5 Sneaky Little Secrets of Successful Small Spaces

updated Mar 4, 2020
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The tricky thing about decorating small spaces is that they magnify flaws. When everything in the apartment is within 10 feet of your eyeballs, you’re really going to notice when something’s amiss. This means that little tiny details can make a big, big difference. If something about your space just seems a little bit off, or if you’ve put everything away but your apartment still seems inexplicably cluttered, take a look at these five details that can make a big difference in a little space.

1. Shades that mount inside the window frame rather than on top of it

In a perfect world we would all have glorious picture windows with views to our private garden, but in the real world, especially apartment world, you need window treatments so that what happens in your apartment doesn’t become everyone else’s business. For modern interiors, I prefer rolling shades, which have a nice, minimal look — especially if you mount them inside the window frame. This keeps the shade from covering up the window trim, if you have it, and it just looks neater. And you don’t have to buy custom shades, either — there are plenty of inexpensive shades that you can buy and cut to fit (like the ISDANS from IKEA).

2. Furniture that doesn’t quite touch the floor

By this I don’t mean furniture that actually floats above the surface of the floor, although if you’ve figured out how to make that happen, please let us know. I mean furniture with legs that sits up above the floor by a few inches, which creates a feeling of airiness and the illusion of extra space. In other words: if you’re buying a new sofa, get one without a skirt.

3. Wall-mounted shelves in place of bookcases

I’m such an apologist about this that I wrote an entire post about it. Wall-mounted shelves are a great choice for small spaces because they eliminate all the unnecessary parts of bookshelves — the sides, the back — and if you get them in white, they blend into the wall, creating a nicely cohesive, almost built-in look. Plus, you can mount them above other pieces of furniture, like a desk or dresser, which is a huge space saver. If you’re searching for sources for wall mounted shelving, we’ve rounded up a bunch of them here.

4. A rug that’s big enough for your space

Too-small rugs are decorating enemy #1. (Ok, they might be enemy #2 — just barely edged out by art that’s hung way too high.) It may seem counterintuitive, when your space is so small, that something not being big enough could be a problem, but it is — a too small rug can break up the floor area and visually shrink your space. Find plenty of tips on choosing a properly sized rug here.

5. Artwork that’s big enough for your space

In the same way a rug that isn’t big enough can make a small space seem smaller, art that isn’t big enough can make a small space feel tiny and awkward. It’s all about proportion and feel, which can be a tricky thing to describe, but a good rule of thumb is: little art goes on little walls, big walls need big art. And it’s usually a good idea to avoid groups of smaller pieces and go for just one larger one. Searching for inexpensive ways to create large scale art? We’ve got plenty of ideas here.

Re-edited from a post originally published 4.12.15-BM