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7 Ideas for Decorating a Small Apartment

Decorating a cozy space isn't as simple as it sounds - but with the right tools, tips and tricks, you can make your small apartment look perfectly polished, like it came right out of the glossy pages of your favorite design magazine. Even if you're low on space, you can go big on style; the key is blending fashion and functionality to create the right environment.

Your floor plan will drive your decorative choices. If you have a wide-open space, like a studio, you'll take your furnishings in a different direction than you would if you had small, distinct rooms. These seven ideas for decorating a small apartment will help ensure your place looks its best, regardless of layout.

1. Create Living Zones in Your Space

Define your open floor plan by assigning purposes to each area to prevent all your furnishings from blending together and looking disorganized. Create habitable zones for eating, sleeping, entertaining and working by:

  • Placing a buffet between your kitchen and dining area to separate the spaces and make serving (and storing) easier.
  • Putting your sofa at the end of your bed to shift focus to your living space rather than your sleeping space.
  • Adding cabinets to create a nook for your bed, like a room-within-a-room.
  • Using a folding screen to separate your workspace from your living space.

2. Use Uniform Paint Colors

Although you shouldn't treat your studio apartment as one room, you still need to tie together your furnishings to make the space appear larger and more congruent. Make sure the walls are the same color - an accent wall can throw everything off in a cozy studio. You can also use patterned wallpaper in a small space to add a little depth to the walls, which can make it feel larger.

3. Choose Furniture and Accessories Wisely

Furniture that's not the right scale for your apartment will turn it into a cramped space or leave it looking bare and empty, so pick your sofa, seating and other items carefully. The same is true with accessories; try to use tall or oversized art to elongate the walls. When all else fails, opt for mirrors to create an illusion of additional space. (If you're using mirrors, position them opposite windows to maximize natural light and to double picturesque views.)

Every inch of space counts when your rooms are sectioned off in a small apartment, so look for furniture that pulls double-duty. Start with the bedroom, where you can use a Murphy bed or a trundle bed that turns into a sofa. In the dining room, use a dining table with a built-in, mobile leaf you can add for entertaining family and friends.

Pick tables and desks with glass tops to maintain an open feeling throughout the apartment. You won't lose any function, and it'll look like you gained some space.

4. Solve Your Storage Woes With Creative Shelving and More

Even if your space is miniaturized, chances are pretty good that you have some wasted space. Check out your apartment searching for unused corners and blank walls that you could put to work. You might be able to:

  • Use a corner shelf unit so you have more storage space.
  • Put baskets or dish shelves on top of your refrigerator for tableware and pans you don't use frequently.
  • Turn a large windowsill into a workspace.
  • Use carts as wheeled storage; you can roll them away when you don't need them and pull them back out when you do.
  • Place hooks near the front door for keys and jackets; put them inside the pantry to hang up the broom, duster and other cleaning supplies; and put them in your room to hang handbags, bookbags and other items that don't have permanent homes.

Spring for organizers that make your life easier rather than frustrate you. Attractive baskets that look great on your shelves, over-the-door storage pockets and pull-out cabinet shelves can make a huge difference in the way your space looks (and the way you feel while you're in it).

5. Choose Light Colors

Picking the right color palette in your cozy quarters is essential. Dark colors confine a space and make it feel smaller, while light and bright shades give each room an airy, more open feel. If you're stuck with dark carpet or richly stained hardwoods, put down a light-colored rug to keep the theme seamless.

6. Pick Great Window Treatments

You don't have to stick with boring, pedestrian blinds that often come standard with tiny apartments. Choose light, flowing floor-to-ceiling curtains to create the illusion of height without closing in your space. Hang them so that when they're fully drawn, they don't cover any part of the window itself.

7. Layer Your Lighting

Use layered lighting to illuminate in thirds. Tall, open-top lamps illuminate the ceiling and upper walls, whereas mid-level lamps and sconces take care of the light you'll need most when you're seated. Overhead lighting can handle the rest.

Decorating Your Small Apartment: It's About What Works for You

Don't be afraid to buck tradition and make your apartment all about your needs. Maybe you need a workspace but not a dining area, or perhaps you'd rather have living space and don't mind using a fold-up Murphy bed. The most important thing to remember is that it's your apartment, and you're the one living there. Make it work for you rather than trying to adapt to an apartment that doesn't quite fit your needs.