Small Space Solutions for Kitchens and Living Rooms

These smart tricks open up storage space and overcome tight configurations of apartment living room and kitchen layouts anywhere. Even in New York City.
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November 25, 2014

Photo By: Photographer: Christina Wedge

Loft Living

Online lifestyle editor Briana and mobile developer Buzz fully maximized every inch of their 700-square-foot Brooklyn loft thanks to great space planning and smart, space-saving solutions.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Although the tight living room of Briana and Buzz's Brooklyn loft only has 10-by-12-feet of useable space, it seems open, airy and spacious thanks to a great space plan and a plethora of space saving solutions — some simply practical, others decorative.

Keep It Grounded

Starting with an apartment-sized, three-seater sofa centered on the left-hand wall, Briana and Buzz arranged the space around it to maximize the flow of their loft's living room. They took focus off of the room's lack of space by grounding the area with an oversized area rug featuring a bold, graphic print. Instead of adding a bulky, horizontal bookcase to the spatially-challenged room, the couple opted for tall, metal book towers they placed by in the window. The vertical arrangement instantly turned their cherished photography books and novels into a sculptural focal point while still keeping the collection neatly organized.

All Eyes on Blue

Briana and Buzz decided to keep the majority of their living room's walls white to help bounce light around the room and create an open, airy aesthetic. The couple relied on color, however, to delineate the seating area, painting the wall behind their sofa in a cool robin's egg blue tone. They employed this designer's trick to redirect attention away from a room's lack of space and onto an intended focal point.

Book Storage with Style

While the obvious choice for book storage is often a bookcase or a bookshelf, the couple sought other solutions for keeping their favorite titles within arm's reach. To limit the amount of heavy, bulky pieces in their loft's living room, Briana and Buzz decided to use their large collection of books — from photography and interior to design to political satire and observational humor — as part of the room's decor. They found that tall metal book towers put a whole new spin on displaying the collection in an organized and highly decorative fashion. For a perfectly imperfect, casual look, they mixed two tall towers with three shorter ones, and then arranged books by color to break up the overall white color scheme of the room.

Easy Eames Rocker

In rooms where space is at a premium, it's wise to choose lightweight accent furniture pieces that are both comfortable and easy to move around. Briana and Buzz ensure comfortable seating for their guests with a classic modern Eames rocker made of molded plastic.

Dual-Purpose Pitcher

Another key element in the success of Briana and Buzz's small loft design is their ability to use a single object in many different ways. With kitchen storage limited, Briana saved space by forgoing vases and instead making use of serving pitchers to house floral arrangements.

An Unusual End Table

One of Buzz's favorite pieces in the loft is his fully stocked bar, complete with his collection of wine, spirits and barware. Focused on saving space and maximizing the square footage of their 12x10 living room lounge area, the bar serves double duty as one of the sofa's end tables.

A Media Center That Hides Mess

Although Briana and Buzz watch videos mostly on their laptops, they also enjoy watching live TV. To ensure their growing collection of DVDs and media components don't turn into clutter, they keep everything concealed neatly inside a mid-century modern console with sliding doors. When choosing TV stands or media consoles for family rooms or living rooms, it's best to avoid open-storage styles that can easily create a feeling of clutter. Concealed storage keeps remotes and DVDs tidy, plus offers back panels that hide cords.

Under the Stairs, Before

Before embarking on their space-saving design projects, the area beneath Briana and Buzz's staircase was inefficiently used to house their bar. Now the bar serves double duty as an end table next to the sofa.

Under the Stairs, After

Briana and Buzz have flexible schedules that allow them both to work from home when necessary. Although Buzz has his own designated workspace upstairs, Briana often found she had few options for working on her laptop, often feeling confined to the sofa. By outfitting the small, triangular space beneath the stairs as a tidy workstation, Briana instantly added a full-fledged space where she can check emails, work on articles and/or edit the work of her contributors.

Hidden with a Hinge

As an alternative to a basic desk for her personal workspace, Briana had a local contractor build a floating, three-sided box with a hinged door front. The piece works perfectly as a desk, gives the illusion of more space and also allows the area beneath the desk to remain unobstructed for chairs or stools. When her work is done, Briana can easily conceal her laptop and books behind her desk's hinged door.


To eliminate clutter, Briana had the wall beneath her stairs completely covered with a roll of cork, onto which she pins all of her important invitations, tear sheets, trinkets and reminders.

Stackable Seating

Determined to save as much space in her small Brooklyn loft as possible, Briana chose red, powder-coated, stackable chairs as seating for her workstation and to provide addition seating for guests, as needed. When not in use, she can simply stack the chairs against the wall or store them in her closet.

Floating Photography

In his spare time, Buzz dabbles in photography. To turn one of his creations into the artistic centerpiece of the living room, the couple had his work printed on canvas and displayed in a floating frame. To create this look, a small recessed gap is left between the art and the actual frame, creating the illusion that the featured work is actually floating in the air.

Space-Saving Kitchen Storage

To take advantage of every inch inside her kitchen cabinets, Briana ditches bulky boxes and bags, and instead stores food in airtight, stackable plastic containers.

Think Vertically

Thanks to a button that creates an airtight seal and a perfectly flat lid, each container can be stacked neatly and securely. This takes full advantage of vertical space in tight quarters such as kitchen cabinets.

Tons of Tins

Briana uses decorative tin containers to keep many of her daily must-haves — from tea bags and sugar to toothpicks and salt — within arm's reach. By using these containers instead of assorted bottles and boxes, Briana benefits from a burst of color and graphic pattern that also keeps clutter at bay.

See Clearly

For seating at the kitchen counter, Briana selected clear acrylic stools, a great choice for her loft because the clear acrylic doesn't take up visual space.

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