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Small Spaces, Big Design

Do you remember moving into your very first place? The sweet taste of freedom, located directly behind your very own front door. After lots of looking, and lots of signing papers, you finally had your own home. And if you were anything like me, that home came with the shocking revelation of what it’s like to live in a (super) small space.

I, the author in question, have the good fortune of living in New York City. A place known for its incredible culture, arts, restaurants, busy people, that pretty park smack dab in the middle of everything… and its unbelievably small, overpriced apartments. A tiny (pun intended) trade off for living in such a magnificent place, but one that comes with unforeseen challenges. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite tips for designing in small spaces.

1. Love it or Leave it

When it comes to what you bring into your new apartment, condo, or home, this is an excellent rule to live by. You’ve either got to truly-can’t-live-without-it LOVE it.. or leave it behind at a donation center, garbage can, or storage unit. If you’re already living in your tiny place of residence, let us be the first to give you a gentle reminder that it may be time to do some decluttering and organizing. If you find yourself struggling with this, keep in mind that when you truly clear out a good amount of space, not only do you feel better, buy you get to go shopping for new things! Just, you know, less of them.

2. The Sky’s The Limit (or, Think Vertical!)

Small space living requires using ALL of the space that you’ve got, and this means looking upward often. Tall, slender bookshelves are your new best friend (remember: bookshelves are not just for books!) and using storage space above kitchen cabinets, and other higher up places will make a huge difference. The design trick here is to keep the eye moving. When using vertical space, your eye (and the eyes of your loved ones who come to visit) will naturally float upward, creating the illusion of more space.

3. Lighten Up

To create the feel of more space in a small space, try to get as many "heavy" items off of the ground (or out of the space entirely). For example, instead of having an old school desk in your office, try replacing it with a floating desk. The room immediately feels larger and more welcoming. Furniture with legs, as opposed to being flush against the ground, also does this trick quite nicely.

4. Get Clear

Transparent furniture really opens up the potential in a room. When your furniture pieces are all near to each other other, having clear glass or plastic items, allows the room to feel less bulky. The clear pieces almost disappear, making it feel like there is less in the room. Same goes for cabinets or bookshelves with see through fronts.

5. Two Is Better Than One

If it were physically possible, I would try to only have things in my apartment that are multipurpose. For example, when extra seating is needed, we bust out a trunk (that is filled to the brim with things). The same goes for items like ottomans, where you have the option of an ottoman with extra storage inside or one without. Get the one with the storage. Your favorite books can be stacked together to serve as a makeshift night table, and extra purses and bags can be filled with out-of-season clothing, scarves and hats, accessories and so on. In a small space, everything needs to pull twice its weight.

I think the most important thing about living in a small space is that you absolutely have to love coming home to it. This is obviously the goal for every type of home, large, small, or in between, however there is something about being in a space where you can’t exactly avoid or escape any part of it that forces you to make a home you truly love. So what do you think? Do you live in a small space? What’s your biggest challenge or favorite part to designing it? Let us know in the comments below!