Your home might be compact, but keeping it both stylish and neat is no tiny task. Here are our favorite places to buy small-scale furniture and organizational systems—plus, in case the job is too much to DIY, local pros who can help you declutter.
– Furniture –
Yes, it’s a big-box furniture store, but the website has a helpful guide with decorating tips for small spaces, which includes links to drop-front chests, beds with built-in storage, and small-scale seating. Our favorite tip: Use counter- or bar-height tables in tiny dining rooms to make the space look bigger—some have added storage in the pedestal for extra linens or dishes. 22250 Shaw Rd., Sterling; 703-406-7600.
When they moved to Washington in 2000, Cleveland transplants Scott and Rachel Hughey quickly realized that Ohio-size furniture wouldn’t work here, so the former dealers of American crafts shifted their focus to handmade, small-scale furnishings from Amish workshops and family-run companies in the Midwest and Northeast. Any piece can be customized for a specific space. 906 King St., Alexandria; 703-518-4663.
It’s easy to see how these midcentury offerings can fit into tight quarters—the shop itself is tucked into a niche of the Mount Vernon Antique Center. Slim consoles line the booth’s walls, while a surprising number of tables, seating, and accessories fill the tight space in the middle. Our favorites include a teak mirror with a shelf for mail or keys and an all-in-one end table and magazine rack. 8101 Richmond Hwy., Alexandria; 202-316-0066.
Owner Beth Aberg has lots of clients who live in the old (thus, small) houses that populate DC and its close-in suburbs, so scale is a priority when she’s stocking her stores with antique and vintage finds and new designs. A recent offering in the Old Town shop was an English mahogany drop-leaf table that serves as a console against the wall—and opens into an oval dining table. 1313 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-333-5569; 7766 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-280-2777; 810 King St., Alexandria, 703-548-8820; 4522 Lee Hwy., Arlington, 703-527-9690.
The national chain that opened in Georgetown last year caters to small-space design and living—especially when it comes to foldout beds. The top-selling products here, says marketing director Lisa Blecker, are queen-size beds that hide behind pivoting bookshelves and a console/desk that stretches into a dining table for 12. The company also makes the expanding “Plurimo” table, which opens in both width and length, with self-storing leaves. 3340 Cady’s Alley, NW; 202-750-6327.
Arlington designer Dolly Howarth frequently works on tiny spaces and apartments, and she raves about Room & Board’s “Slim” collection of console tables, whose minimal designs easily fit into tight spots—and come in 14 colors. For more warmth, try the new 12-inch-deep “Chilton” console, with live-edge wood over a metal frame. Most of the store’s designs are American-made by independent furniture makers. 1840 14th St., NW; 202-729-8300.
Walk into any hip apartment in DC and chances are you’ll find something from West Elm. Most of its sofas and sectionals have open legs, which make a small room seem airier, and there are loads of benches, stools, and storage ottomans that can tuck away when not needed for extra seating. The “Parsons” collection of tables, desks, and consoles are a designer’s go-to for a clean look in a narrow space. 1728 14th St., NW, 202-986-2165; Tysons Corner Center, 571-633-0227.
– Furniture on a Budget –
Most people know Cort as “that furniture-rental company.” But its clearance centers offer previously leased furnishings at huge discounts. We got an eight-by-ten-foot rug for $99 and a midcentury-style bed and two nightstands for $450. The walls are also filled with artwork—for those looking to spruce up a small space with a large framed print, the price is right. 11711 Parklawn Dr., Rockville, 301-468-6443; 801 Hampton Park Blvd., Capitol Heights, 301-324-8684; 5720 General Washington Dr., Alexandria, 703-354-2600.
Most of us don’t have the fortitude to drive around estate sales all weekend, looking for that perfect piece. This eBay-like auction site catalogs estate sales in Washington, Baltimore, and other cities across the country, so you can see everything in one sitting. Furniture, lighting, and art can be had for a song.
Europeans know small spaces, so the Swedish furnishings giant is the place to look for clever designs. Its “PS 2017” collection includes an armchair and loveseat that fold up and hang on the wall, an accent table that doubles as a stool, and a pillow that folds out into a quilt. We also love the “Varv” floor lamp, which has a drink tray—and a built-in phone charger. 10100 Baltimore Ave., College Park; 2901 Potomac Mills Cir., Woodbridge; 888-888-4532.
With tastemakers such as Nate Berkus and Dwell magazine designing for its home collections, Target’s not just for dorm rooms. The store’s Threshold brand has good options, such as the Modern Anywhere Chair, which works in the dining room, office, or, well, anywhere. Its drop-leaf Secretary Desk could easily fit in a small entry to hold mail or winter gloves. Holes in the back allow for hidden device charging. Multiple area locations.
– Closet and Storage Systems –
The focus of each design is on complementing a client’s space, says sales manager DuVal Reynolds. The company has developed finishes to go with furnishings sold at popular retailers such as West Elm, Arhaus, and Restoration Hardware, “so we create something that doesn’t feel separate from everything else.” 5223 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 4262 Entre Ct., Chantilly; 703-348-1401 for both.
This local company has its own manufacturing facility, so it can offer lower prices. It’s best known for designing walk-in closets of all sizes, and it can also handle difficult spaces, as we can attest: It installed a wall of built-ins on a sloping floor, engineering the base so everything was perfectly level. 12201 Nebel St., Rockville; 301-468-1090.
It’s the first stop for homeowners and professional organizers looking to corral stuff into submission. The website has a section called My Organized Life, devoted to photos that customers have uploaded to show off how they use their purchases. Clever uses include drawer organizers for tea bags or Legos, clear storage boxes to organize frozen goods, and a column of Elfa shelving perfect for a microwave and coffee station in a tight kitchen. Multiple area locations.
As the name suggests, Econize focuses on eco-friendly, low-formaldehyde materials in its closet systems, which come in more than 20 finishes. Asthma sufferers can order a product that’s 100 percent formaldehyde-free. In addition to staples such as closets, garage cabinets, and home offices, Murphy beds are becoming increasingly popular. 703 Park Ave., Falls Church; 703-635-2705.
Owners Vincent and Helena Sagart just opened this high-end, modern design emporium in a Georgetown rowhouse, where everything is geared toward organized, chic, small-space living. The 2,500-square-foot space is designed as a real home, with Poliform cabinetry in use as a library, kitchen, bathroom, and dressing room. 2611 P St., NW; 202-554-8658.
– Professional Organizers –
Owner Cheryl Larson oversees more than 30 professional organizers across the area, who go beyond organizing file drawers and kitchen cabinets to helping clients keep their checkbooks balanced and their finances catalogued with programs such as Quicken. Particularly rewarding, Larson says, is her work with elderly clients who need to get their affairs in order as they downsize. 301-916-9022.
Paper is everyone’s downfall, says Kacy Paide, who focuses on home offices. “I do a lot of coaching on going digital and going paperless.” She is a paid/certified consultant with Evernote, an online filing app. 202-262-1207.
This national network of professional organizers isn’t just concerned with cleaning up clutter. “We really like to think about design as a part of our process,” says Ashley Hatcher, who runs its local branch. These organizers believe in making closets look like clothing boutiques and making pantries resemble high-end kitchen shops: “It’s kind of like being an interior designer behind the scenes for those closed-door spaces.” 301-417-8310.
Founder Scott Roewer’s priority is his clients’ closets, but chances are he’ll end up styling their wardrobes as well. “We take a rolling garment rack to our appointments to pull stuff out and talk about it,” he says. Only the outfits that make their owner look fabulous stay. Roewer’s team of five also walk clients through renovations, interpreting blueprints and recommending changes so all their belongings will fit perfectly into the new design. 202-249-8330.
Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton and her staff of seven help clients with typical clutter issues, but they also specialize in clients with conditions such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and hoarding. In these cases, they focus on minimizing the steps needed to keep spaces orderly—even if it means taking the doors off closets and kitchen cabinets so it’s easy to remember where things go. 703-969-8407.
Homeowners often need help both before and after decluttering, says cofounder Libby Kinkead, so her team provides personal assistants to manage the process—and they come back regularly to help clients stay organized. They’re especially helpful in keeping files current with sensitive information such as financial, medical, and insurance records. They also specialize in preparing for moves and downsizing. 240-200-4824.
For more information and resources, check out the DC chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers at dcorganizers.org.
This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Washingtonian.