Small Space Design Solutions

A lot of the Instagram questions I get are around design solutions when living in a small space. One of the most common is where is all of my stuff that you don’t see in photos?! The truth is, for the most part our living space isn’t drastically different when not prepping for a photo shoot. Albeit not as many fresh flowers or nearly as clean, but our apartment is kept very tidy because it is so small that even having a few things out of place makes it feel cluttered.

I have learned a few tricks over the years of living in a smaller space (about 550 square feet). It definitely had its challenges when we first moved in, but after pairing down substantially I have found it feels so much better to live with less. Here I will breakdown some of the small space design solutions I have picked up along the way that will make your tiny home feel bigger than it is!

Find Continuity

I think one of the reasons our apartment works so well is all of the rooms kind of blend together. I carry similar colors and tones into each space so that despite the walls, visually it feels like one big room. All of the walls are painted Simply White by Benjamin Moore. This creates such a nice base and helped to lighten areas that are darker, thus making them look bigger. If you are a big fan of color and can’t imagine white walls in every room you can bring so much in through art, furniture and accessories that over time you don’t really notice the neutrality of the walls. Finding a palette you love and sticking with that will create a lot of continuity and be less jarring when moving from room to room.

Furniture Becomes Multi Purpose

I recently just got asked how I keep my desk space so empty. The first reason – I am a huge fan of scanning and keep digital files of a lot of paperwork so I don’t have everything filed away. Secondly, my desk is in the living room so I really didn’t want to have a file cabinet or rolling cart with it. Instead I cleaned out the middle section of our media cabinet (under the TV) which is right next to my desk. There I keep labeled binders, extra office stationery, my printer and some reading books. Now that we no longer have any dvd’s, I find a media console is a great storage unit. We are also big basket fans and use the two on our bookcases to store laptops, chargers, extra books, etc.

Think outside the box when it comes to furniture that can be used for more than just decoration. Use a nightstand with drawers as a side table in the living room if you want a place to store remotes, etc. Or add a tall cabinet in a tiny kitchen like we did with the Ikea Billy. Without that I wouldn’t have any kitchen storage and find it works as a pantry too.

Take Time To Space Plan

This happens all too often and I am definitely guilty of it. You move into a new place and you are in a hurry to furnish it so you just start pulling things you think might work. If you are living in a small space you have to be even more thoughtful about the pieces you are choosing as you don’t have a lot of room to get it wrong. When a room is balanced and the furniture is proportionate it visually feels right. Do it the old fashioned way by taking time to measure and use painters tape to map out pieces on the floor. Come up with a plan of what you envision for the room, especially if you are starting from scratch. That way you have a game plan going in and are not trying to cram in ill fitting furniture.

I can space plan in the computer and STILL map out furniture with tape (see below of when we first moved into this apartment three years ago!). There is something about seeing the scale in the room that is invaluable when the parameters are tight. You will be happy you took the time in the long run and your small space will feel better!

Maximize Closet Space

In addition to our bedroom closet, we only have one very narrow hall closet which you can see if the first photo of our entry. We don’t need a traditional coat closet because it doesn’t snow here so instead it is set up with shelving. This closet is where just about everything for the household lives so it was important to maximize the storage space. We have our linens, laundry basket, vacuum and all of our tools, etc. In order for the rest of our space to look clean and organized it was crucial that our closets were all set up to store things neatly.

I made about twenty trips to The Container Store and Target, trying different pieces and returning until I found what worked best for how we actually live. We use these bins to stow sheets, rolled up towels and duvet covers. I finally got these stackable drawers which I like better than any I have tried because they are heavier. We have one for medicine, misc. office supplies, tools, pet stuff etc. All labeled with my trusty label maker I use for everything.

Ultimately I found that living in a smaller space just meant living with less. It wasn’t realistic to think I could have hundreds of shoes or paperwork everywhere because it would drive me crazy. I donate a lot and sell things we are no longer using because I don’t have the room to store it. It is about finding a balance between the things you need to have in order to keep a household functioning and the things you want to make it look pretty!

All photos by Torrey Fox

  1. Stunning post! Thanks for the excellent presentation of your outline.

  2. JS says:

    I found these small space tips and product links very helpful. Thank you.
    You have a beautiful apartment.

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