How to Create the Illusion of Space in a Small Apartment

Shannon Quinn - January 20, 2021
This girl’s bedroom is painted a peachy pink from top to bottom. Credit: Crate and Barrel

7. Paint the Crown Molding, Door, Frame, and Trim the Same Color as the Wall

Crown molding and baseboards can add a sense of luxury to your home. Normally, molding is painted white to contrast the wall color. Sometimes, dark wood paneling is in an older house. But this dark color only serves to make the space feel more cozy, so it will actually make things feel smaller. A bold but effective suggestion to make a room feel bigger is to paint the paneling the same color as the wall. This also works really well if you paint the door and frame the same color as the wall, too.

This wall has matching trim, with furniture painted the same color. Credit: Shutterstock

This might seem counter-productive, because darker paneling normally makes things feel small, right? But this specific effect brings the eye upwards. People will be impressed and notice this feature right away, so they’ll be looking at your ceiling and colorful crown molding. Good design always wins over the size of the space. If you’re designing an apartment from scratch, you have a chance to plan out the color story. Pick the color pallet in the beginning, and stick with it. When everything looks cohesive, it helps to make everything look intentional.

The longer the legs, the more it helps a small apartment. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Furniture with Long Legs

Some people love a cozy couch that’s flush with the floor, huge bean bag chairs, or poufs. Whether you realize it or not , this makes the space feel smaller. That object is taking up space on the floor, and it feels immovable, like you can never get that space back again. On the other hand, when you buy furniture with long legs, you allow the eye to see the space underneath, even if it’s just a few inches. It allows the air and energy to flow, and is much better Feng Shui.

This entire living room has furniture with long legs. Credit: Shutterstock

Having furniture with long legs this helps show more of your floor and area rug, which gives the illusion of space. In a practical sense, it also makes it a lot easier for you to use a Swiffer or vacuum underneath the furniture to keep the space clean. Your dogs and cats will probably appreciate this space too, because it gives them a place to hide if they’re feeling nervous. If you feel like your legs aren’t long enough on your existing furniture, you can purchase leg risers to lift it off the ground.

The only thing separating the bedroom and living room of this apartment is the rug. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Use Larger Rugs

When you’re trying to make an apartment appear larger, always go with the biggest rug possible. Measure the room so that you have only a few inches left on each side. Or, use that rug to frame out a certain area of the room into a “zone”. For example, in my bedroom, I use a large rug to separate the “bedroom” area from the “office” area, since I have my desk set up to work from home. Even though it’s subtle, it feels like you’re moving into a different area once you cross the line made by the rug.

This studio has a large rug to designate the living room area. Credit: Shutterstock

Some of you out there may already have already made the mistake of buying a small rug, and it’s too late to return it. That’s okay! Don’t automatically assume you need to donate or throw it out. First, try to see if you can move the smaller rug to a different area of the house that needs floor covering, like your front hallway or kitchen. Next, consider layering rugs. A popular option is to place jute rugs underneath the patterned rug. This is very popular right now. However, make sure you don’t trip over your double rugs.

This clean apartment helps make the small apartment look better. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Keep Your Apartment Clean

This might sound simple or obvious to most of you, but the easiest way to make life in a small apartment better is to keep it clean, and don’t allow clutter to pile up. Never allow clothes or Amazon boxes pile up on the floor. Do your laundry and dishes, plus put things away quickly. Once your apartment is clean, it can feel cozy, instead of cramped.Cleaning on a daily basis is really the key to keeping an apartment clutter-free. Just tidy up for a few minutes a day, instead of waiting until the weekend to do a bigger clean.

When you have a tiny apartment, there is no room for mess. Credit: Shutterstock

Some of you out there might dread the idea of cleaning your apartment every single day, but it’s just a matter of changing your habits. Personally, I work from home as a writer, which requires me to stare at a screen, read, write, and do a lot of thinking. Getting up to clean for 10-15 minute spurts helps me to rest my eyes, get away from the computer screen, and allow my brain to stop thinking so hard. It gets my body moving, which brings back blood flow to my limbs. People always compliment me about how clean my space is, and yet I never feel like I’m doing a chore. I actually look forward to cleaning, because it gives me a break from working. Once you train yourself to think like this, it changes your life for the better.

This room is cute, but it looks a bit cluttered. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Eliminate Visual Clutter

Another form of “clutter” that a lot of people don’t think about is visual clutter. These are small things that you may not notice, and assume that it’s “clean”. But it creates a visual distraction, and makes it difficult to feel calm and relaxed. For example, I have a pile of books sitting on my dresser that were returned to me from family and friends, because I ran out of space on my bookshelf. Technically, this pile of books isn’t clutter, because it’s clean, tidy, and serves a purpose. But it’s definitely visual clutter. As soon as I figured out a place to put them away, it felt far more open and spacious.

By minimizing visual clutter, a space seems so much bigger. Credit: Shutterstock

Sometimes, organizational techniques can be used to get rid of the visual clutter. For example, most people would never consider boxes of cereal “clutter”. This is food, and it’s necessary for you to eat and get a quick breakfast in the morning. However, if you transfer that cereal to a clear container instead of keeping it bright, colorful, solid cardboard boxes, it is so much more visually appealing, and almost looks like part of the decor. Baskets and other containers can also be used to remove visual clutter.

Hanging a TV on the wall helps save space. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Mount Your TV on the Wall

An easy way to save space in a small apartment is to hang your tv on the wall. Somehow, your TV feels even bigger when it’s suspended, compared to keeping it sitting on a table. Just make sure it matches your eye level so that you aren’t craning your neck. If you’re interested in Feng Shui, they recommend not to keep a TV in your bedroom. Technology can interfere with the flow of qi, and it also serves as a “black mirror” to bounce energy off of it.

Hanging a TV can help to hide it, instead of making it the centerpiece of the room. Credit: Shutterstock

With that being said, TV’s in the living room look great on the wall. And if you have a Smart TV, all you need is the remote to get started. In a time when everything is digital on streaming services, there is no reason to keep media console furniture for a DVD player. Game consoles that require you to plug them into the TV, but this can be temporary. And there are HDMI cords that are up to 10 feet long, which should be plenty of room to plug your game system into a piece of furniture on the floor, or the other side room.

This Los Angeles apartment has a glass sliding door separating the bedroom and the kitchen. Credit: The Gem Goddess on YouTube

1. Hang Curtains or Sliding Doors

Many small studio apartments have an open concept floor plan. However, you might be in an older apartment that is split up into various rooms by walls and doorways. Obviously, doors between rooms can block off space. Sometimes, this can be a very good thing, especially if you’re trying to quarantine. However, it makes a space feel smaller.

This small apartment has a loft bed with a curtain separating the space. Credit: Shutterstock

If at all possible, remove doors and replace them with a curtain or a sliding barn door. This way, you can slide the curtain or door closed when you want the area to be blocked off, and open it when you want to create the open concept again. Or, use a curtain to divide space instead of a piece of furniture or screen.