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Whether you’re arranging a studio apartment or a small room in your home, choosing furniture that works in tight spaces can be a challenge. The good news is, by getting a little creative, you’ll be able to maximize your small space to create the cozy home you’ve always dreamed of.
Meet the experts
At Living Cozy, we produce our content alongside interior design and home decor experts. In this guide, you’ll advice from:
Chris Walsh, Senior Trade Client Associate at Maiden Home
Opt for flexible pieces of furniture
When considering furniture for small spaces, it’s helpful to choose pieces that are relatively versatile. “Flexible pieces that can move around the room, or out into another space if you need them to, are perfect,” says Deanne M. Bridenstine. “Side chairs or bar stools that you can move, pouf-style ottomans, and martini or coffee tables are all adaptable.”
For those considering a sofa that has the capability to adapt to an ever changing space, Chris Walsh recommends modular sofas, as “you can build out the piece with the dimensions of your space in mind, and then add or remove as you see fit.”
Additionally, choosing living room furniture for a small space is the perfect time to consider pieces that perform double-duty, such as sleeper sofas, futons, or daybeds. “There are so many amazing companies out there nowadays that create not only efficient and functional, but stylish pieces,” says Kristin Patrician.
Find the right scale
As always, when choosing pieces for your home, finding the right scale is essential. This means choosing pieces that are the right size for your home, as “nothing makes a room feel overly crowded faster than oversized furniture,” says Deanne M. Bridenstine.
Scale is especially important when working with small spaces. “When you want to select pieces that are proportional to the space, you don’t want to clutter it with too many small items,” says Lindsay Foster. “When scale is out of sync, it can make your pint-sized room feel even smaller than it is.”
“When you want to select pieces that are proportional to the space, you don’t want to clutter it with too many small items."
If you’re concerned about choosing pieces of the right scale, Kimberly Paulus suggests doing some planning before you start in on home decor. “It’s always a valuable step to plan out the space so you don’t end up with narrow traffic patterns or oversized furniture that overwhelms the room,” she says.
Don’t overdo it
While it can be difficult to let go of furniture while downsizing, or resisting the urge to order stylish oversized pieces, it’s important to remain minimal while working with a small space. “Overstuffing a small room makes it difficult to use and clutter has a negative impact on so many aspects of life,” says Deanne M. Bridenstine. “Curate everything that goes into the room so it's somewhere you love to be.”
Don’t be afraid of color
While remaining minimalist in a small space is important, that doesn’t mean you can’t use color to create the space of your dreams! “Use color or pattern on the wall, as small spaces can be ideal for a bold splash of personality on the walls,” says Bridenstine. “This is especially true if the rest of the home or space is more neutral.”
For those renting, there are plenty of renter-friendly options to add color to your walls, such as peel-and-stick decals. Additionally, adding color to your space through everyday items such as bedding, trinkets, or stacks of books is always an option.
Think about storage
A challenge we all face while living and working in small spaces is storage. This is especially true while downsizing, as it can feel jarring to transition from a space with more than enough room for the essentials to a space where you need to get a little creative.
Kristin Patrician recommends using decorative baskets and accent boxes to hide personal items like throw blankets, television remotes, and smaller items that would otherwise become an eyesore. Additionally, she suggests paying specific attention to storage when looking at new furniture, and to “choose pieces that have built-in storage such as drawers, shelves, or hidden compartments.”
Emily Williams adds that making sure you “maximize everything” is key, from built-ins to multipurpose tables and shelves.
Innovative pieces such as storage headboards and entryway benches can provide storage for the essentials while adding a touch of creativity to any space.
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Don’t overcrowd the room
Along the same vein as keeping scale in mind, avoiding overcrowding in your small space is essential to creating a balanced feel.
When it comes to furniture, there are a few tricks you can keep in mind to choose pieces that maximize comfort while minimizing bulkiness. For example, when selecting large items like a sofa or dining table, Megan Torres suggests choosing a piece with thin legs and floor space underneath. This gives it an airier look, and can help a small room appear more open. Mid-century modern style tapered legs are a great option here.
Kimberly Paulus advises prioritizing the function of the space rather than the need to include a specific piece of furniture. While this can be difficult when we fall in love with a certain sofa or chaise, sometimes the pieces we love aren’t right for our space. This is especially true when it comes to small space living where creating efficient traffic patterns can be difficult.
Make the most of your wall space
When horizontal space is a challenge, go vertical! Items such as vertical wall shelving takes up less square footage while providing maximum storage. Kristin Patrician suggests “using closed storage bookcases that have glass doors,” as this will protect your valuables, while glass visually creates a more open feeling.
Going vertical is more than just practical– it can create the illusion of taller ceilings. Rachel Robarge suggests hanging floor-length curtains close to the ceiling, as “you’ll create long, vertical lines in the space.” Additionally, Robarge suggests continuing your wall color to your crown moldings, as it will make the space feel expansive.
Choose the right seating
When choosing seating for your small space, there are a few tricks you can keep in mind to maximize your space.
Kristin Patrician recommends avoiding sectionals, as they can visually appear heavy and oversized, making your space feel overcrowded. Instead, Patrician suggests breaking up your seating by using a sofa and accent chairs. “This breaks up your space, and visually creates a more open area.”
Megan Torres suggests pairing two smaller sofas or loveseats together, or a small sofa paired with an armchair or armless chair, instead of one gigantic sofa. “This makes the most of a small room,” says Torres. Sofas also work as a natural dividers for those using a room for multiple activities.
When selecting pieces for a small apartment, Chris Walsh suggests opting for lower profile pieces that take up minimal space. “This shape really lends itself to an open, cozy concept,” Walsh says. “Less is more in a small space.”
Consider the lighting
An important element to consider in your small space is lighting. Believe it or not, lighting can influence the way a room is perceived, so selecting the right lighting is an unobtrusive way to maximize the feel of a small room.
Christine Kohut suggests “making sure that rooms are not only well lit, but that all the lighting is adjustable.” If it’s a small living room, for example, the lighting should have a dimmable, soft light. Kohut recommends choosing decorative ceiling lights instead of overhead lighting, as well as lamps that add a layer of color and texture to a room as well as light.
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Don’t forget your style
While it’s easy to get carried away with efficiency in a small space, don’t forget to keep your own sense of style in mind! “Just because a room is small doesn’t mean that it has to be minimalist,” says Emily Williams. “Create fun seating moments, statement stools that can be tucked in, and stolen spaces you can make the most of.”
“No matter what look you choose, loving it is key.”
Lindsay Foster adds that “no matter what look you choose, loving it is key.” Foster suggests adding small accessories that hint at a look that you’ve always wanted to create. For example, “if you’ve always dreamed of a Moroccan-inspired retreat, then bringing in a printed area rug can help create the vibe you’re going for,” says Foster.
Embrace light colors and reflective elements
Going vertical isn’t the only way to create an illusion of depth in a small space. Using light colors and reflective elements can add style to your space while also making it appear larger.
“Styling a small space is about tricking the eye into thinking the room is bigger than it really is,” says Alexander Adducci. “A lot of that can be done by bringing more light into the room.” Adduci suggests choosing lighter paint colors to reflect light rather than absorbing it, and considering multiple points of lighting to reduce dark areas and shadows. Light-colored upholstery is also an opportunity to bring in colors that brighten up the space.
Additionally, Adduci suggests reflective elements, such as mirrors, and light, airy curtains to help open things up. “Centering furniture around natural light sources instead of in front of them will open up the space as well.”
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
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