Relocating comes with many challenges and sometimes one of them has to do with moving into a much smaller place. This is exactly what happened to me when I moved to NY 4 years ago and besides having faced the situation myself, this is a question that I am asked regularly by new friends here in the city that never sleeps: “How do you design a small space?”
Whether you leave in a “shoebox studio” or in a two story-house, I believe there are 2 rules to be followed: first you need to decide how you will use the space and second you need to declutter before even starting your design. Once you have a clear idea on how the space will be used and you have “your stuff under control”, you are ready to start.
Small spaces require a lot of creativity, precise measurements and great planning but the good news is you don’t need to spend big. Here I will share with you some tips and furniture ideas for small places.
1.- Think Vertical
It is essential to capitalize the space between the tops of furniture and a room’s ceiling with shelves or high-mounted elements. Take storage and collections all the way up — it’ll make the room feel higher and increase the overall appearance of your space.
2.- Splurge on Double Duty
High quality pieces that can serve multiple purposes are key: Find a table that can function as a console and a desk, think of a deep sofa that can be used as a guest bed, instead of a coffee table buy a charming trunk that can be used as storage or ottomans that serve as extra seats when guests are over.
3.- For tiny rooms, large-scale pattern or dark colors.
A large-scale pattern in wallpapers for example, like wide stripes in the bathroom, can trick the eye into seeing expanded space. The size is the same, but the room will feel bigger.
Another option is to use a dark color for an accent wall. Dark colors create depth and also the illusion of a bigger space.
4.- Go for big mirrors.
It is one of the oldest design tips in the book and it never fails: Mirrors can make any space feel larger, lighter, and airier.
In the tightest bathroom, for example, having a mirror covering the entire wall instead of just the vanity can enable two people to use it at once. In less-than-ideal space conditions, everything helps.
5.- Choose the right bed
If you have a small bedroom you simply cannot afford to lose the store space under your bed.
Think carefully and decide what is the best for you: Beds with built in storage are great for small bedrooms because they can eliminate the need for a dresser in the room, or Raise your bed with a new frame (or bed risers) and build your own under the bed storage with boxes, bins, baskets… you name it!
6.- Buy a headboard with storage.
It is some sort of double duty piece of furniture but deserves a separated entry: If you don’t have space for nightstands, this is a perfect solution.
That area directly above the bed is unused space anyway, so a bookcase headboard is a smart piece of space saving bedroom furniture that can be used for all the things you would put in your nightstand.
7.- Mount a shelf as a floating nightstand or mount multiple shelves.
Sometimes there is no length for a big headboard but the width allows some creativity so a bedside shelf is a simple and inexpensive space saving bedroom idea.
Why limit yourself to one little shelf? Why not a small library? Could look really cool.
8.- Make the best of strange angles
Some tailored pieces of furniture like bespoke built-ins and storage nooks planned to your exact needs can make the entire difference and make the best of those strange angles. Sometimes the investment is not so great and the feeling of neatness will be totally worth it.
9.- Install smart lighting. Go for sconces.
I can’t stress enough what a great solution sconces are: this kind of light can be attached to the walls (even if you don’t have a light spot, you can use a plug in model), or hung from above to save room on floor or table space.
10.- Think big
Finally, my “biggest” tip: Small places don’t mean small furniture. They simply mean less furniture. (In spite of the size of your place, your body still has the same size 😉
Of course, you need to be very careful with the measurements but the secret is always to choose less and more functional pieces.
As always, I hope you found some of those tips useful and moreover, don’t give up on your apartment just because it’s small. Location and short commutes can mean a much better quality of life. Give it the design look you’ve always wanted; it could be much easier than you think. At the end of the day, the saying “Good things come in small packages” is popular for a reason. Use it as your small-apartment-living motto.