Living in small spaces is nothing new for city dwellers, but with the growing popularity of micro-apartments the need to think about how to use space efficiently is becoming more and more necessary.
We spoke with Casey DeBois an interior desinger based in New York City (the American capital of tiny apartments) to get some tips on optimizing a small space.
DeBois (who works with interior design service Homepolish) has experience working in spaces that measured a mere 400 square feet (pictured above), so you can bet when it comes to tiny living she’s got some big ideas:
What’s The biggest challenges with small spaces?
The biggest issue with small spaces is trying to avoid filling it up with “stuff.” Small spaces benefit from furniture that scales the space better. Some vendors like Restoration Hardware, the scale of their furniture is very big, and people often buy their stuff and put one of their nightstands beside their bed and it takes up so much space. Whereas other vendors such as CB2, their furniture scale is smaller. Also vintage pieces tend to be smaller in scale.
[You] definitely need to be more conscious with small spaces and avoid filling it up so many pieces. You need more functional items [but] with less mass. [Such as] a credenza that fits the length of the wall but also underneath doubles as storage and seating for when you have people over.
What design tips can help make a space feel larger?
Sometimes mirrors help, and again with scale — if you have small space I wouldn’t fill [a wall] up and make a busy gallery wall. I would rather have one large scale piece of art. Also area rugs — often times people get rugs that are maybe too small for a space but bigger is better there. In filling the space a bigger carpet or rug makes a room feel full but it also visually just looks nicer.
You have to balance things out: if you have a sofa on one wall you can balance it out with something “heavier” on the opposite wall. If you have a gallery wall you could have open bookshelves or floating shelves up to the ceiling on the opposite wall.
Using vertical space is really important too, [because] when you have not much storage (if you can’t go out widthwise or on the existing floor) the only way to get more space is up. So whether you do shelves or bookcases you can maximize the space that way as well.
What role does lighting play in small spaces?
Lighting helps, but in a lot of apartments you’re limited to whether or not the ceilings are concrete. In most quick-rise buildings they are, so in that case you just have to be a little more creative: Floor lamps (but I would use those sparingly, because those also take up a lot of space on the floor), and wall sconces are really nice. You can also always do track lighting on the ceiling.
Do you have to sacrifice having personal belongings?
It depends! When I was in fashion school one of my friends in particular, she would keep her shoes in her stove because she never used her stove. It’s kind of like make due with what you have. With small spaces I often “hack an IKEA unit” so if you have a preexisting nook on a wall [you have to think] “How do I maximize this space?” Often times we put larger wardrobe units and personalize them with custom hardware.
What about making smaller space feel private?
You can either do it visually with a rug or something to designate two separate areas. If you want to “divide-divide” the space I’ve done things with partitions or half bookcases or full bookcases where they’re “translucent” but when they’re styled and filled up they visually divide the space. Curtains too often help.
Any last tips?
Just be really conscious of what you buy. Get the basics, but also everything should be multi-use and very purposeful. Whether your coffee table is also a storage trunk or your bed frame also has drawers underneath; when you’re in a small space everything should have a dual purpose.
Matt Lee is a Web producer for Metro New York. He writes about almost everything and anything. Talk to him (or yell at him) on Twitter so he doesn’t feel lonely@mattlee2669.