Small apartments often conjure the feeling of a tight, uncomfortable space. Whether you live in an 849 square foot apartment or a tiny studio, the way you arrange it can make coming home a delight.
Paint color makes a huge difference in a small space. Dark colors absorb light and light colors reflect it. Choose a very light paint color for your walls; it doesn’t have to all be white. Look at paint sample cards at a place like Home Depot to find a color you truly like and choose the color at the lightest end of that card. An easy to trick to create the illusion of a taller room is to paint the moldings and ceiling the same color as the walls. This allows your eye to move around the room with no breaks in the plane.
Organize and De-clutter
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to make your small apartment feel more peaceful and comfortable is to organize your belongings and keep them tidy. Buy a hamper for dirty laundry and use it. Periodically tidy-up drawers and closets in the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. Sloppiness breeds sloppiness, so the more organized your apartment is the greater the chances it will stay that way. There are many choices for bins, baskets, and dividers for organizing your stuff at places like Bed, Bath and Beyond or The Container Store.
Bed and Windows
Make your bed each morning; an important habit if you are living in a small space. You may think, “Why to make my bed when I’m just going to get back into it tonight?” The truth is your bed is one of the largest components of your household and if it looks like an animal is burrowing in it, your whole apartment is going to feel messy. If you have trouble making your bed, invest in bed linens, and covers that are easy to straighten up. There are no rules, just make it look orderly.
If you have windows in your apartment, no matter how small they may be, open the blinds in the morning. Natural light and a view, even if it’s not pretty, both give the illusion of openness. If you have a neighboring window so close you could throw something into your neighbor’s arms, try adding sheer drapery panels to your windows that provide privacy while still allowing light into your home. In small apartments, natural light provides an ambiance that negates a small cave-like feeling.
The amount of furniture in your apartment can make the difference between cozy and cramped. If you have many chairs in your living area, consider replacing them with a small sectional sofa. The sofa may take up a little more space but by having fewer pieces it visually unclutters the room. Keep major pieces of furniture slightly away from the walls, which creates the impression of more space. Larger furniture should be covered in solid-colored upholstery; save busy patterns and bright colors for throw pillows and accent pieces. Choose furniture that has more than one function; an adjustable coffee table, for example, can be used as a desk or an ottoman that has interior storage. Many furniture sellers have recently added collections specifically designed for smaller spaces.
To achieve a cohesive and uncluttered look for art on your walls, try one large single piece of art; it makes a statement without causing the viewer’s eye to become disoriented because of a fragmented grouping. When hanging multiple paintings or photos make sure the frame colors are all the same as this provides cohesiveness to the grouping. Mount artwork at a height appropriate for how you use a room. If hanging works in a room where sitting is the usual activity, you should hang art slightly higher than eye level from a sitting position.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Whether you live in a small Ohio apartment or a luxury studio in New York City, this is one of the oldest tricks to make a room feel larger. Remember, in a small space you want to create visual movement and flow and the easiest way to do that is to add a large-framed, or unframed mirror on a wall. A mirror invites the viewer’s eye to move in and out of the space, even if it is pretend space.
Clear but Not Invisible
Consider investing in a glass coffee table rather than solid mahogany; you’ll have the same area to put your books and tea on, but the space will seem less full. Lucite is a material that can be made into almost any shape. A chair, desk or table made of Lucite still functions as it should, but this material removes the heavy, cluttered, densely packed feeling that non-translucent material has. Interior design icon Philippe Stark designed the first “ghost chair” and variations of it have become available at places like Interior Icons and Wayfair.
Spend some time in your apartment before buying things that may end up being too large, stuffy or chaotic. Let your eye roam around the space, measure the rooms and use blue tape to layout where you think things should go. If you find the taped lines are being stepped on, or if a door swings over the corner, re-consider that imagined piece of furniture and choose something more appropriately sized. With a little planning, you can make even the tiniest apartment a statement of your personality.