6 Designer Tricks to Make Your Small Apartment Feel Big
Short on square footage? Try these designer-approved ways to stretch your space.
Often short on space and storage, small apartments can present a long list of challenges. Chicago-based interior designers Shea Soucie and Martin Horner of Soucie Horner, Ltd. know even cramped spaces can live larger than they really are. “To us, timelessness, elegance and luxury are musts — regardless of square footage,” Martin says. “The greatest luxury of all is to feel embraced by your surroundings, which is easier to accomplish in a small space anyway,” Shea says.
Read on for Shea’s and Martin’s space-stretching ideas:
Use Mirrors to Visually Increase Space
Foyer Features Full Length Mirror & Tufted Ottoman
The floor mirror was specifically designed to reflect the study and to make the space feel larger. The tufted ottoman provides seating in addition to being a sculptural element.
Utilize mirrors to bounce light, reflect views and instantly enlarge the feel of any space. Lean an oversize mirror against the wall opposite your front door to create drama and visually expand your entryway. Boost your kitchen’s glamour quotient by installing a mirrored backsplash, or line the insides of glass-front kitchen cabinets with mirror.
Opt for Sleek Furnishings
Gray And White Midcentury Modern Living Room
Decked out in geometric patterns, decorative art and low-slung furniture, this living room lives in serious midcentury modern style. A starburst clock keeps time on the gray wall, while a sleek coffee table keeps a low-profile on the striped area rug.
Steer clear of skirted sofas and bulky coffee tables in the living room. Instead, opt for sleek furnishings with open bottoms and slender legs to create an airy mood.
Install drapery rods closer to the ceiling rather than the tops of windows. It’s a simple way to fool the eye upward and create an elegant illusion of height.
Go Double Duty
Choose furnishings that are multipurpose and boost functionality: nightstands with drawers; bookshelves that feature a combination of open display space and closed storage; and upholstered ottomans that can act as both coffee tables and extra seating.
Climb the Walls
Too often, vertical wall space is underutilized. Line walls with picture rail molding to add instant architecture and display. Mimic a headboard and conserve precious floor space by affixing wood or leather panels directly to the wall behind the bed.
Use Deep Hues
Winter Bedroom Sheepskin Rug and Linens in Black Bedroom
Textile designer, Khristian A. Howell, says, "Put your feet first. A dramatic and easy way to change things up in a room is by bringing in a great rug. Sheepskin rugs are so wonderful for the winter months. They feel wonderful under foot, and bring lots of warmth into the room, while keeping a light airy feeling."
Embrace the idea of deep, dark walls. Chocolate, navy and inky green tones will make corners recede, creating the impression of more space.
Open, Airy Loft
When Erin first moved into her loft, it was packed with clunky furniture and had orange walls that made the space feel busy. In order to make the space open, airy and serene, she came up with clever storage solutions that keep everything well organized and clutter free.
To take advantage of dead space just off the living room's sliding glass doors that lead out to the loft's small Juliet balcony, Erin and Chris opted for an 8-foot-tall bookshelf. It houses their important belongings, including diplomas and family keepsakes. "Vertical space is something really important to take advantage of. You'd be surprised how storing things upwards frees up space for other things. A combination of horizontal and vertical storage is key in maximizing square footage," Erin notes.
Clear Console Desk
Instead of opting for a standard console table to place behind her sofa, Erin chose a clear glass table with a metal base that doubles as a full-fledged workstation.
Books in the Bathroom
With no obvious place on the loft's first floor to store her huge collection of design books, Erin turned to a 6-foot wall in the first-floor bathroom. She notes, "I had about 10 inches of depth along a wall perpendicular to the glass-enclosed shower. To put it to good use, I installed a ready-made wall system made of a chrome base and glass shelves. Now what had been unusable space is maxed out with all of my favorite stuff."
Polish on Display
Erin considers her collection of colorful nail polish bottles almost like sculpture or art. To do them justice visually, she keeps them on display in a mirrored tray above the commode. The blogger notes, "It may be cliché to say this, but everything looks better in a tray. Once contained, pieces instantly take on an orderly look."
Erin's wedding inspiration also graces dead space just off the entry wall to the upstairs bathroom. The stylista blogger notes, "While I've designated lots of areas to more practical usage, it was important to take advantage of dead space for purely decorative reasons. I put my favorite art pieces — images from our poolside deck wedding in Baja — to good use in an area that couldn't be blocked by furniture due to the heating vent. The vantage point is ideal since I can see it directly while laying in bed." The three framed images include: a vignette of seashells and palm fronds, a pair of burros that her wedding photographer stumbled upon on the beach, and a rowboat perched underneath a hut.
When Erin first moved in, the accent wall behind the bed was painted a loud orange tone, the previous tenant's homage to the San Francisco Giants that play just across the street at AT&T Park. To keep the space open and airy, she and Chris painted the walls a classic white (Benjamin Moore 01), then selected a palette of light grays, muted blues and creams. To add a personal touch in keeping with the airy aesthetic of the room, Erin added photographs with special meaning for her and her husband, Chris. "I don't like having photos of people everywhere. I like photos that are more landscape or locale-based, but hold personal meaning," Erin explains. "The photograph print of Outer Banks, North Carolina means a lot to Chris and me because that's where we first met, at a friend's wedding. I gave it to him for our first anniversary. I think it's the perfect inspiration piece for creating a bedroom that's calm, serene and all about Chris and me."
With limited space in her upstairs bedroom, it was important Erin keep her furniture simple, low profile and minimal. A white platform bed from West Elm was ideal for several reasons: nightstands are integrated into the headboard for a seamless look, the white finish keeps the room feeling airy and open, and the low profile doesn't detract from the gorgeous view of AT&T Park just outside the bedroom windows.
Handy Laptop Tray
Erin prefers to blog from the most comfy spots in the loft. Although her living room desk gets its fair share of use, the writer composes the majority of her blog posts while sprawled out in bed. By investing in a laptop tray, the blogger instantly adds a desk-like surface on which she can type away while lounging comfortably.
To dress up the drab walls of closet doors that are the focal point from the bed, Erin adorned them with vinyl decals depicting palm trees. "Although we're renting, I really wanted the loft to feel like a permanent place," Erin comments. "By simply dressing up random things such as closet doors, I’ve packed personality into areas that otherwise would be deemed dead space."
The inside of Erin's closet doors also doubles as inspiration boards for blogging. Erin explains, "People may think it's weird to open my closet and find inspiration boards hanging on the back of a door; however, it's truly the perfect spot. Since I blog about fashion a lot, it's a great way for me to put outfits together based on tearsheets I'm inspired by. It pushes me to think outside the box and create ensembles I wouldn't have thought would work well together."
With a laundry nook right smack in the middle of their bedroom, Erin and Chris decided to mask it with a simple drapery panel that easily slides open for instant access. Erin notes, "While staring at a washer and dryer isn't ideal for a design enthusiast like me, I really couldn't complain since having a washer and dryer in a San Francisco rental is a total luxury. So we just worked with it!"