table set up for play-doh for them and the rest is my personal getaway…. I try to keep our house organized and clean b/c this makes me feel more at "home" in my small home. It takes time and energy to live a simpler life, but for me, there's nothing we can't do to live in a location we love. Okay, maybe that's a little extreme…. let's just say, a three bedroom is small enough with our three kids. 🙂

  2. You've got some good ideas there. My wife and I just had our first child 4 weeks ago. At first, I thought we might have issues trying to make it work in our 1200sq foot condo in OTR (especially with a possible fourth/fifth child down the line). However, you've really got me thinking that even with having only two small bedrooms we can make this work. The only thing we're bad about is saving loads of crap we really don't need (although being forced to get rid of it all is a mixed blessing). 🙂

  3. We utilize the bunk idea for our kids and I am working out an idea in my head for when they get older that kinda divides their shared room into separate smaller bed nooks. Sharing a room is not only practical for kids, it is beneficial to them in many ways. I here them talking as they go to sleep and it is so cute.

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