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7 Big Ideas for Living in a Small Apartment

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Living in a tiny house or apartment definitely brings with it some unique challenges. Here are 7 big ideas for living in a small apartment.  These just may be the perfect tips for small apartment living that you’ve been looking for.photos of small apartment projects and decor


Are you looking to move into a small apartment?

What about downsizing to a tiny house?

Maybe you’re leaving the nest for the first time and starting your college adventure in a dorm!

Whatever your small space living situation might be, these 7 tips for small apartment living may answer some of your questions (and may prove to be helpful if you already live in a small home).

This post may contain affiliate links, at no additional cost to you.

For more information, see my complete disclosure HERE.

And, if you’re still on the fence about where to move for the first time, check out these 10 best places to live in your 20s… heck, maybe even your 30s or 40s!

How Can I Make the Most of My Small Space?

My number one answer to this question is…

Think double-duty for furniture pieces.  Heck, think triple-duty!

Create practical living areas and spaces in a small apartment or home by using furniture that serves two or three purposes. 

What type of furniture works for more than one purpose?

  • Window benches with storage inside.  These work for seating, storage, and even a ‘faux mantel’ when you don’t have a fireplace!
  • Turn a dresser into a media console. It makes a great place for your TV, creates storage for media, holds pillow covers (well, mine does) and so much more.  And… it’s super fun to decorate!7 big ideas for living in a small apartment media console in small living room with fall decor
  • Add a portable island to your kitchen. A kitchen cart adds much-needed prep space, storage, and can also be used for dining.
  • Use side tables and/or nightstands that have drawers/shelves. These types of tables make great places to store books, pens, paper, Bibles, candles, and more, plus the top can hold a light fixture, clock, beverages, etc.

Invest in Furniture That Fits but Doesn’t Crowd

While it’s great to use your furniture for double-duty, don’t get furniture that is too big or use too many pieces that will over-fill your room.  This will crowd your small space and can often be uncomfortable and feel claustrophobic. 

In My Wee Abode’s living room, there is a small, comfortable loveseat, the media console, and window bench.  At one point there was a side table that also served as storage for candles and melts.  Recently, the table has been moved out of sight (can you guess where it is?), in order to make the room look less cluttered. I may get a small open side table to place by the sofa, but at this point, I think the open space looks better.  

BEFOREsmall living room with sofa and tables and spring decor

AFTER7 big ideas for living in a small apartment media console in small living room with decor

What do you think?  Do you like the before or after (and let me know why in the comments)? (Oops, my secret storage area isn’t so secret in this photo!)

You can get more great tips for furniture placement in a small space from this post at Apartment Therapy.

How Do You Get More Space in a Small Apartment?

You create more space in a tiny home by thinking outside the box (literally) for storage.  More things stored can often translate to your space looking and feeling larger.

This is similar to tip #1, but let’s get crazy with some unique storage solutions, shall we?

When looking for extra storage, think about ‘everywhere’ in your small home. Even a studio apartment (which is the size of my tiny loft) has LOTS of different areas to create organized spaces.  Such as…

  • Under the sofa or loveseat (or any furniture on legs). Store flat items such as wood and poster boards for projects and crafts, low profile containers that can hold seasonal clothes or faux florals, etc., and even books!  When you enter my little apartment, you don’t even know there is ‘stuff’ stored under the loveseat (unless I post a photo on my blog that shows it!) πŸ˜‰
  • Go up! As in vertical.  Add portable shelves to the built-in shelf in your closet.  Add hooks to the walls (as high up the wall as you want) to store backpacks, purses, jackets or even dresses (more on that in my “Closet of Shame” post, coming soon).
  • Add shelves above windows and doors to store books or pretty containers that can hold necessary items.  Install open shelving on a wall or two (like in my bedroom and kitchen).tiny kitchen with open shelving and marble like counters
  • Add small drawer units in closets, or build small, pretty chests of drawers for a bathroom (again, coming soon).

How Do You Decorate a Small Apartment?

Many times, when we live in a small apartment or tiny home, or even a dorm, we think we need to decorate with lots of little things.

My mantra is… Go big or go home!

Now don’t get me wrong, the little things are wonderful and definitely have their place.

But in a small home, lots of tiny decor can, again, create a crowded and cluttered look.

Declutter your home a bit and use larger items when decorating a small living space.

Using one large vase on a side table or media console can be much more appealing than a few small vases and some cute little tchohckes (again, a bit of this is wonderful and lovely… but just not all over the room.)

Having a large piece of wall art or wall hanging may be a better choice than a wall gallery.big ideas for living in a small apartment media console in small living room with decor

Ask Yourself One Simple Question

Before bringing a new piece of furniture or decor item into the home, ask yourself this one question… “Do I know what I will do with it (or, do I know where it will go)?”

Okay, that’s two questions, but you really only need to ask yourself one of them.

Pssst, I have a confession to make.

Come closer… and let’s keep this between you and me, k?

Since living in MWA, I have not asked myself this question NEARLY enough (thus one of the reasons my ‘closet of shame’ post is taking so pickin’ long to get done… WAYYYY too much to purge and declutter…see what I mean?)closet filled with junk and clothes

(But, wait until you see it when it’s finished!  BTW, they can’t all be good photos… keepin’ it really real here!)

If you don’t ask yourself one of these questions when you’re making a purchase, you, too, will have a ‘closet of shame’ that will take you days to purge, declutter, and clean. 

BTW, if you want some wonderful, grace-filled tips on how to organize your home, check out THIS POST from Harbour Breeze Home… You will be blessed!

Yes, there are plenty more questions to ask yourself, but I really think asking yourself first-off, “What will I do with this?” is a good starting point.  If you don’t know what you will do with it (or where it will go), put it back on the shelf at the store and don’t purchase it! You’ll thank yourself later. πŸ˜‰

What Colors Are Best for Small Spaces?

Small apartments, tiny houses, studios, and dorms all benefit from a light and airy color palette.

Neutrals tones in whites, grays, and tans tend to ‘open up’ a room and gives the illusion of a larger space.

Ways to use neutrals in a small living space:

  • Light-colored walls and ceilings. White ceilings are always on-trend.  Look for wall colors in an array of whites, grays, beiges, and greiges (beige/gray mix).  Do you see a color theme going on here?
  • White/tan/gray seating, as in sofas, loveseats, and chairs, are great for a light and bright room. Make sure to have furniture colors that compliment the wall colors (or vice versa), but aren’t exactly the same.
  • Area rugs in neutrals give the effect of a larger floor space (be sure the rug is the appropriate size for the room, unless you intend to cover ugly so-so carpet, then go BIG)
  • Light wood and light colored painted furniture
  • Throw pillows in neutrals or complimenting colors
  • (and, make sure to add texture to a neutral palette… this will add interest and ‘warmth’)

How Do I Maximize Small Closet Space?

You just might not like this answer…

Be wise with your wardrobe.

Closet space is in high demand in a small apartment or tiny house, so take care when deciding to add more to your wardrobe. 

Again, ask yourself a question or two… “Do I REALLY LOVE this piece of clothing?” and “Will I get a lot of use from this _____ (dress, skirt, jacket, etc)?”mix and match outfits for winter

Courtesy of Everyday Savvy Winter Wardrobe

And, when you do decide to add to your wardrobe, purchase items that work with several outfits.

Being ‘choosey’ when buying new clothes will help you save space in your closet/dresser.

How Can I Organize My Clothes without a Closet?

And speaking of maximizing a small closet space… Some studios and dorms don’t even HAVE a closet!  So, what do you do with your clothes?

I say, create a closet!

The best DIY in My Wee Abode, and by far my favorite home improvement, is this stand-alone closet in my bedroom!big ideas for living in a small apartment stand alone closet using a divider

Yep… you can add a closet to your small apartment, tiny house, or even a dorm room with NO power tools and less than $75!

Learn more about adding a simple closet to any space HERE!

How Can I Add My Style to a Small Apartment?

The easiest, and often most affordable, way to add your own style to your small home is to make things easy to change or remove.

Often times we want to add our own personal flair to our studio apartments, townhomes, and dorms.  But many times these types of living spaces are rental homes, which present a challenge to creating our own ‘look’.

However, we can put our own ‘spin’ on our homes by adding style that is easy to change or remove. How do we do that?

Now It’s Your Turn

So, have you implemented any of these ideas in your small home?  Which one is your favorite?  Share with us in the comments what else YOU do in your home to make it more efficient and feel larger.  I love reading your comments, and it’s so wonderful learning from each other!

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  1. I have stored things under my sofa and love seats for years. It is a great place to put flat things. I have een known to store flat things behind dressers and bookcases also. Thanks for the tips, you dont have to live in a tiny house to appreciate them.

    1. The angels are singing! My cutting mat and poster boards are going behind my dresser now! What a great tip! Love ya, Karin!

  2. Obviously, I am on board with creative storage, and even before my downsize. Having booth space in the antique mall for more than 10 years taught us to use vertical space optimally. I definitely use storage under beds (roller totes), and another really good thing to use are vacuum seal bags. I’ve used many of those since the downsize, and they’re way better than they used to be.
    I like your after photo in the LR, but I’d be on the lookout for an airy garden stool perhaps. It could be used as a side table or extra seating, and could even have something stashed inside, depending on how airy the design is.
    Good post! (oh, and my household closet was on display in my last post. It’s been re- re-organized a couple times since the move, and needs it again!).

    1. Vacuum seal bags! Okay… that means you could store even MORE clothes in the containers! Okay, those are on my list now. πŸ˜‰ I think garden stools are a lovely option for a side table! Thanks for these great tips, Rita! I’m going to look at your closet (I think I may have already seen it).

  3. Our home is very small, so I will definitely be using your tips! Adding shelves above windows and doors is such a great idea! I never thought of that. After a few years of living with dark paneling in the living room, we finally put up drywall and painted a lighter grey. I couldn’t believe how much bigger it made the room look and feel!

    1. Hey, Michelle! Thanks SO much for sharing. Yes… lighter colors make all the difference in small spaces. I’ve even seen paneling painted, and it ends up looking amazing! And, I still need to add some shelving above some doorways… specifically, I’d like to one in my bathroom, with some clear jars to hold soaps, cotton, etc. πŸ˜‰ Hugs and hearts! Off to check out your blog!

    1. Oh, thanks so much, Barbara! I hope they are helpful. For now, the side table is hiding *just* on the other side of the loveseat. It’s such a great storage option, I’m not sure if I’m ready to part with it… yet.

  4. Wow, Julie, this post is packed with great info! Your point about “go big or go home” is so on point. I think it’s a common mistake to think more is more, and that does lead to clutter. You’ve done a lovely job if keeping it simple and classy, which makes such a big impact. Thanks for sharing your tips. Pinned!

  5. Hi Julie, I live in a small home, too, (but mine is just over 600 square feet!) and I can understand not wanting to have that table in the living room. (Did you move it to your closet?) However, I find it awkward to not have a place for guests (or even myself) to set down a drink, etc. So I would think you need to have something there. (Wow, it really seems I like parenthesis today!)

    I enjoy your blog!

    1. Hi, Marilyn! I LOVE meeting others that live in small homes! So glad you are here! The side table is hiding, just on the other side of the loveseat! I can’t bear to part with it (yet) as it is such a great place to store all my “smelly” (aka candle) supplies. And I TOTALLY agree with you. Having a place to put coffee or a dessert plate is a must. That’s why I’m thinkin’ an open side table, or something that will accommodate hosting, is in order. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing! It makes my day when people comment!

  6. Thanks for these ideas, Julie! We are still getting settled into our condo, but I’m always on the hunt for small-space living ideas, so thank you for this!

    1. Of course, Lor! It’s always good to hear and bounce-off ideas from each other. Going to check to see if you have anything on your blog about your new place!

  7. You shared so many great tips for making the most of your space. Our 1950s home has tiny closets and I have learned to be creative with how I use the little bit of closet space that I have. Since I have to keep out of season clothes in another closet upstairs, when I switch the closets out with the change of season, I go through all of my clothes and get rid of what I’m not wearing. Now that I’m not teaching, I have really paired down my wardrobe, particularly of dressy clothes.

    I would have never noticed that you store things under your sofa if you hadn’t pointed it out. If you look under our sofas, you’ll find a lot of dog hair. πŸ™‚

    I liked the little table beside your sofa. I know I would want it there for my coffee cup or for the tv remote.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the reveal of your closet of shame!

    1. Thanks, Paula… too funny about the dog hair under the sofas! Yes, I think most like the table beside for coffee, etc… I think I have a couple small space ideas for that. πŸ˜‰

  8. What an awesome post, packed with such great, practical ideas!! I was having so much fun reading it…and then saw you linked to my blog post! Bless your heart, and thank you, dear friend! It’s fun to have a small space living buddy…although I’m not nearly the expert at it like you are!! Can’t wait to see your closet post!

    1. Thanks, Rita… I forgot to let you know that I had linked you! πŸ˜‰ Closet is done and photographed… not to write the post! πŸ˜‰

  9. Great tips, Julie! I recently set up a TINY (200 sq ft) studio apartment for my son who is in grad school so I absolutely understand the need for multipurpose furniture! I would add that tiny spaces benefit from a limited color palette of neutrals and one or two accent colors, and a lot of hidden storage to keep it from looking chaotic, at least in his case! You’ve done such an incredible job with your Wee Abode! Looking forward to the closet post!

    1. 200 sq ft is SMALL! But so much fun to think BIG in creating the living space! Would love to see a post about *his* place! πŸ˜‰

  10. Julie thanks for sharing such great tips for small space living in style. Pinning this for later as we will be decorating our daughters apartment next fall and these tips are perfect for her space.

  11. My first house was 900 square feet, and it was so cozy! You’ve got so many great tips to make the most of small spaces. You’re definitely “on trend”, as many people are choosing to live in smaller spaces with less stuff. No wonder you were featured by Apartment Therapy! Great post, my friend πŸ™‚

    1. Aw, thanks, Rebecca! You are so sweet! 900sf is quite tiny! Although, I can’t lie… wouldn’t mind having THAT tiny of a house! πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you so much, Pam… I’m running a bit behind this week, and wasn’t able to link up. I’ll be by next week!

  12. Great pointers for working with a small space! The difference when you moved the small table away from the sofa is amazing. I am looking forward to how you will organize the closet.

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