Discover distinctive products for small apartments with our curated edit how to decorate small spaces.
Compact living quarters can be challenging but we’re firm believers that great things can be achieved in small spaces. Whether you live in a modern studio or a converted town house, there are many ways to make sure that your dimensionally-challenged home errs on the right side of cosy. From smart storage solutions to forgiving colour palettes, here are some of our best small apartment design ideas that will help you make the most out of a modest square metre count.
Let the light in
Keeping a light and airy feel is often a key hurdle in a less roomy apartment. One element you might not have considered is that curtains, even when open but especially when closed can actually draw the room in. Many interior designers suggest no curtains but this isn’t the most practical option. You could, however opt for blinds that sit against the frame inside the window area which maximises the room space. If curtains are your only or preferred option, lighter-weight ones in a solid colour rather than pattern can help minimise the visual space they take up.
Be smart about lighting. To avoid a crowded floor space and the harsh look of direct overhead light, use wall mounted lights which could either be a built in feature or clamped onto shelving. Lamps placed on shelving can brighten a reading nook or add ambiance to a living room. It can also be used to highlight a small array of your personal favourite items whether you’re a vintage camera fan, a lover of candles or collect contemporary ceramics.
Mirrors are an elegant way to add depth and reflect light around a room. A thoughtfully placed mirror can wake up dark corners, narrow hallways and awkward spaces. Be creative about placement; adding mirrors to an alcove can bring light to the dark nook and add depth to the room.
Also consider furniture that lets light through instead of blocking it out. The key to preserving space in a small flat is to keep your biggest surfaces as visible as possible. One way to make sure floor and wall space is amplified is to try and ensure the bulkiest items within a room – usually tables, chairs or sofas – are chosen for their elegant proportions. Slender legs on tables and chairs means that more of the wall can be seen through them, and more floor under them. The same goes for beds too, make sure yours has legs rather than a solid base.
Clever use of colour
Lighter palettes visually open up a space and can give a more airy, open feel. White is often the go-to for small apartments and this can work well as your belongings will naturally add character with greenery, books and homeware. True minimalists can add personality with texture – sometimes sticking to an all white or light toned room can really highlight interesting surfaces from floorboards and tiles to woven textile wall hangings and hand-made ceramics.
If you want something more unexpected, don’t feel restricted to white; soft neutrals, greys and subtle green tones have long been used to add warmth to living rooms and bedrooms, tawny blush hues work really well here too. In a studio flat, different tones of the same palette can be used to highlight different areas.
White or light tiles are great for giving bathrooms and kitchens an airy feel and partner beautifully with plants. If you don’t want to go that minimalist, marble is both timeless and naturally catches the light.
Consider adding bursts of well chosen colour to bring the space to life. In our 2017 trend guide, we mentioned yellow – you could add accessories in a refreshing daffodil tone or go bold with a statement yellow chair.
Look north to master minimalism
Taking a minimalist approach can be a revolutionary design direction for compact spaces. True minimalists might favour white and clean lines, however, it’s not always practical across your whole home. Be inspired by Scandinavian and Nordic ideas of simplicity and ease rather than starkness. Contrary to popular belief, the stark interiors sometimes associated with northern countries isn’t always the norm. Those cold climates call for warm elements of design. Think light paint-washed flooring or natural wooden boards and smooth-lined furniture softened with plush throws and ambient lighting. Opt for subtle tones or earthy hues.
Nods to the natural world is a big part of the calm atmosphere we link to Danish and Scandinavian interiors; whether it’s a sheepskin rug draped over a chair or organic-shaped wooden fruit bowl or a piece of driftwood from your favourite beach. These are easy ways to offset a boxy studio shape, add warmth to white walls and create a welcoming, relaxed feel without overwhelming a small apartment.
Contain the clutter
If minimalism is simply not your style and neither are you tempted to join the Nordic design revolution, there are smart ways to borrow elements from these concepts to create space and keep organised without being austere. Instead of objects on every surface, including the floor, try a full height shelving system or bookcase that takes up an entire wall, or better still, a neglected corner. Use the shelving to house a well edited arrangement of your favourite pieces. Different areas could be used for different items arranged in a thoughtful way. This can be the place for books, records, speakers and art works. This multi-functional space can inject life into a room and can be something that changes over time, if you add more, simply take one thing away.
There are some things that can’t be kept on shelves, and if keeping them out of sight is not an option, in a children’s’ room for example, baskets can be used to tidy up and organise. A seagrass or jute basket also adds personality with texture or simple pattern and the handles make them easy to move.
If one thing makes a room feel more chaotic it’s a tangle of wires and cables and that’s the last thing you need in your work environment or bedroom. Cable organisers are your salvation. They come in an array of styles to suit your needs from a simple leather stud-fastening loop to a neat storage box which also doubles as a storage tray for desk items, a bedside book or your keys.
Storage and multi-functional pieces
Well-thought out storage is key in diminutive living spaces; you won’t want to waste an inch of precious floor space. Using furniture with a small footprint helps make the room feel bigger. This also provides a space for bulky items to be stowed away when not in use. Come warmer weather, throws, sheepskin rugs and blankets can be zipped into storage bags or wooden boxes and stored under sofas and beds that have raised legs.
Consider an open storage system for a corner, a whole wall or unusual spaces such as framing a door. This can be used to create an inspiring home library but doesn’t need to be reserved for books. Arranging objects such as vases, ornaments and record players on shelves or in compartments looks interesting, homely and makes them easy to access.
Put less used items at the hardest to reach spots and if they’re likely to get dusty or don’t add to your style, put them inside printed or natural linen storage bags. Consider giving the area a focal point and balance out the colours and weights for a harmonious look.
Think about picking furniture that serves double duty. An ottoman or vintage trunk can double up as a coffee table and storage. Coffee tables with a base shelf provide a space for magazines and newspapers. Petite table nests can be stacked and used as a side table and brought out for entertaining guests.
The Kartell Componibili Storage was designed in 1968 and proves that great design doesn’t go out of style. The clean-lined two or three tier piece works in any room; it can be used for bathroom storage, as a bedside table with the top providing extra surface area for a plant or a candle and books when a coffee table doesn’t quite fit.
Last but definitely not least, when thinking of the layout for small apartments, it’s a good rule of thumb to leave at least 30 inches of walking space to create effortless flow between the different areas and furniture. So not only your eyes but you can move effortlessly around the space, creating a calm environment.