Here's how condo dwellers are getting creative, hacking their spaces and forcing innovation

With nearly half of Torontonians living in apartments of some kind, squeezing into smaller spaces has led to some compromises and creative hacks to get around tight corners.

Living in closer quarters means having to find new ways to make high-rise life liveable

Joseph Duan (right) shows CBC Toronto host Dwight Drummond how condo furniture can be multi-functional to save on space. (CBC)

With nearly half of Torontonians living in apartments of some kind, squeezing into smaller spaces has led to some compromises and creative hacks to get around tight corners.

And although the average size of a Toronto condo has grown compared to previous years — coming in now at 832 square feet — space is still a high-demand commodity

So some resident have taken matters into their hands.

Bathrooms become nurseries

"This went from being our five-year plan, to being our forever plan," said Lindsey Low, a mother of two who has hacked her condo space to make life work for her family.

Lindsey Low transformed one of her bathrooms into a nursery for her son by adding a platform on top of the bathtub. (Lindsey Low)

Low and her husband turned one of the unit's bathrooms into a nursery for her son. By adding a platform over the bathtub, they created a space for the bassinet — complete with blackout blinds, in the form of shower curtains.

The space underneath the sink became an impromptu closet for the baby, and they made use of space behind doors for additional storage.

Storage underneath the sink became a makeshift closet for the baby. (Lindsey Low)

"There are a lot of families who are making it work, like us," she said, adding that their location in the CityPlace neighbourhood is ideal.

"We have a trailer for our bike, and we use the bike path ... it's like being on vacation all the time. There's a big convenience factor, we walk home together, both of us are always there for bath and bedtime for the kids."

Using spaces in creative ways, like the back of a door, is something the Low family has mastered in their CityPlace condo. (Lindsey Low)

Low's family is far from alone. Take a tour of Toronto and you'll find that bathrooms are commonly turned into kid-friendly spaces.

Getting creative

Janet Butler-McPhee, who lives near the Esplanade also used her washroom as a makeshift nursery.

"You definitely have to get creative," she said. "Before our son could sleep through the night, he slept in our second bathroom in a crib — now he's in with our four-year-old."

The City of Toronto also saw unique uses of bathroom spaces in undertaking their Growing Up study — which looked at vertical communities better know as mid-rise and high-rise developments.

Toronto's chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, and the planning department has undertaken a study of high-rise communities. The city recently released draft guidelines to help developers make buildings more family-friendly. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

Toronto's chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat said that many parents use their bathtubs as storage.

"You can't leave it in the hallway, not on the balcony — so lots of families have improvised and put the stroller in the bathtub," she said.

In a study of family living in vertical communities, the City of Toronto heard from parents who had to use their bathtub as storage space for strollers. (City of Toronto)

Multi-functional furniture

Going beyond DIY solutions, Joseph Duan, president of Small Space Plus, has made a living of selling functional and transformative furniture suited for small condos.

When he first opened his store seven years ago, people laughed at him, he said. No one's laughing now, but — outside of pullout beds — the concept of furniture serving several purposes is still a new idea, he said.

Joseph Duan, president of furniture sellers Small Space Plus, said people laughed at him when he said he wanted to get into the condo furniture business seven years ago. (CBC)

"A lot of people don't even know this stuff exists, but once we get them into the store, it's our job to inspire them with different ideas," he said.

"A coffee table that turns into a dining room table can eliminate an entire piece of furniture — which gives you back space in your small condo."

That can free up as much as 50 square feet of prime living space, he said.

Duan demonstrates how a coffee table can become a dining table, which would save someone valuable real estate in their condo. (CBC)

Duan said one of his most popular pieces is an accent chair that doubles as a bed, which "helps with friends who want to crash after a night out."

"You used to be financially relegated to a small space, but now it's more of a preference," said Duan, who has seen more families come through his store in recent years.

'Terrace to table' dining

That sort of innovation is also being embraced on a larger scale, with those developing condos.

"A lot of condominium developments were investor-oriented, but today most condominiums are catered towards those that are going to live there," said Jonathan Westeinde, founder of the Windmill Development Group.

Adam Ochshorn (left) and Jonathan Westeinde (right) are developing a condo in the Queen West neighbourhood which will focus on a 'terrace-to-table' theme. (CBC/Paul Borkwood)

"The vertical environments have to start mirroring as best as possible the same kind of functionalities that you can have in a house."

Windmill is involved in a new condominium building in the Queen West neighbourhood that is rethinking traditional balconies and outdoor spaces, by designing cascading terraces that will allow for "terrace-to-table" dining.

The Plant building near Queen and Dovercourt will have terraces that will allow for a maximum amount of light, allowing small crops to grown on balconies. (

"It's the responsibility of developers to provide a healthy lifestyle for homeowners, and no one has really touched on urban agriculture in your home," said Adam Ochshorn, principal of Curated Properties, also involved in The Plant development.

"We felt there is a need, based on the popularity of farm-to-table restaurants, to have a terrace-to-table theme."

The condo building will also have a communal kitchen and terrace for residents to enjoy. (

How have you hacked your living space? Share your story with us.


Alexandra Sienkiewicz

Journalist and Producer

Alexandra Sienkiewicz is an award-winning TV producer with over a decade of newsroom experience. She started her CBC journalism career covering national news before moving over to the fast-paced world of local. She believes every news story starts at the local level and those are the stories she most loves to tell. In her off-time, Alexandra​ dabbles in food and wine, furthering her education ​as a sommelier​.

With files from Carly Thomas