7 Life-Saving Solutions for Decorating a Small Apartment
Trust us: you'll want to take notes for this one.
My S.O. and I often joke that our apartment might as well be a treehouse. Stacked on top of two other units, it comes with sweeping views of local pinewoods, but it's also about as cramped as a one-room wooden box. Cute in theory, but not exactly comfortable.
As you can imagine, I've learned to be strategic when styling our small apartment. Here are some tried-and-true decorating tricks I've picked up from my favorite designers. ICYW, our little treehouse is already looking a lot better.
1: Versatile Color Palettes
Design by Lauren Geremia
Design by Joe Human
White Contemporary Master Bedroom With Round Mirror
The master bedroom is tucked away on the top floor of the home, where a clever built-in dresser saves floor space. Textiles are neutral with gold accents, and the circular mirror over the bed is a nice complement to the geometric light fixture.
Blue Contemporary Bedroom With Striped Wallpaper
Dark, masculine suit-stitch textile wallpaper creates a dashing look in this bedroom. For added luxury, the designers mixed light and dark tones and soft textiles for the bedding. Gold accents finish the space off. Wallpaper: Maya Romanoff wallcovering
If you have permission to paint your rental's walls, there are two things you should know: 1) I'm totally jealous and 2) Off-white isn't your only option. Though lighter colors make a space feel bigger and more open, darker shades work just as well by blurring a room's lines and edges.
For example, check out the two bedrooms above. Where Lauren Geremia painted the walls a crisp white to create an open and airy aesthetic, Joe Human used navy pinstripes to make a soothing, sleep-inducing space. Although they're different, both hues work wonders in a small apartment.
2: Apartment-Sized Staples
Eclectic Living Space Is Relaxed, Stylish
A family of five needed a relaxed yet beautiful living space using items they already owned and wanted to incorporate into the overall design. Designer Sarah Wittenbraker created this stunning living room doing just that; she achieved a stylish, eclectic design by mixing furniture pieces of contrasting styles.
Nothing captures the struggle of small-space living quite like Ross Geller shouting "Pivot!" over his new sofa. Instead of heaving and squeezing a standard sectional into your living room, choose furniture that's already fit to scale. Many major retailers like West Elm and Pottery Barn have stylish lines designed specifically for apartment-dwellers.
And when you want extra sitting room for your five closest friends? Make like designer Sarah Wittenbraker above and pair your sweet apartment-sized sofa with two gorgeous, space-appropriate armchairs.
3: Low-Level Furnishings
Blue and Gray Midcentury Living Room With Ottomans
Don Draper would feel right at home in this midcentury modern style living room with its crisp blue-and-gray palette and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Caitlin McCarthy Design
Low-level furniture is another savvy solution for renters. By keeping your sofa close to the ground or forgoing a traditional bed frame, you'll create the illusion of taller ceilings. You'll also have more wall-space for artwork or to showcase skyline views, like designer Caitlin McCarthy did in this cool, midcentury-inspired loft.
4: Raised Curtains
Blue Eclectic Living Room With Floral Curtains
Dramatic artwork and a long wood cabinet keep the colorful style of this eclectic living room from feeling precious. The floral curtains deliver the biggest hit of pattern; a solid blue sofa and aqua walls temper the small, busy print.
Laure Joliet Photography
If curtains aren't already at the top of your home decor must-haves, they will be after this read. Not only is it tres chic to layer your space with floral fabrics a la designer Jessica McClendon, but hanging them a hair higher than the window gives the room more height and dimension.
5: Dual-Purposes Pieces
Vintage Meets Modern Bedroom
Although this bedroom space looks small, every bit of it is used. A large vintage wardrobe is perfect for storage space. Burgundy throw pillows adorn a white poster bed.
That said, when you're strapped for square footage, it pays to have dual-purpose pieces on deck. In this eclectic bedroom from designer Allison Lind, a vintage trunk works overtime to display pillows and store linens, while a shelf over the bed doubles as a nightstand for odds-and-ends. The result? Every inch counts.
6: Contrasting Curves
Chic Dining Area Features Modern White Dining Table
Contemporary leather dining chairs with sleek metal bases surround a modern white dining table, carving out a dining area in this open concept home. Behind the table, a white bookshelf showcases a chic display of accessories.
Claire Esparros for Homepolish
Apartments tend to be linear and boxy, so tossing a few curves into the mix will definitely draw visual interest. We suggest investing in a round coffee table, nightstand or a beautiful modern dining set like designer Justin DiPiero did. Bonus: They take up less space than square pieces.
7: Barely-There Accents
Contemporary Bedroom With White Dresser
A small desk adorned with a computer creates a small work space in this contemporary bedroom. The white dresser pairs well with the desk chair featured in this space.
Another way to avoid cramping your space's style? Opt for minimalist furniture. Thanks to their barely-there design, Lucite desks and floating shelves offer great functionality without the visual clutter. We love how designer Barbara Vail used both to create a workspace that blends right into the walls.
Don't ... Drape Curtains Right Above Your Window Frame
These light wool curtains run floor to ceiling, giving the window in this small bedroom a dramatic and spacious vibe. Custom furniture, including a 10-inch-deep, built-in storage unit, utilizes every foot of space and eliminates the need for bulky dressers. — Kimberley Seldon, designer and owner, Kimberley Seldon Design Group
Don't ... Overwhelm a Room With Too Many Patterns
Choose a hero piece as the focal point for your room, like a bold upholstery pattern for the sofa. Then use a mix of quieter neutrals for the remaining furniture and walls to keep the space light and open. — Danielle Kurtz, creative director, The Land of Nod
Don't ... Forget the Back of the Door
Make use of otherwise wasted vertical space by creating extra storage on the back of a closet, pantry or mudroom door. Over-the-door hooks can be customized with baskets and racks of different sizes. — Sharon Tindell, chief merchandising officer, The Container Store
Don't ... Be Afraid to Paint Everything the Same Color
Blur the lines by continuing your wall color onto the ceiling; doing so makes everything feel more cohesive and less cramped. — Brian Patrick Flynn, designer, Flynnside Out Productions
Don't ... Underestimate What You Can Do With a Closet
We took an underutilized closet and turned it into a bar by lining it with faux croc wallpaper, then adding studs and a framed photo to the back of the door. The built-in drawers were dressed with vintage brass pulls and sprayed in black lacquer while the tray, outfitted with drawer glides, was lit from the shelf above. — Robert Stuart, owner, Robert Stuart Interiors
Don't ... Be Afraid to Hang Things Up (Even Furniture!)
Consider desks or bookcases that hang on the wall, which allow for more flexibility in your space planning. Take advantage of vertical wall space; floating shelves don't require a lot of room and offer an additional place to corral clutter. — Danielle Kurtz, creative director, The Land of Nod
Don't ... Forget to Utilize the Stairs
Adding cubbies, shelves or hanging space under a staircase provides storage in an otherwise unused area and creates a designated spot for rain boots, backpacks and sports equipment. Whether it's open or closed storage — or a combination of both — be sure to go as high as you can to maximize storage. — Ginny Snook Scott, organization expert, California Closets
Don't ... Clutter Tables With Lamps and Frames
Don't ... Forget to Utilize the Foyer
We maximized every inch of this small studio by utilizing the narrow entryway that houses a home office, a mini bar and a closet that hides the washer/dryer and pantry. — Sofia Joelsson, owner, SoJo Design
Don't ... Shun Sconces
Sconces can free up important real estate in small spaces. By taking lamps off the table and floor and attaching them to the wall, you're making these areas way more functional and a lot freer. — Emily Henderson, designer, Emily Henderson Design and Target Home style expert
Don't ... Forget Under-Bed Storage
One of the most practical but least-utilized spaces in the bedroom is under the bed. This handmade platform bed features storage on both sides for books, craft supplies, seasonal clothes, accessories and more. Ditch cheap plastic bins for attractive wire baskets to corral clutter. - Courtney Weston, blogger, Always Rooney
Don't ... Just Think Square Sink
This round sink opens up the space and makes it easy to maneuver around the tiny bathroom. To avoid feeling cramped, we passed on closed storage and installed a linear wall shelf above the sink to hold cotton swabs, lotions and even flowers. — Betty Wasserman, designer, Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors
Don't ... Use Cabinets in a Small Bathroom
Don't ... Sacrifice Style When It Comes to Storage
Beautiful baskets in bright prints or unique textures do a great job corralling toys and extra blankets, but they're also a great way to add decor to a small space without cluttering up a room. I love to place them in corners or under side tables. — Jodi McKee, craft blogger and Pinterest influencer
Don't ... Think You Can't Squeeze in Another Piece of Furniture
Don't ... Get Locked Into Conventional Seating
Don't ... Neglect the Corners of a Small Room
We were able to squeeze a large rectangular table into a small kitchen by utilizing the corner and creating a built-in banquette. A tiny niche allows for storage and display without having to bring in additional furniture. Placing the large drum light over the table eliminated the need for additional fixtures in the room. — Karen Vidal, owner, Design Vidal
Don't ... Pass on Paneling
The paneled walls and coffered ceiling in this small dining room provide so much architectural integrity that the size of the room becomes an afterthought. A round dining table makes it easy for guests to navigate the space, while a high-hanging chandelier leaves views unobstructed. — Christopher Maya, owner, Christopher Maya Inc.
Don't ... Be Afraid to Mix Different Wood Finishes
Don't ... Think You Can't Add a Closet
Create a floor-to-ceiling closet by attaching rods and shelves to a wall, then draping off the area with a set of curtains. Define your storage needs, then choose the best spot. Here we moved the bed to the center of the room and built the closet on the wall behind it. — Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson, IKEA
Don't ... Push Furniture Against the Walls
Pulling furniture off the wall towards the center of a room keeps a small space feeling open and airy. The floating desk in this home office adds a sophisticated and intentional touch to this space. — Jessica Stambaugh, owner, Decorative Traces
Don't ... Hang a Small Mirror in a Small Bathroom
This tiny bathroom feels significantly larger thanks to the expanded viewpoint offered up by the wall-to-wall mirror. Mirroring an entire wall will amplify any space; hang one on a wall adjacent to a window and the reflection will open things up even more. — Kimberley Seldon, designer and owner, Kimberley Seldon Design Group
Don't ... Buy a Bulky Sleeper Sofa
This cottage is only 650 square feet — basically one large room with a bath and kitchenette. Instead of trying to work a sleeping area into the layout, we opted for a Murphy bed and hid it behind this oversized woven walnut door. — Betty Wasserman, designer, Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors
Don't ... Buy a Traditional Coffee Table
Don't ... Underestimate the Power of White
An all-white space allows light to bounce and reflect around the room, making any space appear bigger and brighter. An organized desk and minimal decor create an even more spacious feel, while the slightly warmer white found in the chandelier beads give off a cozy vibe. — Anne Reagan, editor in chief, Porch.com
Don't ... Shy Away From Bold Colors
Bold colors actually make a small space appear larger and more dramatic. Paint the walls, furniture and crown molding in a saturated color, then pair your monochromatic color scheme with something unexpected, like this white Lucite coffee table that lights up from within. — Ghislaine Vinas, owner, Ghislaine Vinas Interior Design
Don't ... Go With a Standard Swing Door
By using a barn-style door and putting it on tracks, we were able to create more space without having to swing a door in or out in this cottage's kitchen and bathroom. The door was original to the home's potting shed; we simply exchanged the clear glass with frosted glass for bathroom privacy. — Betty Wasserman, designer, Betty Wasserman Art & Interiors