Apartment Living: Maximizing Space and Style

by Cary Rogers

As an apartment dweller, I know that creating a functional and stylish space can sometimes be a challenge. Your home can easily become a stressful environment if it is overcrowded or lacking on storage. Add in restrictions from your landlord, budgeting, and… it can seem almost impossible. Luckily there are a lot of renter-friendly solutions to creating a functional and beautiful home.

Here are my tips for making the most of a small living space…

Create zones in open spaces.

A few things can help you to define an open floor plan, especially if your apartment has one main room, or if you’re in a studio. Group like with like and pay attention to the visual flow of the room. If your bed is in the main room, set up the layout so when you’re in it you see bedroom furniture like a dresser, rather than looking at the kitchen. Try hanging curtains for privacy. Use a rug to indicate separate areas. Taller shelving units can be used to create the illusion of more walls while adding extra storage space. Test out your layout for a few weeks and see if it works or if you need to rearrange. You’re the best judge of what works for you.

[Photo via DIY Network]

Make your workspace work for you.

If you don’t have the space to dedicate an entire room for an office, create an office in a desk. The extra shelving can easily accommodate supplies, electronics, books, and decorative items. Storage baskets or a vintage briefcase can help to streamline the look, while maintaining functionality. You’ll have a workspace that doesn’t need to be hidden away, and can add character to a living area or bedroom.

This desk was a DIY project, but if you’re looking for something a little less hands on, try this wall desk or this leaning desk that lets you customize based on how much storage you want.

[Photo via Tess Guinery]

Bring the outdoors in.

Living in an apartment often means limited outdoor space. You might have access to a shared courtyard or maybe a balcony, but I know I find myself sometimes wishing for a little bit more. House plants are a great way to add a some extra nature to your home life. Definitely research what will work with the natural light you get and what is safe for any pets before bringing a new friend home though! Once you know what will thrive in your space, head over to a local nursery or the closest home improvement store. Home Depot and Lowes both have one-year guarantees for many plants purchases in their garden centers, just be sure to hang onto your receipt. It’s not quite forest bathing, but I do think more plants help to create a more peaceful environment.

Work in a well-placed mirror.

A mirror can work for you in a couple of ways. First, it will make the room seem larger than it really is. Second, if you position it opposite a natural light source, it will help to brighten the room. Here are some large– and medium-sized options to consider.

[Photo via The Anastasia Co.]

Add it till you have it.

Who among us hasn’t lived with a tiny kitchen? It’s not always fun, and cooking can become downright frustrating if you don’t have enough counter space. It may seem counterintuitive to add more furniture to an already small room, but sometimes you just need more than what you have to work with. If you have any open space, I highly recommend adding a kitchen cart. They can provide extra cabinet space and an additional work surface, both of which go a long way in a small kitchen. Plus, one can make a cute coffee or tea station: store some mugs nearby and you’re in business. Here are two great options, one enclosed and one with open shelving. These provide quite a bit more storage than one would assume.

For a more minimalist take on the kitchen cart, these metal shelves are fitted with a natural wooden tabletop, perfect for meal-prep.

If you’re still short on cabinet space and you have a blank wall, add some open shelving for your prettier items, and free those cabinets up! These floating shelves have multiple size and color options, and won’t break the bank. If you’re up for a DIY project, pick up a board and some shelf brackets at the hardware store. Just be sure to anchor them into a stud.

[Photos via The Kitchn and Urban Outfitters]

Find multi-use pieces.

Need more hanging space in the bathroom? Using a ladder as a towel rack takes only a little space and provides functionality without putting holes in the wall and risking your security deposit. A ladder can also be easily repurposed as blanket storage in a living room or bedroom, or you could hang some smaller plants off of it. Get this ladder here or take a look at these more budget friendly options here and here.

[Photo via Signature Hardware; Editor’s note—see one in our home]

Create a sanctuary.

We all need a place where we can escape and unwind. For me, that place is my bedroom. I want a calm environment, with minimal distractions, and where everything has its place. That can sometimes be difficult to achieve in a tiny room, where just fitting in your bedroom furniture is a challenge. I stick to a simple color scheme, keep the walls sparse, and display only a few items. Candles and lamps help to add additional light sources, and create a more relaxing atmosphere in the evening. Inevitably, there will be things that do not fit into the closet or dresser. Large baskets are a pretty and functional option for extra storage. Use them to hold extra bedding, decorative pillows, and miscellaneous items. They are also great homes for big houseplants.

There are many options to choose from. Take a look at these seagrass baskets, or these, currently on sale. Check out these gorgeous sweater-knit wool and cotton baskets for an alternative (also currently on sale).

[Photo via Design Sponge]

Embrace your small closet.

If you’re anything like me, you might have a few more items of clothing than you really need. Rather than trying to force your entire wardrobe into a tiny closet and overcrowding it to the point that you can’t really tell what’s in there, limit what actually makes it in. I like to rotate what’s in my closet according to the season, sweaters, flannels, and jackets come out in the fall and go back into storage in the spring when I bust out the dresses and short sleeve tops. Think about what fits your lifestyle day-to-day, keep a few favorites out even if they might not totally fit the season, and limit your occasion wear to a couple of items you can easily access if necessary. An added perk to this system is that when you make the seasonal switch, it makes your old clothes feel new!

Don’t forget to use that top shelf either. It’s a great place to keep items that get less use, like swimsuits, or extra accessories, like bags and scarves. I like to use storage bins to keep things organized. These canvas bins are a great option.

[Photo via Un-Fancy]

2 [bed]

So what do you do with all the clothes that don’t make the closet cut? Store them under the bed! They’ll be out of sight in a space you won’t need, and you’ll still be able to get to non-seasonal items easily should the need arise. Check out these storage bags, or these bins. They’re also great for packing up your clothing during a move.

[Photo via Apartment Therapy]

Display your accessories or hobbies.

Accessories can take up valuable storage space in a small apartment, so why not turn them into art? Hats especially can be bulky and delicate, but they look great up on the wall and are safe from being accidentally crushed. This also doubles as a way to add some visual interest to your walls without having to invest in quality art pieces if you are not planning to stay in the same apartment for the foreseeable future.

The same goes for instruments, collections, or books. Get them out in the open where they can be admired and discussed.

[Photo via Domino]

What’s your best space-saving trick?

P.S. Decorating on a budget and one example of small-space living. Plus, our studio apartment in New York.

Cary Rogers is a lifelong Northern Californian with a passion for design, from clothing to home decor. She lives in Sacramento, and when she’s not working for a local hop farm and brewery, she’s probably curating her Pinterest, creating a new playlist, reading, or exploring all that California has to offer. She escapes to the mountains any chance she gets, is never opposed to a solid nap, loves goats, and eats too much Mexican food—if that’s a real thing.

[Lead photo via Pampa]

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