How to Make the Most of Small Space Living

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

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WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on May 14, 2020

Havenly and Yahoo are working together to provide creative tips and inspiration for making the most of what matters right now: your home. The space you’re living, working, and playing in. Follow along as we share easy ways to add structure, sanity, and a smile to our new stay-at-home realities. And for more overall well-being tips, check out Yahoo Life, too.

Living in a small apartment or studio doesn’t have to kill your design style or leave you feeling boxed in. From Marie Kondo-style organization to mood-boosting lighting, there are several clever ways to make the most of your space — it’s something more important than ever now that we’re spending more time at home. That’s why we’ve partnered with Yahoo Life to bring you  practical interior design solutions that will advance your style and, hopefully, help maintain your sanity. 

We tapped Havenly’s Creative & Design Lead, Heather Goerzen, for her top design tips on enhancing small space living. Here’s how you can maximize every single square foot, with style.

One of Heather’s best tips is to keep things simple. It’s easy for a small room or apartment to be overwhelmed with too much design. Instead, edit your decor. A space feels more welcoming with a little bit of breathing room—think a table surface without books and knick knacks, and leaving a wall void of jumbled artwork. 

Wander through your space, and take stock of what you currently have on display. “Keep pieces that have meaning and create balanced vignettes or décor moments, but say goodbye to accents that no longer serve a purpose or don’t work in the context of the overall space,” Heather advises.  

As Coco Chanel famously quipped about accessories, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The same goes for decor. Be thoughtful with what you bring into your small apartment or room—every piece should serve a purpose. Taking a cue from Marie Kondo’s KonMari method, ensure each item truly sparks joy. No feels? Toss it, or find it a new home. 

diy home decor ideas | diy built-in bookcases

Keeping your small space free of clutter allows you to maximize the form and function of every itty bitty square foot. Loose clothing (it’s time to banish “The Chair,” draped with sweaters we just think we’re going to wear again for good!), books, or too many tchotchkes just encroaches upon your room and can cause more than a bit of overwhelm. Instead, utilize creative storage solutions to corral and conceal your items until you need them. 

“Stylish storage and baskets keep day-to-day clutter out of sight,” Heather says. “Storing loose items in a specific place not only makes a space look less cluttered, but it helps to ensure that you can quickly locate them.” Another tip from Heather: Get smart about hidden storage opportunities. Consider canvas baskets for under the bed and storage bins for the closet, she says. 

Shelving units and decor ladders can also make for a combination of functional storage—and as a bonus, they are great for styling. Vertical organization creates visual interest by drawing the eye up and creating the illusion of a taller, more spacious room. 

“With limited space, keeping things tidy and organized goes a long way in creating an inviting and welcoming home,” Heather says.

Navy blue paint trim

In studio apartments or where the dining area seems to blend right into the family room, use furniture and rugs to set the foundation and delineate space where walls don’t exist. 

First, start with rugs. Rugs are an opportunity to get creative and show off your personality. Choose from relaxing neutrals, or jazz it up with a pop of color and pattern. “Consider different shapes and sizes. You can use more than one rug—just ensure the colors, patterns, and textures are balanced.” Rugs help to anchor the sofa, coffee table, and accent furniture in the family room, setting the stage for gatherings and movie nights. 

Next, using furniture, create a clever break between spaces. “The back of a sofa or chair can act as a makeshift wall or divider between a living room and a bedroom,” says Heather.

Lighting is an often-overlooked element that can transform small spaces. Start by seeking fixtures that won’t take up precious floor space. “Table lamps and task lighting are great, small-scale decor elements that evoke style and create visual interest,” Heather says. They can add to the style and overall decor of the room while setting the mood. 

Plug-in sconces are another option to add warmth and an artful touch to a wall area without taking up valuable room real estate. If you like the floor lamp look, try nestling them behind a chair or sofa, even use them to anchor the corner of a bed. 

With many of us spending more time at home than ever before, it is important to love—and feel good!—in the space we’re in. Thankfully, making a small house feel like home doesn’t cost a lot of money, just a bit of time and designer-guided creativity.

Words by Avery Johnson