Space-Hacking: How to Make Your Small Apartment Feel Bigger

image of J. Fergus
By |
Space-Hacking: How to Make Your Small Apartment Feel Bigger

Congrats on your new place! You're so good at adulting that you now live in a studio or one bedroom apartment. But how do you pick furniture for your small apartment to make it reach its fullest potential?

We've swooped in and picked out the essential furniture pieces you need to help your small space reach its fullest potential. They are all space-saving, multifunctional and create the illusion of a larger space. HGTV, eat your heart out!

01

A clear table so you can see your rug

A clear table so you can see your rug

Glass coffee tables are great for small spaces. Being able to see through the table, makes it feel like less of an obstacle and can help show off a statement area rug. If your apartment isn't big enough for a regular coffee table, go for glass side tables.

These Tanner tables will open up your living space and their roundness makes them less of a shin-magnet. If rectangular coffee tables are more your style (or if you find glass furniture dangerous to live with and move), this minimalist Filippa coffee table is made out of acrylic.

02

A coffee table you can actually eat on

A coffee table you can actually eat on

Do you have a bit more space or are foregoing a kitchen/dining table or a desk? Lift top coffee tables bring your work and food to new, posture-friendly heights.

Sometimes, you can spot a lift top table a mile away, but these Turner tables are more subtle. They go from 18 to 28 inches tall, revealing some shallow (but helpful!) storage. With cherry, espresso, and oak finishes, there's a version for most color palettes. 

03

Three tables for the space of one

Three tables for the space of one

Nesting tables allow you to get two or more occasional tables that can easily only take up the space of one. We love these GRANBODA nesting tables from Ikea because the smallest table can also serve as a drawer when nestled under the medium-sized table.

For a more chromatic look, we also recommend these luxe nesting tables from LexMod.

04

Striped area rugs to trick the eye

Striped area rugs to trick the eye

Ah, stripes. Whether used in fashion or interior design, defined stripes can elongate or widen. This Olin rug at Crate and Barrel is great for widening spaces and the runner is especially ideal for making narrow hallways feel more spacious. The GÖRLÖSE area rug is better at lengthening a space and has a more whimsical approach to stripes.

You can think even more outside the box by playing with texture and sparse zigzag patterns. We also love this (expensive) take on stripes from Serena and Lily far too much to not mention it, but we don't know how much living we could do on a thousand-dollar rug.

05

A space-saving, statement loveseat

A space-saving, statement loveseat

Mid-century modern loveseats tend to offer thinner armrests than traditional loveseats, plus some space underneath for storage. They often don't have the cozy, sink-in feeling of a plush couch, but are definitely comfortable enough for your Netflix binges!

The Remark Loveseat is perfect for most people as it holds up to 441 lbs and comes in seven colors. It's approximately 5 ft long, but if you need something smaller, the Modway Allegory Loveseat is about 8 inches shorter.

06

Your place isn’t too small for a sofa table

Your place isn’t too small for a sofa table

You probably want to push your loveseat or futon against the wall, but don't. Putting a little space behind your bigger furniture pieces gives the illusion of more space and, in this case, you can stick a little console table back there.

This Finley Home console table is only 15 inches deep, which is plenty of space for some plants, photos, lamps, and other decor items.

07

A bed that can hold your secrets

A bed that can hold your secrets

Platform beds are known for their storage-friendly design. Many come with built-in storage, but this makes them a little harder to move. Metal (or sturdy wooden) platform beds often have 8 or more inches of space beneath them where you can store oddly shaped items as well as traditional storage bins.

The Rhys Platform Bed comes in gold and *drumroll* millennial pink. With 11 inches of clearance underneath the bed, your storage dreams just came true.

08

Storage containers with drawers

Storage containers with drawers

The Container Store is full of helpful storage solutions. We like these under bed drawers because accessing your out-of-season clothes or important documents doesn't require you to haul an entire container out. Plus, they're easily stackable!

Sometimes, we know yanking out the whole container is still necessary, especially when using a bigger container. We also recommend these deeper, breathable containers that are perfect for shoes.

09

Shine a light to different areas of your apartment

Shine a light to different areas of your apartment

Many studios suffer from poor lighting, and a well-lit space always feels bigger. Floor lamps are the go-to for any small space and flexible floor lamps are your new best friend.

This Threshold floor lamp holds five bulbs and stands pretty tall at 5 ft 4 inches. Its skinny but sturdy base will fit just about anywhere you need it to.

The flexible arms for each bulb can be pointed lower for a reading light, but they can offer more light in two ways. You can point a bulb towards a light or white wall or towards the ceiling to "bounce" the light. This reflects the light while also softening it, so you get more light and it's easier on the eyes.

The lamp has three brightness settings, which makes up for the lack of traditional shades. Even so, we recommend choosing translucent, dimmable bulbs.

10

A mirror that reflects light and style

A mirror that reflects light and style

We all know that big mirrors create the illusion of more space, but your space is precious! Instead of getting a huge floor mirror (if you really need one, try an over-the-door solution), opt for a smaller rectangular mirror. Placed near a window, this mirror can reflect light into the room, so you get a two-for-one illusion!

This Mercury Row mirror flaunts a geometric border that provides a statement piece effect without going overboard. We recommend horizontal placement, but hanging it vertically won't hurt the illusion too much.

11

Floating shelves that won’t mess up your walls

Floating shelves that won’t mess up your walls

Floating shelves allow you to take advantage of as much of your wall space as possible, but we understand being wary about creating a bunch of holes. Through some advanced physics and also magic (we assume), High & Mighty managed to solve this problem.

Each shelf comes with an adhesive strip that has a bracket on each end and a teeny tiny level in the middle. Just stick the adhesive onto the wall and push the shelf into place (that's right, no tools!). The brackets will only leave pin sized holes when you remove the shelf!

The shelves come in white, black, and espresso in lengths 18, 24, and 36 inches. The weight capacity is on a sliding scale with 18 inch shelves holding up to 15 lbs and 36 inch shelves holding up to 25 lbs. With any floating shelf, we recommend limiting the weight to 80% of what it can handle and dispersing weight across the shelf.

The shelves come in a modern or beveled style, the latter of which can be found at Home Depot in the 18 and 24 inch lengths.

12

Creative wall storage for DIYers

Creative wall storage for DIYers

If you want to get more crafty with your wall storage, repurpose a bed base. This idea from Kristina Steinmetz, an interior designer and blogger, uses an older Ikea bed base, but we actually like the curve of the LURÖY model better.

Using a couple of sturdy hooks of your choice, hang the bed base on the wall and hang whatever you please by some S hooks. 

13

Over door storage for tiny bathrooms

Over door storage for tiny bathrooms

Is your bathroom taking the closet part of water closet too seriously? Well, if you're lucky enough to have a door, you can add some storage space there.

This ClosetMaid rack is sturdy and ready to hold your big bottle of mouthwash, your extra toilet paper and towels, and more! The shelves are also adjustable, so you can fit items with unique heights. There are some nicer looking plastic racks out there, but they tend to be flimsier and have lower weight capacities. 

14

Tension rods to keep guests from walking straight into your bedroom

Tension rods to keep guests from walking straight into your bedroom

Tension rods aren't just for bathrooms and windows! With some extra-long curtains, you can divide the space to get a little privacy.

If you use this method to create the feeling of more areas, we recommend light colored curtains that never extend to the full length of tension rod. Remember: you want to free light, not trap it!

InterDesign makes sturdy tension rods that fit up to 9 ft without looking like cheap plastic. If you need something a little longer, RoomDividersNow has strong, attractive tension rods that extend up to 12.5 ft.

15

Bookshelves that let the light in

Bookshelves that let the light in

Another great way to create defined spaces in apartments are open-backed shelving units.  Even when packed with books or other knick-knacks, open shelves allow some light to filter through. Any major piece of furniture that stops the flow of light is going to make your space feel claustrophobic.

Ikea's Kallax shelves come in various sizes and are the go-to choice for open shelves. You can go for the biggest model (recommended here) or stack smaller models to your choosing. You can choose from classic black or white, or you could go for their birch, walnut, blue-grey, or bright yellow versions (these special colors aren't available in every size).

16

For when your kitchen is in your bedroom

For when your kitchen is in your bedroom

Sometimes, your kitchen isn't a separate room or area. In order to define the space, get more storage space, more counter space, and a place to eat, find a drop-leaf kitchen island.

This island from Andover Mills does everything we mentioned and looks pretty good doing so. It can be rolled to wherever you need it, and it has a spice and paper towel rack! 

17

Stealthy stools

Stealthy stools

Whether you snagged our kitchen island recommendation or your apartment has a built-in kitchen bar, acrylic stools can provide trendy seating that doesn't feel clunky. The transparency makes it seem like they take up less space.

This backless counter stool from Modway is completely acrylic for the ultimate stealth seating. For back support and height adjustments, Chelsea Lane has pairs of acrylic stools with chrome or gold legs to suit your tastes. 

18

A disappearing kitchen table

A disappearing kitchen table

For those who are very tight on space, a drop-leaf kitchen table can provide an eating area that folds out of the way when not in use. This wall-mounted table from Ikea turns into a little shelf when you're not grubbing on it, so you can keep your salt and pepper shakers in place.

19

Stackable chairs you won’t want to put away

Stackable chairs you won’t want to put away

Being able to stack your chairs can free up space when you're not entertaining. You probably have a very boxy idea in your head of what these chairs look like, but "stackable" doesn't have to be code for bland.

This LeisureMod chair stacks easily while also providing some acrylic transparency. The hexagonal pattern can be at home in a geometric space or give off honeycomb vibes in a warmer atmosphere. You can also find colorful stacking chairs with armrests or go a more traditional/shabby chic route, if you're experiencing acrylic overload.

20

A small place to eat big

A small place to eat big

The last thing you want to do is trip on your furniture, which is why we recommend pedestal dining tables. Thirty-six inches in length or diameter is the ideal size for two people to eat comfortably, but you can go smaller with a bistro table.

These Lippa tables from Lexmod only come in white, but tablecloths are coming in funkier patterns every day, so you can make them your own. We're partial to the round table, but the square version can easily slide into corners.

21

Put your corner wall space to work

Put your corner wall space to work

Take advantage of your corners! Many people don't know what to do with an empty corner other than stick a floor lamp there, but there's plenty of wall space begging to be utilized!

These Wade Logan corner shelves come in six finishes and can hold small pieces or books you want on display. The rounded shelves break up the geometric style, creating an eye-catching piece.

22

Yes, you can fit a desk in your apartment

Yes, you can fit a desk in your apartment

What could go underneath some corner shelves? Why, a corner desk of course! Whether you occasionally work from home or just need a place to type up the next Great American Novel, it can be hard to justify having a regular desk in a small space.

Wrought Studio makes stylish corner desks so you don't have to work from your kitchen island. The Coopers desk easily disappears into decor when not in use, but if you need a drawer and some shelf space, the Haugland desk is a better choice.

23

Round corner bar cart

Round corner bar cart

Bar carts are often pushed into corners, even in larger homes, but they tend to be square or rectangular. Circular carts can take up even less space while still providing a home for your favorite drinks.

We love this cart from Belham Living because it only has two tiers which means both levels can hold full-sized bottles. The cart is geared more towards wine lovers with its upside-down wine glass rack and wine bottle-sized rings on the lower shelf. Most other bottles of alcohol can also fit in these rings, but special bottles will need to go in the open center of the lower shelf or the top shelf.

For an even smaller cart, we also like this three-tier, silver Zipcode Design bar cart. We recommend building any bar cart with another person.

At The Guide, we find products that help you thrive.

When you use our links, we may earn a commission, but it will never cost you extra or impact our recommendations.


Learn More

The Guide Team