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25 Ways to Make a Small Apartment Seem Bigger

Just because you live in a space where square footage is in the low-hundreds doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style and comfort. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Small apartments are ideal spaces for fine-tuning and focusing our style.

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Shelves, shelves, and more shelves. Obviously.It may take a bit of creativity and modification, but in the end, your tiny space will end up feeling larger and more comfortable with a few strategic design choices. Here are 25 ways to make your small apartment seem bigger:

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Utilize your horizontal spaces. Load like items, such as books, to create a stylish and functional tabletop vignette. While clutter is never a good thing, a purposeful expanse of useful (and aesthetic) items can be visually striking.

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Choose furniture with clean lines. The more streamlined your possessions appear, the less chaotic your space will feel, which means it will seem bigger. Oversized, bulky furniture with nondescript shape will only overwhelm a small space and make it seem even smaller.

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Take advantage of your walls as prime storage venues for some of your everyday items. This multi-walled row of shaker pegs, for example, gives off a wainscot rail vibe, but pegs serve as a highly functional addition to a very small apartment space.

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Be clever with room dividers. A feeling of openness is a large part of making a small space feel larger. Temporary or clever room dividers, such as this rolling shower curtain setup, maintain privacy while maximizing “open air.”

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Less is sometimes more. This tiny apartment does away with the notion that a living room must have a sofa and loveseat and ottoman. Choose furnishings carefully to match your own taste and style, rather than to match what tradition dictates.

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Embrace storage containers. Especially multi-functional ones with loads of style.

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Choose smaller-scaled furniture and appliances. Just because you may be used to full-size ovens and refrigerators doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for your small apartment space. You can downsize your appliance square footage without foregoing the actual appliance itself.

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Make one space serve double – or triple – duty, like this kitchen/dining combination. I imagine a dining room table could double as a work station, too, if needed.

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Maximize your vertical real estate. For many, this tiny corner would seem to be useless space. But quite the opposite is true, if you think in terms of vertical storage.

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Organize and declutter. Honestly, in a small apartment, there are few things more important in maximizing your space than cutting down on the sheer volume of stuff. Not that your space needs to be bare-bones, of course. Just be well-edited.

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Keep furniture arrangement fluid. It’s important for any space to be versatile, but for a small apartment to be able to gracefully adapt from holding one to many people is critical. Using “floating” chairs (not pushed up against a wall), furniture on casters, and overall lightweight furniture are some ways to improve the fluidity of the setup.

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Find a function for every possible space. The wall space between exposed ceiling beams, for example, make excellent bookshelves.

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Choose visually lightweight furniture. Louis ghost chairs are a classic example of this. They seem to disappear in a space, which makes it feel more open and available.

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Repetition. I repeat, repetition. Even just a repeat of two or three items, such as these bookshelves, gives the impression of a larger, grander space than what may actually exist.

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Use narrow “wall” furniture. Entry tables, consoles, desks… you know all those furnishings that do well when against a wall? Keep ‘em slim and trim. This gives you the functionality of the item without encroaching on your valuable walkway space.

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Embrace white. White, along with other light colors, give off an open, airy vibe, which is a definite plus when you’re cramped for space. Use plenty of pops of color throughout a white space to showcase your style while also keeping things from feeling too clinical.

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Make your furniture multi-task. A bedside table that doubles as a desk is a perfect example of how to get two functions out of one piece of furniture…which is critical when you are short on space.

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Go with a non-traditional setup. A bedroom can be a twin mattress at the top of some stairs – it still has a feeling of privacy without giving up precious square footage to enclose it. Stairs double as drawers here to further maximize storage and layout.

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House smaller furniture under big furniture. These leather ottomans are easily slid in or out as needed, and they also help to break up the empty visual expanse under the table. This is a great way to increase available on-demand seating in your small space without giving up additional square footage.

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Use mirrors strategically, but definitely use them. A mirror of any size reflects light and fools our eyes into seeing a larger space than what is actually there. Even if your apartment isn’t in reality larger after hanging a mirror, at least it will look that way.

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Define each space. Even in a tiny studio apartment, assigning a purpose to every square will pay off big-time. Here, we see an obvious separation of spaces (done successfully with deliberate furniture arrangement) with a bedroom, living area, and office.

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Use the space underneath a staircase. This staircase, for example, serves as a wall of cubbies and various cabinets for the kitchen as well as a home for appliances.

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Amplify natural light. No matter what its function or what else is in a room, a window should always be given design priority. Make sure that nothing impedes the window’s allowing natural light to flow freely throughout the space.

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Whenever possible, keep furniture off the floor. The size of an item’s footprint is a big factor in our perception of how it works in a space. Successful items have footprints that match their surroundings. For example, this wall-mount desk has a footprint of only a desk chair, which makes it an ideal candidate for a small apartment.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 89, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

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Posted in Best Of on November 5, 2013

About the author

Brittney Smart
Brittney is a wife, a mom of four young children, a writer and editor (B.S. degree in English/Technical Writing), and a lover of interior design. She thrives on finding inexpensive ways to DIY her own home into a stylish yet family-friendly space.

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