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Maximizing Your Space: Creative Interior Design Tips for Small Apartments and Studios

Updated: Feb 22

Living in a small apartment or studio doesn't mean sacrificing style or functionality. With the right design approach and creative solutions, even the tiniest spaces can transform into comfortable and stylish homes. In this article, we'll explore innovative space-saving techniques, multi-functional furniture (ergonomics), and smart storage solutions that maximize functionality and style in compact living spaces. Interior Design Tips

There is no such thing as a living space that is too small, only ineffective space planning & design.

1 . Optimize Vertical Space:

Verticle wall shelving design
Kozin Interiors
  • When floor space is limited, look up! Utilize vertical space by installing floor-to-ceiling shelving units, wall-mounted cabinets, and floating shelves to maximize storage capacity without sacrificing valuable floor space.

  • Consider incorporating tall bookcases or modular storage systems that offer adjustable shelving to accommodate various storage needs and create a sense of visual interest.

  • Utilize tall modular wardrobes everywhere! Wardrobes are not only useful in the bedroom; they make stylish & functional storage solutions in any room or space. Consider going for floor-ceiling height to maximize the storage capacity and incorporate them in your space with a more seamless built-in look.

A team-favourite hack at Space Reformed is to use Ikea Pax wardrobes and install custom doors & hardware. Pax systems make storage solutions easier to navigate as they come with various accessories & inserts. We love a row of customized modular wardrobes in entry spaces or dining room designs.

Tip: Tall bookshelves & wardrobes can also be used as room dividers; keep reading to find out how!

2. Embrace Multi-Functional Furniture:

Images: Anouk Schiermeier, Edgewood Made

  • Invest in ergonomic pieces. Multi-functional furnishings that serve dual purposes to maximize utility in small spaces. Look for convertible sofa beds, Murphy beds, and ottomans with hidden storage compartments that can easily transform from seating to sleeping areas as needed.

  • Explore modular furniture designs that can be customized and rearranged to adapt to changing needs and preferences, providing flexibility and versatility in small living environments.

  • Slim modular shoe pull-outs are versatile & stylish. Use them for towels, books, baby blankets, kids outerwear, shoes, or even pantry items! These are an easy-to-style item. Hang a mirror or artwork over them & you've got a stylish console, too. We like this one from Ikea (pictured above, Ikea trones shoe cabinets).

3. Create Zones

Images: Architectural Digest, House Beautiful

  • Define separate living areas within a small space layout using room dividers or screens to create visual separation and privacy without sacrificing openness and flow. Consider using sliding doors, curtains, or folding screens that can be easily adjusted or folded away when not in use.

  • Choose translucent or open-weave dividers that allow natural light to filter through, maintaining a sense of spaciousness while delineating distinct zones for living, sleeping, dining, or working.

  • Use rugs to define zones. In open spaces, it's best to use coordinating or complimentary colors when using multiple rugs or a single accent rug in one of your defined zones. Place rugs: Living room, dining room, entry area, sleeping area.

  • Use sofas & short bookshelves or consoles to act as partitions between two spaces.

  • Use paint or wallpaper! Add some colour to define spaces that serve different functions. Pro tip: Bring the color up onto your ceiling too, to create distinctive zones. Do this only for one distinct space to avoid overcrowding things.

  • Light it up! Lighting is an essential component of each room, so a great way to create distinct and separate spaces in open concepts is to ensure each space has its own lighting source & plenty of it! Pendant lights over your dining table, wall lamps in your sleeping space or living room & ambient lighting where necessary. Using tall bookshelves & wardrobes:

Use tall floor-ceiling bookshelves or wardrobes to create a partition wall or room divider, that also serves multiple functions. To do so: connect a series of bookshelves or wardrobes of your desired total width, and mounting them to the floor via a base (you can build a base using 2x4's) for optimal safety. This step is essential especially if you have kids. Lastly, elevate the design by installing a thin MDF panel (or wooden vertical slats) on the back of your shelving/wardrobes to create a seamless look which you can later paint as a regular wall, or hang artwork onto.

4. Maximize Underutilized Spaces:

Pegboard Design Solutions
Image: Unknown
  • Make the most of underutilized spaces such as corners, alcoves, and awkward nooks by incorporating custom-built storage solutions or compact furniture. Install corner shelves, built-in benches or banquettes with hidden storage. Fold-down desks & tables that can be tucked away when not in use.

  • Consider utilizing vertical wall space for hanging storage racks, pegboards, or magnetic organizers to keep frequently used items within easy reach while freeing up valuable counter or floor space. Pro Tip: We use pegboards religiously inside closets for tools, craft supplies and electronics. Above desks for office supplies, documents and assignments. Even behind doors for hanging things like umbrellas, laundry/shopping carts, foldable strollers, slippers, small mirrors and space for your keys and mail!

Interior design tips and solutions for small spaces & studios.

5. Opt for Light and Airy Elements:

Images: CJH Studio, Design and Viz, anthology_creative_studio

  • Choose a light and neutral color palette for walls, floors, and furnishings to create a sense of openness and airiness in small spaces. Lighter colors reflect natural light and visually expand the room's perceived size, making it feel more spacious and inviting. Pro Tip: Use bold colors, elements and decor as accents, or decide on just one or two areas you would like to incorporate more color for walls & furnishings (primary color) and ensure you carry those colors through the rest of your space by incorporating them as accent colors elsewhere (cushions, art work, window treatments, decor etc.). This is a great way to include bolder statement colors, while maintaining a lighter neutral palette throughout the rest of your space.

  • Incorporate reflective surfaces such as mirrors, glass tabletops, and metallic accents to bounce light around the room and enhance the sense of brightness and depth.


6. Choosing the right elements:

Images: Unknown

Quality over quantity applies here.

Perhaps a common small space misconception is that small spaces require only small items. While sure, this may apply to some things (such as narrow pathways, entrances, or awkward spaces), this is not a hard and fast rule. In fact, at a minimum, you should opt for regular-sized furnishings, ensuring you still have a 3-foot clearance to walk around furnishings.

  • Using elements marketed as ''condo-sized'' and ''miniature'' actually accentuates the smaller dimensions of space and makes your space appear smaller & ''colder''. Smaller elements seldom say ''comfortable'' or ''welcoming''. So, go with the largest size you can reasonably fit while maintaining the minimum clearance space.

  • Remember, it's better to have one or two larger furnishings that can accommodate more people and more functions, as opposed to many smaller-sized furnishings that accommodate fewer people and fewer functions. Hint: A 3 seater sofa and a single armchair or a 3 seater sofa with an ottoman will be far more useful compared to a 2 seater sofa and 2 armchairs or having just 4 armchairs etc.

Pro Tip: Go for the king bed! If you have enough or even just enough clearance space (min. 3ft clearance on either side & enough clearance space for your wardrobe, dresser, chest or closet etc.), you won't regret sizing up. Not only will your room appear more to scale, if you share your sleeping space with another human - you'll be glad you did!

  • Opt for wall sconces and lamps to keep them off your prized surface and floor space. Don't worry, hardwiring is no longer nessecary for this one! Sconces are now regularly offered in ''plug-in'' options. This is a great way to achieve a designer look.

  • Hang your curtains at ceiling height! Sure, your window may not sit at ceiling height, but a quick way to create the illusion of height, is to use the height itself. So, install a curtain track as close to your ceiling as possible, and choose a curtain length that just ''kisses'' the floor.


Conclusion: Maximizing functionality and style in small apartments and studio living requires a combination of ingenuity, creativity, and strategic planning. By incorporating innovative space-saving techniques, multi-functional furniture, and smart storage solutions, even the most compact living spaces can be transformed into comfortable, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing homes that cater to modern urban dwellers' diverse needs and lifestyles.

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