Miles Young is a freelance business writer and home decor enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrMilesYoung.
By Miles Young
The true trick to having your dream apartment space isn’t to have the perfect location and an unlimited budget — it’s to make the absolute most of the space you already have. If you’re feeling cramped in your current place, it’s a lot easier on you (and your bank account!) to get smart and just a little bit sneaky about how you organize and adorn your spaces. Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean it shouldn’t feel like home! Here are a few clever hacks to make your too-small environment look and feel open and expansive without also being empty and expensive.
(1) Clear the clutter
A surefire way to make you feel claustrophobic in your space is to let the junk and random decor pile up. Examine your space for ways that you can clear useful surfaces and better organize your belongings. Make sure everything has its right place, especially trash and recyclables. Optimize your space with flexible storage like under-the-couch bins and hanging racks so random stuff doesn’t take up chairs and tables. The more usable space you open up, the more functionally large your home will seem.
(2) Motion through change
Things can start to feel confining if nothing ever changes. Static decor is especially problematic — not only does it make a space feel stagnant, but it also often means that all of your decor is out at once. Changing the scenery with the seasons is a great way to put your stuff in rotation, so you feel like nothing’s being neglected but everything doesn’t have to fight for the same limited real estate.
(3) Consider color
How open and airy a space feels often has as much to do with light and color as it does with actual floor space. Dark colors absorb light, making a room feel heavier and more confined. This can be a great effect when you want to make a larger room feel warm and cozy, but it can be a bit overbearing for smaller rooms. Aim for bright walls and economical light sources, eliminating dark patches and using reflection from windows and mirrors to amplify the existing light in the room. The more you can see, the more it seems you have.
(4) Make a statement
People get so preoccupied with adding decoration to conservative furniture that they don’t consider using the furniture itself as decoration. Bold colors, unique styles and unconventional arrangements make a room intriguing without having to give up wall or table space for decorative objects. A couple statement chairs that pop out of the rest of the room’s palette make the most of form and function, while artistically ambitious tables make conversation pieces out of useful furniture. Keep in mind, though, that the more furniture and decorative pieces you add to a room, the more hassle it will be when it comes time to move. Consider buying interesting but cheap furniture second-hand so you don’t get too attached when it comes time to move.
(5) Flex for guests
While you’ll need more seating and table space when you’re entertaining, there’s no need to keep all of that stuff out on quiet nights. Look into extra pieces that you can easily stow and store when there are no guests around, from high-quality wood folding chairs to dining tables with adjustable leaf segments. This will let you reclaim space for everyday activities and fit more people into the environment when it’s bound to feel crowded regardless.
(6) Don’t be shy of heights
Chances are there’s a lot of empty space in your apartment above eye level. It’s amazing how much storage and decoration you can put in high places, especially tall walls. A few floating shelves, vertical racks and moveable wall lights can free up both walking paths and useable space. Consider distributing your library to several shelves around your home instead of giving over a large amount of the floor and wall to a single bookcase. Also, modify your kitchen to get things off of countertops and free some space in the bathroom with extra racks.
Before you go crazy with shelving (or any other permanent installation), figure out how much time and expense will be involved. Also, look at your lease; you may need your landlord’s permission to undertake those improvements.
By being smart about how you use and fill your space, you can make even the smallest room feel more functional and inviting. Keep your eye on motion, color, light and functional space so clutter doesn’t get out of control. Also, consider how your decor and furnishings can change over time and with company.
It’s moving season! If you’re thinking of working with a broker, check out our tips for making sure you have a great experience.
And while you’re at it, consider our 9 questions you should ask when looking at an apartment. Ask now so you’re not sorry later!