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

White Contemporary Master Bedroom With Round Mirror
Laure Joliet Photography

Design by Joe Human

Blue Contemporary Bedroom With Striped Wallpaper
Colby Edwards

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

From: Joe Human

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

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.

Photo by: Sarah Wittenbraker

Sarah Wittenbraker

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

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.

Photo by: Caitlin McCarthy Design

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

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.

Photo by: Laure Joliet Photography

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

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.

Photo by: Regan Wood

Regan Wood

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

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.

Photo by: Claire Esparros for Homepolish

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

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.

Photo by: Joyelle West

Joyelle West

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.

Now, The Mistakes to Avoid

See All Photos

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

Photo By: Ted Yarwood

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

Photo By: 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

Photo By: 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

©Provided by California Closets

Don't ... Clutter Tables With Lamps and Frames

Suspended light bulbs and an oversized photo mural keep desks free of lamps and photographs, while bunk beds provide extra space for kids to work and play. — Cortney Novogratz, designer, The Novogratz and star of HGTV's Home by Novogratz

From: Cortney Novogratz and Robert Novogratz

Photo By: Matthew Williams

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 ... Buy an Oversized Sofa

Opt for furniture with clean, slim profiles, like this armless sofa, which gives the space more breathing room and a lighter feel overall. — Danielle Kurtz, creative director, The Land of Nod

Photo By: The Land of Nod

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

Photo By: Douglas Young

Don't ... Use Cabinets in a Small Bathroom

Cabinets in a small bathroom can take up a lot of space; create storage by using hanging baskets and rails on the wall, then use accessory containers to organize all the small stuff. — Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson, IKEA

Photo By: IKEA U.S.

Don't ... Forget to Play Up Nooks and Crannies

Play up unusual shapes by covering them in a bold-patterned wallpaper. I used a large floral repeat to accent this wall's triangular shape. — James Huniford, founder, Huniford Design Studios

Photo By: Eric Striffler

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

©Jodi McKee

Don't ... Think You Can't Squeeze in Another Piece of Furniture

Activate corner space with a modular shelving system; this one allowed us to sneak in a single-leg desk where we otherwise could not have done so. — Jessica Stambaugh, owner, Decorative Traces

Don't ... Get Locked Into Conventional Seating

Many people think modular seating arrangements won't work in a small space, but they can actually take up less room than a traditional sofa and loveseat. — Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson, IKEA

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

Photo By: Marcia Prentice

Don't ... Always Go With a Small Area Rug

A wall-to-wall area rug that fills a room will create the illusion of a bigger space. This colorful diamond-weave pattern gives this small space a welcoming jolt of energy. — Fawn Galli, owner, Fawn Galli Interiors

Photo By: Costas Picadas

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.

Photo By: Peter Margonelli

Don't ... Be Afraid to Mix Different Wood Finishes

The dark cedar walls contrast with the light cedar floor to give this bathroom an open feel. The planks are laid in different directions, making the room look longer and wider than it really is. — Anne Reagan, editor in chief, Porch.com

Photo By: That's My Letter

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

Photo By: IKEA U.S.

Don't ... Clutter a Table With Lots of Chairs

Maximize your seating with a banquette that runs the length of the room. Pull away the table during a party, and you have the perfect spot for guests to gather. — David Bromstad, designer, DAVID BROMSTAD and HGTV personality

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

Photo By: 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

Photo By: Ted Yarwood

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

Photo By: Douglas Young

Don't ... Buy a Traditional Coffee Table

In a tight space, smaller tables are more compact and can be moved around when needed as opposed to a large, rectangular coffee table. Go with a glass top for a less bulky look. — David Scott, owner, David Scott Interiors

Photo By: Antoine Bootz

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

Photo By: Restless Arrow

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

Photo By: Elizabeth Felicella

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

Photo By: Douglas Young

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