Designer Tips for Small Urban Living

These urban dwellers have learned to live comfortably and stylishly in 400 square feet or less.

By: Susan Kleinman

Create a Wow Moment

At just 300 square feet, interior designer Ron Marvin's studio apartment is short on space, but not on style. To make the apartment chic and memorable, Marvin used full-scale furniture and plenty of decorative objects. "If you create a major focus or an aha moment," he says, "you forget that you are in a small space. You just realize it feels good, and you are relaxed and comfortable." Design and photography by Ron Marvin

Mix Shapes and Sizes

"Objects and furnishings with varying textures, origins and shapes give interest to the space and keep the eye stimulated," says Callie Jenschke of Scout Designs, who decorated this 350-square-foot studio. Smart design strategy: The more interested the eye is, the more likely it is to ignore the room’s small dimensions. Photography by Patrick Cline for Lonny magazine

Tuck It Away

To create a home office in a 365-square-foot studio, Killy Scheer of Frisson Design hung a curtain from the main room’s ceiling. When the curtain was open, the office felt spacious enough for both work-at-home spouses. When it was closed, Scheer and her husband could forget work and enjoy their living room. Photography by Killy Scheer

Go for Slim and Portable

To meet the challenges of small-space living in a 397-square-foot one-bedroom, photographer Michael Mohr and his wife chose narrow pieces, such as the bench used as a coffee table. Instead of a big entertainment center, Mohr mounted a 27" TV in the closet, hidden most of the time but able to pivot out when they were interested in watching a show. Design and photography by Michael Mohr

Visually Expand the Space

To visually double the space of this tiny pied-a-terre in San Francisco's Chinatown, interior designer Susan Diana Harris mirrored an entire wall. If you’re going to do likewise, be sure the view you're reflecting is attractive enough that you’ll appreciate it in duplicate. Photography by Frankie Norstad

Edit Your Stuff

Professional organizer Laura Cattano was happy to leave the suburban lifestyle behind, even though living in the city means editing her things to fit into 325 square feet. "I prefer living simply," she says. "Less space equals less stuff equals less cleaning, less living for things and more living with what I love and use." To create the illusion of more floor space, openness and light, Cattano chose only furniture with visible legs, and a shallow, open bookcase.

Think About Space Creatively

Professional pastry chef Mark Wynsma lives in a tiny apartment with just 10 inches of kitchen counter space, a few little cabinets and a single drawer. To make up for the lack of storage, he stashes his cooking tools in his freezer, under the bed, in clothes closets and in a trunk in the living room. "The kitchen island is the real savior in making my space functional," says Wynsma. "The key to making a big piece work in a small space is having the bottom of the island open and the marble top white." Photography by Liana Walker

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