This Design Expert’s Organized 750-Square-Foot Rental Apartment Is Full of Brilliant Hidden Storage
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Name: Shamika and Matt, young kids Sagan and August, and pets Oakley and Fudge
Location: Bergen Lafayette — Jersey City, New Jersey
Size: 750 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting
Starting the year off by touring the homes (and drawers, pantries, closets, and more behind-the-scenes spots) of professional organizers, small space dwellers, and other design experts has become a tradition on Apartment Therapy. After all, how your home functions is just as important as how it looks, and I personally never tire of seeing how the pros organize their spaces. You can find great home tours and even greater organizing advice from this year’s fresh crop of inspiration (and catch up on last year’s tours) all on this one page: Professional Organizer Home Advice.
This year’s first expert organizer house tour is of Shamika of Maximizing Tiny. Shamika’s expertise comes from living the small-space lifestyle herself, having maximized several homes she’s lived in over the years, including the 750-square-foot rental apartment she currently shares with her partner Matt, two kids under 3 years old, as well as two pets! Through her business she helps clients with practical and creative solutions—like what size furniture to purchase for a small home, how to maximize storage space, and how to lay out furniture so that as much function as possible is squeezed out of a small home.
And she’s also made the most of her own home, like carving out a cute dining nook in a living room corner, and converting a closet into a nursery, and even squeezing a small desk/nightstand combo in her bedroom. It’s all the hidden storage ideas she’s packed into this small space that really blow me away (she’s generously organized them all into this Instagram highlight). And while Shamika doesn’t refer to Maximizing Tiny as a professional organizing company—she bills herself as someone who can help you create beautifully stylish and cohesive interiors—I believe a huge facet of designing tiny homes is maximizing organization!
Of course, it’s not just the fact that Shamika’s home is so organized that makes the small space impressive; it’s how she’s made it work so beautifully for everyone in the family (pets included!). Their living room/dining room/playroom space, for example, is where her family spends the most time and is the ultimate example of a multi-functional room. “Our eldest, Sagan, will be 3 in February, and our youngest, August, just turned 1, so the bulk of their lives consists of playtime. We also have a 60-pound pit bull, Oakley, who thinks he’s a lap dog and a cat, Fudge, who is Oakley’s best friend,” she says. “Full house is an understatement, but we make it work.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: My style is mostly a blend of minimal and neutral with a splash of afro-inspired patterns and handmade goods. You’ll also see a bunch of boho sprinkled throughout. I love integrating natural fibers for texture. I prioritize simplicity and coziness over fashion in my home.
Inspiration: I’m inspired by my desire to blend function and style. I believe that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style in a small space and you don’t have to use the space ‘by the book’. You can and should make your space work for you. Determined to make my space work for me, I did away with the ‘rules’ and did what served my needs and my cravings for aesthetic appeal
Favorite Element: My favorite element in my home is my dining nook. Most apartments in my area don’t have formal dining areas, but also aren’t big enough to have a dining table in the kitchen. Being a family of four with young children, it was important for us to be able to have a space where we could all sit down and eat a meal, do an activity, get some work done, etc. Before I created this dining nook, we just had a bar table and bar stools in that space for us and a high chair for our one little at the time. It wasn’t a great use of space and definitely not kid-friendly; it felt like too many pieces of furniture. This option works much better.
Biggest Challenge: It’s not a challenge anymore, but at one point, the closets in here were completely useless. Namely, the kitchen “pantry” closet and the bathroom linen closet had two oddly spaced shelves that completely wasted space. It was impossible to store things in there effectively without it looking like a zoo or turning into an avalanche when you took something out.
Even though it’s an apartment, I did not hesitate to rip those closets out and replace it with an ALGOT shelving system from IKEA. We were able to customize the shelves and make them immensely more functional than they were.
Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY is a table I made in a furniture making class. I’m not sure if it technically counts as a DIY, but I did do it myself and I’m incredibly proud of the skills I learned in that class. I’ll be using them to make all types of furniture in the future.
Another DIY that I’m incredibly proud of is my sons’ room. I hand-painted wall features on two walls in his room and they make such a big impact. I freehanded each star on the wall of stars and hand-stamped each set of moon phases on the wall to create a wallpaper effect. The impact is HUGE. He has such a dreamy room.
What items, hacks, or tricks do professional organizers use in living rooms, specifically? Fill the space with furniture, don’t skimp on size, and don’t get oversized pieces. You want to have a goldilocks moment to maximize the space in your home. One piece that I always try to maximize in living rooms is the TV stand. I like to mount the TV when possible to free up surface space and go BIG with the sideboard—as wide as the wall it’s on if I can. Instead of searching for typical TV stands in a living room that are only slightly bigger than the TV, I sometimes seek out sideboards because they’re usually taller and wider (more storage space). If you have a 55” TV and a 10-foot wall, go for the 84” – 93” TV stand. Fill the entire wall to maximize your storage space. Use it for everything from toys to books, to media to tools, etc.
If you have space for a bookcase, choose a bookcase that goes all the way to the ceiling or as high as you can find, and use woven baskets to corral smaller items together on the shelves to keep a clean aesthetic and eliminate visual clutter.
What are your organizing routines before you go to bed? Do you have any organizing routines that you do right in the morning? Before I go to bed, I clean up any kids’ toys that are scattered around, empty the dishwasher and dish drainer, start a new load of dirty dishes, and make sure the kitchen counter and stove are clean. I clean my little one’s booster seat and the dining table and get ready for the morning. In the morning, I’m welcomed by a clean space right before the kids destroy it again. It really helps me to get a fresh start on the day in the right headspace. Some mornings when I know I have a lot to do, I write a list on the chalkboard by the fridge so I can see it throughout the day and stay on track.
PAINT & COLORS
- Bedroom Circle — Behr “Royal Orchard”
- Kids Room House Bed — Fusion Mineral Paint “Liberty Blue”
- Kids Room Stars — Benjamin Moore “Bumble Bee Yellow”
- Kids Room Moon Phases — Benjamin Moore “Classic Gray”
- Corolla Modular Sofa — Raymour and Flanigan
- Black and White Throw — Target
- Soraya Trellis Ash Grey Rug — Ruggable
- Dash Throw — EQ3
- Gallery Wall — Botanical I and II, Woven Basket, Vintage Postcards, Monica Lewis Art, Wall Pocket
- SINNERLIG Pendant light— IKEA
- TV Stand — Wayfair (Walker Edison), out of stock
- Bookshelf — BROR Shelving Unit from Ikea
- BJÖRKSNÄS bed frame — IKEA
- Micke Desk — IKEA
- JOHANNE throw — IKEA
- PAX Wardrobes — IKEA
- Wall Lamps / Plug in Wall Sconces — Lamps Plus (no longer available)
- Garment Rack — I got it at Target, where it’s currently out of stock, but Amazon also has it: IRIS Dual Shelf Garment Rack
- Hangers — Rose Gold/Copper Hangers
- Baskets — IKEA
- Wallpaper in the nursery closet nook – 2Pack – Reclaimed Wood Distressed Wood Panel Wood Grain Self-Adhesive Peel-Stick Wallpaper