Whether you live in a starter studio apartment in Brooklyn, own a sustainable shipping crate home, or merely have an oddly tiny living room, decorating a small area is a challenge. It needs to be functional, so you can get in and out without knocking over the lamp, smashing your knee on the end table, and then stumbling to snatch your TV off the wall, but it also needs to be appealing. Trying to mix the two when all you have is a hundred square feet can cripple the most brilliant interior decorator, and make using the room a living hell.
For those who dare to dream small, there’s plenty of ways to make the most of your scant expanse with 19 design hacks for minimalist homes.
Patterns & Glass
Adding patterned furniture or busy accessories helps give a room depth since it implies a foreground and a background. To our minds depth is equivalent to space, making this an easy optical illusion to accomplish. Similarly, by using more glass accessories – translucent lamps or a see-through coffee table for instance – those patterns pop out further, creating even more layers, which feels like even greater dimensions.
Stop thinking about square footage and start thinking about cubic footage. A house with 400 sq ft that also has 10-foot ceilings actually has 4,000 feet of cubic footage (400 sq ft x 10 vertical ft). All of that can be put to use if you begin decorating up rather than out. Anything that can be lifted off the ground should be so those 10 glorious feet aren’t just empty space.
Our little human minds don’t realize that something lighter in color is not also lighter in weight. Though dark colors are masculine and add gravitas to a room, they also make it feel heavier, smaller, and more dour. Using a lot of whites and pleasant airy tones helps reflect light which feels more open, and larger. You should also add more literal lights to your walls or ceiling to avoid dark corners, which make rooms feel shrunken and gloomy.
Everything is Storage
Your couch should have drawers. Your bed should have drawers. Your stairs should have drawers. Then, inside those drawers you should have dividers that use every inch without wasting any room. Where there aren’t drawers there should be shelves. Where there aren’t shelves there should be racks. This cuts way down on clutter which is the enemy of a spacious room.
Mirrors effectively confuse your eye and double the space you’re technically seeing. Mirrors that reflect other mirrors create a sense of the infinite that quickly turns your Hobbit-hole into a mansion stretching on endlessly. If you hate looking at yourself, use oblique angles to catch windows or patterns on the wall.
A sheer, semi-transparent curtain helps create a sense of more room than is technically there. Use gauzy fabrics where you have space so it appears as if you needed to cut up a great expanse. Then use completely dark curtains where you don’t actually have space to give a sense of mystery that feels like there’s more to be revealed.
Nearly every workplace has had this happen: They claim they are “streamlining” by cutting out jobs and then making everyone work harder for the same wage to pick up the slack. Well, learn from those bloodthirsty tactics and force each aspect of your home to do extra jobs. Is that desk also a table? And how many drawers does that table have? Also, can you sleep on it?
A fluid space creates a moving floor plan that offers you countless options for arranging it depending on your needs of the moment. We like bar carts or rolling tables for this effect, but anything that can fold up or slide works just as well as putting a piece on casters.
That isn’t a patio or a balcony, it’s more living room. Those aren’t windows, they’re decorative visibility expansions. Wherever possible you should be annexing the outside of your home or apartment by putting in window boxes, adding awnings, and decorating. New Yorkers know a fire escape is actually a den/solarium, so take a page from their book.
You don’t need to hide away your suitcases, pots and pans, or beautiful dish sets. Cabinets detract from the sensation of size and add darkness and tightness to a place. They should be reserved only for the things that must hide from prying eyes. Anything you can store right in plain sight is a decorative choice.
Vintage and retro items tend to use less room. Grab a diminutive refrigerator or a quaint kitchen table that’s a throwback. Lilliputian appliances also tend to use less energy which can give you a greater green feel along with their stylized look.
Work Your Walls
Wherever you aren’t putting up shelves or adding in mirrors, you should be trying to hang art or mount something useful. Table lamps can often be repurposed as wall lights and the tables they once sat on can become folding apertures that disappear when not in use. Hang paintings, pictures, and drapes as high as possible to draw the eye upward and away from the tiny dancing space.
Anything that folds in like an accordion or packs down into itself like a good tackle box is a blessing. Swing arms and compacting trays are your friends.
Hide & Seek
If only one person lives in your home, you don’t need six chairs and a full dining room table out at all times. Find options that are stylish but can quickly disappear at a moment’s notice. A folding table is only tacky if it isn’t covered with a fetching tablecloth complete with a centerpiece that formerly adorned the space over your front door.
Ditch The Chairs
Modular items can help you, but they can also cause clutter. Chairs are fine, but try to find places to integrate seating against walls. Find seats that can be incorporated into shelves when not being used by guests, and otherwise throw them out.
Shrink Each Footprint
End tables are preferable to coffee tables and narrow desks are better than large bureaus. If you aren’t partitioning every drawer and cabinet, space is going to waste. Use items that are more svelte and sit tighter against the wall. You’ll avoid rummaging through deep drawers and avoid mystery cabinets with hidden depths you never use.
Plot & Scheme
The layout of your home is just as important to making a small space larger as what you put into it. When you have a few rooms that you don’t know what to do with, then you can be really haphazard. For decorating a little house or one-bedroom you should know where everything goes to avoid waste.
Get Smarter Furniture
If you must spend money, invest in items that adhere to your compact lifestyle. They should have additional storage spots and help keep you organized. The more ingenious, the better, and the more purposes it can fulfill, the less you’ll need to buy.
Ask yourself of every single blank space: “What can it do?” However small and useless it seems, each inch is an opportunity to reduce detritus and enhance your quarters. You just need to figure out how that spot of wall can do it.