One of the lessons I’ve learned during the Covid-19 pandemic is that no matter where you live, making your dwelling a home is an ever-evolving process. When you live in a small condo or an apartment in an urban centre like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal, as I do, the challenge is to make your space accommodate the changes life brings you.
I previously wrote about how three talented millennial Toronto home decor YouTubers - digital creators Alexandra Gater, DIY Danie, and The Sorry Girls inspired me to make small changes to my apartment. These tweaks, along with my inadvertent foray into the hipsteading movement, have definitely improved my overall mood and lifestyle. As Autumn turned to Winter, I began to recognize these efforts encompass the age-old practice of nesting, where one optimizes one's space to make it a comfortable reflection of its occupants. The Kit.ca explains the psychology behind the practice in this interesting article.
By late November I began to question whether my shelter was really as functional as it could be. Veteran Toronto realtor Steven Fudge’s story entitled COVID-19 Will Likely Change How We Design Domestic Spaces, from Urbaneer.com, sparked a desire in me to change my apartment more drastically, in part because I’m still one of the nearly 30% of Canadians working and living in their homes.
The Toronto apartment my partner and I occupy is a two-bed suite in an early 20th-century building. It is a lovely old building with plenty of character tucked away in the middle of a quiet residential street. I consider it a Toronto classic. The radiator heating and creaky floors are pretty typical of Toronto buildings from the era, but it's always exciting to find a unit like ours with an updated kitchen and appliances. While I appreciate the stylish modern high-rise towers that dominate the downtown core, there is something romantic about these older apartments that I gravitate to.
My only challenge in occupying our space has been the somewhat quirky layout. It is a very narrow apartment and is essentially a big rectangle (as seen in the image below).
When we moved into the unit 4 years ago, we chose the larger of the two rooms to be our bedroom. The second smaller room was designated as our home office, which made sense at the time. However, once the pandemic hit, our modest apartment - like many Canadians - became our full-time office, gym, and living quarters. The only space for our newly acquired stationery bike was our bedroom (pictured below).
After about a week of bedroom/gym combination, I decided we needed to make a change. I wanted our bedroom to simply be a cozy comfortable space to decompress.
I was also annoyed with how cramped our smaller room had become since it was serving as my workspace, our podcast studio, and library. We were constantly bumping into things and it felt pretty claustrophobic when we were both in the room. This was especially problematic when planning potential future podcast recordings with our third co-host in person. Ultimately, for all of our needs, this office was no longer functional.
At the end of November, my spouse Aaron and I decided to embark on what we called “the great room swap.” The goal was to transform the large master bedroom into the office, gym, and podcast studio, and make the small second bedroom our cozy sleeping quarters.
Sounds simple, right?
It was actually a massive undertaking.
The most challenging part of the process was reconfiguring the space plan to fit all our belongings, which are plenty I might add! We had a lot of furniture to move and rearrange. We measured the space, our furniture and did a lot of collective guesswork.
Halfway through our process, I discovered that there are apps available for these tasks, such as Magicplan, which I used to create the apartment layout above right from my smartphone. This app was created in Montreal, and although intended for professionals, it’s easy for anyone to use. And, if you use a desktop computer, 3Dream.net is another great Canadian-made room planner tool.
After three full days of moving, deliberating, and assembling a couple of new pieces of furniture, "the great room swap" was complete.
Here is the new bedroom:
There is no wasted space here. The room’s only focus is rest and clothes storage. Gone is the exercise bike which used to loom over me, taunting me, when I woke up in the morning.
We also replaced an old wardrobe with a sleek industrial style clothing rack to house and display our favourite outfits for convenient dressing.
Here is the new office:
We successfully housed our work, fitness, hobbies, and creative pursuits in one room. There is ample space for both of us to work and play in this larger room. Our podcast studio is well situated and our fitness area is tucked neatly to one side of the room.
So far, we are quite happy with the changes we made to our apartment. For me, this room swap was more than a simple rearranging of furniture. It was a dramatic overhaul of our home. We made intentional changes to suit our new normal and create an intuitive flow.
The swap also allowed us to create two distinct zones in our home. The front half of the apartment is a relaxing domestic zone, consisting of the bathroom, kitchen/living room, and bedroom. The back half of the home is now our designated productivity and activity-based zone consisting of the large office. If necessary, we can have some separation from work and activity, by simply shutting the office door.
As the lockdown continues, my spouse and I are prepared and empowered to live, work, and play in our modest abode. From this process, I’ve also gained confidence in planning and executing a big change to my domestic space to suit any future life events.
If you want to learn more about improving your Canadian homes during Covid-19, read these other stories right here at Houseporn.ca:
And you may also find these posts of interest too!
All photos courtesy of the author.
BRYNN BYRNE is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster with a passion for BIG cities and tiny homes.