Apartment living has its own set of challenges when it comes to decorating and arranging furniture. More often than not, your spaces are small and sometimes can be oddly shaped. Also, as a tenant, you are limited to the things you can do to make your apartment brighter or more colourful as usually you cannot change the wall colour or take on any structural changes. This means you have to think differently to get the most out of your space.
Let in the light
There is nothing worse than living in a dark, depressing space, so make sure you make the most of the available light. Don’t block windows with heavy drapes, let the light pour in. If you need to have window covering for privacy or light control, choose sheer or semi-sheer blinds or shades.
Vertical blinds are a great way to let in light and see outside, but also control the light and heat coming into the room. They are directional so you can move them throughout the day to control the light and keep the cold out during the winter, or the hot sun out during the summer months.
Reflecting light off mirrors is also a great way to throw light into otherwise darker areas of the room. Mirrors also reflect the room itself, so can give the illusion of more space.
Don’t be constrained by using a sofa as just a sofa, or a table as just a table. Confused? Well, these days there are lots of options regarding multi-use furniture. Sofas that convert to beds are the obvious small apartment solution to accommodate guests without compromising on the day to day use of a sofa.
Similarly, in the bedroom, you can get beds with lots of storage drawers underneath allowing you to store bedding and other items you’d rather not have on show. Murphy beds are another great space saving solution. These beds fold down from the wall allowing you have a bed when needed but tuck it away when not in use. These can be ideal in a studio situation where there is no distinction between the living and bedroom areas.
There are also many different solutions for tables, such as ottomans that can be used a footstool, seating, tables and have storage space inside addressing many uses. Some tables come with built-in shelving or boxed storage options. Nest tables have several different size tables all sitting under one another for compact storage, but give you access to several tables when you need them.
Dining tables aren’t just for large spaces either. Many tables come with the option of opening up allowing them to be used by one or two people on a daily basis, but when guests arrive you open up the table and now it can seat six or more. Many come with specially designed chairs that nestle under the table, giving up valuable floor space.
As more and more people start living in condos and apartments, especially in cities like Calgary, more and more designers are coming up with solutions that address the need for multi-use functionality.
Use colour carefully
Most people know that darker colours make things appear smaller, and lighter colours the opposite, this is also true when planning colours in a small space. Tenants, most likely, are not allowed to change the wall colouring, but usually, they are a neutral cream or light grey, so work with what you have.
Keep to light colours when choosing larger pieces such as sofas and bedding. By doing this you are deceiving the eye into thinking there is more space than there actually is. However, you can and should inject bright colours into your space. This can be done with accent pieces such as pillows, throws, rugs, wall art and even your book collection. Choose one main colour to use as an accent and run with it, but don’t go overboard as this will have the exact opposite effect. You can choose different accent colours for each distinct room or use the same throughout for a cohesive look.
Most modern apartments and condos have wooden or vinyl flooring, but some will still have carpeting. Regardless, you can use rugs to make your space cozier and give the illusion of more space.
As strange as it may seem, a large throw rug can make a small space appear larger. Also, boldly patterned rugs have the same effect. This is due to the fact a larger rug doesn’t break up the space like a small rug will and gives the room an anchor. Placing larger items of furniture half on, half off a rug will also give the feeling of more space.
Separate your spaces
Many apartments will have an open-plan layout meaning the living, dining and kitchen space are in one room. If you have a studio apartment, this space might also include your bedroom. By separating your spaces, you can create the illusion of more space and separate rooms.
This separation can be created in many ways and to achieve different results. Depending on the size of the space, you can, of course, use things like bookshelves as dividers. Likewise, you can actually buy room dividers which are usually pull out panels that can separate one space from another without taking up too much room.
Another clever trick is to use the back of a sofa or a storage unit as a separator, perhaps between the living and dining area. This allows light and space to be seen above the sofa but gives a clear delineation between the separate spaces. If you are in a studio, putting your sofa close to the foot of the bed will also create the same effect and detract from your bedroom space.
You might want to use even stranger items to separate your space such as your bicycle or perhaps your shoe collection on a shelving unit. Plants are another great room divider. Either choose a few larger, taller plants as dividers or use several smaller plants on decorative stands.
Storage – think outside the box
We all need storage for one thing or another and in a smaller space, it becomes even more important. Also, in smaller spaces, storage if often visible rather than behind closed cupboard doors so needs to look good too. As mentioned before, furniture with built-in storage is a great option in a small space. Beds with storage drawers, ottomans with interior storage are just a few ideas.
In smaller spaces, it is important to think vertically as well as horizontally. You might be able to fit a shelving unit or display cabinet around a doorway, such as bookshelves either side of the door. Floating shelves are a great solution to store small items or a few books. They can be used as both storage and decorative pieces strategically placed on walls around the room. Shelves and racks can be hidden behind other furniture such as sofas, mirrors and wall art.
In the kitchen look for space-saving ideas such as spice racks that will fit on the back of a cupboard door or slide down the side of the fridge. Paper towel and aluminum foil racks that fix under overhead cupboards to give more counter space. Fix hooks to the wall or existing shelving or cupboards to hang items from.
You can buy many different types and sizes of wire, wood and plastic shelving that fit into existing cupboards and utilize space much better. Instead of just having one level on which to place your crockery or under silk cleaning items, install extra shelving and have two or three levels. Remember you can stagger them to create more height for those taller items.
Utilize the backs of doors with hanging racks for everything from shoes and makeup to tools for your jewellery making hobby or to hide those spare toilet rolls or toiletries. In bathrooms, buy or make a storage unit to fit over your toilet giving you lots of space to store towels, toiletries etc.
If you are lucky enough to have a larger walk-in storage room, utilize the space by installing shelves. These do not have to be attached to the walls, you can buy cheap shelving racks from most DIY stores. Remember, these racks will not be seen, so it doesn’t matter what they look like as long as they do the job. Look in the garage storage section for light, easy to put together plastic racks.
The ideas for storage are as long as your imagination will allow, so search the internet, or pop down to your local retailers for ideas.
Open up the floor space
It is an optical illusion, but a true fact that the more floor space you can see, the larger the room feels. Think of entering a room that is cluttered with furniture and boxes etc. and how small and closed in it feels. If you cannot see the floor, your mind thinks small space.
By using this theory, you can maximize the space you have by giving the illusion there is more than there really is. Furniture that doesn’t take up too much floor space is the obvious answer, but sometimes we need those extra pieces for storage or comfort. So, what’s the answer? Well, one great solution is to buy furniture that allows you to see the floor.
Sofas or tables that have legs and don’t reach the floor in one large block are a great solution. The difference between a coffee table that is a solid piece of furniture, sitting fully on the floor will look bulkier and larger than the very same table with thin legs that allow the floor to be seen underneath it.
Clear acrylic tables and chairs are perfect at creating the illusion of space and you can see right through them and they are barely there.
Floating cabinets and shelving that attach to the wall and sit a few feet above the floor are excellent options. You still have the utility of the piece, but it is not taking up valuable floor space.
If space allows, don’t push your sofa up against the wall, instead bring it away from the wall to make the room look bigger than it is.
Maximize your office space
Sometimes we need to work from home, or just catch up on some studying or apply for jobs. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to have a separate space for an office, so what can you do?
One solution is to utilize what you already have. If you have a dresser in your bedroom can this double up as a desk? Can you work comfortably at the dining table? These are more obvious solutions, but there are other options.
You could turn a closet or storage cupboard into a small office by installing a small desk and chair. The desk can be foldable and opens up when needed and why not have a folding chair too, so it can be put away when not in use. Fold down desks can, of course, be used in any area of your apartment.
Buy a laptop cushion that sits on your lap whilst you are on the sofa providing a solid surface to work on. This option required no additional furniture or room changes.
Lighting can be an issue in an apartment as often there is no central ceiling light in living areas and bedrooms. There is usually lighting in the bathroom and kitchen and a ceiling light over the dining area, but that is often it. Another problem, it that you often cannot change the lighting fixtures and have to put up with those installed, which might not be the best options or to your taste. Adding your own accent lighting is the answer, and this will depend on your taste, your space and needs.
Floor lamps are a great solution as they come in many shapes, sizes, heights and styles. A floor lamp can also be an uplighter, downlighter or have several different lamp heights for multiple uses and lighting effects. They can be used to give soft background lighting, light dark corners or be the main lighting in a room.
Kitchens often have a large central light, but what if you need more light at counter level? Often the lighting is arranged so that when you stand at your counter preparing a meal, the lighting casts shadows. One easy solution is to invest in some relatively inexpensive strip lighting that attaches under wall units to give you light directly onto your countertop.
There are many different options for this type of lighting, but one good option that doesn’t require any damage being done to cabinets etc. are stick-on battery-operated strip lights. They simply stick to the underside of the units and away you go. These lights are also a great option for darker wardrobes where you need a little extra light, or even in the bathroom.
When it comes to bedroom lighting, floor lights are a good option for darker areas as are bedside lamps. But ladies reading this will know the struggle of trying to apply makeup in a poorly lit bedroom. If you have a table to sit at you might want to invest in a mirror known as a Hollywood mirror. This is a large mirror that sits on your table and has large lights all the way around. Because the lighting is all around it makes applying makeup evenly far easier. If you have trouble seeing in a mirror far away, then a smaller, magnifying mirror with built-in lighting is the answer.
Make the most of unused space
You might be thinking that you don’t have any unused space, but you are probably wrong. Take a look around and consider how you are using your space and where additional space can be utilized. Perhaps there is a corner that sits empty that could be used for a floor lamp or makeshift desk space. Just the action of moving some of your furniture around can create space. Ask friends how they would rearrange your furniture, you might be surprised by the outcome.
Just because an empty cupboard is in the kitchen, it doesn’t mean it cannot be used for anything else, although you might not want to store your bedding or clothing there unless you want it smelling like your latest culinary creation!
Do you have windowsills that can be used to hold baskets full of your jewellery, toiletries or indeed anything else that fits? Is there room under your bed or sofa to store things? Could you buy some decorative boxes or baskets to store items on an existing shelving or storage unit?
And lastly, are you sure you need everything you have? Could you declutter and create more space, or get rid of things so that the space you have works better? But that is a whole new topic for a blog post!
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