The 15 Best Sources for Outfitting Your Small Space

updated Jun 16, 2023
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

Furnishing a shoebox of an apartment or a tiny home can be quite the challenge, especially if custom goods are beyond your budget. But it is possible to be strategic about how you source items, from carefully choosing the retailers you shop at to browsing sections like the “back to college” department, for example, where you might never have thought to look. And of course, double-duty items, smart storage pieces, and clever repurposing opportunities are always your small space’s best friends.

No matter your style or budget, there’s a small-space-friendly store out there for you. Add these 15 designer-approved sources to your bookmark list, and happy shopping!

It’s always good to have a plan when it comes to shopping at IKEA since this Swedish megastore is constantly introducing new products and has lots of inventory. So what do pro designers recommend? “Their open-back shelving is super flexible and can go in a ton of different types of rooms — playrooms, libraries, bedrooms,” says designer Jennifer Jean Morris of JMorris Design. “I added some interior shelves to an entry, and it became a great shoe depot, and with some bins, I can grab gloves or sunscreens for on-the-go.”

In fact, IKEA’s KALLAX series is also a favorite of designer Janet Lorusso, principal and owner of JRL Interiors. “This is my favorite piece for small spaces because IKEA also sells a variety of bins that fit the cubbies, as well as drawers and doors, so you can configure it to be covered or open storage specifically for whatever you need,” says Lorusso. “It can function as a cabinet, a drawer, a display, or a bookshelf and comes in a variety of configurations that can be used vertically or horizontally.”

Lorusso is also a fan of the HEMNES daybed. “It’s a sofa by day and a bed by night as well as a dresser because of the storage space underneath,” she says. Talk about a triple threat! These kinds of multitaskers are the kinds of pieces you should invest in to maximize your square footage.

When you want more of a choice in patterns and colors, or maybe something a little trendier than IKEA, give West Elm a look. “What I love about West Elm is that they have smaller apartment-sized sofas and smaller chairs in all kinds of colors, styles, and patterns,” says Alice Chiu, principal of Miss Alice Designs. They even have a curated “Small Space Solutions” landing page, so modestly sized abodes are clearly top of mind for their in-house design team.

This one may come as a surprise if you don’t keep up with home news, but Pottery Barn actually launched a dedicated small-space collection, PB Apartment, a few years back, and it’s good, y’all. You’ll find transitional sofas, desks, consoles, beds, and dining tables with petite proportions, plus modular shelving and items with extra built-in storage. A lot of the pieces are in stock and ready to ship, meaning you don’t have to wait weeks for custom-made designs, and many are also part of PB’s “everyday value” pricing structure, so they won’t break the bank.

Looking for a sofa that’s tiny but doesn’t skimp on style? Check out modern e-tailer APT 2B for a bunch of apartment-sized, made-in-the-USA options. The store stocks lots of different silhouettes, and you can order fabric samples if you want to check out one of their bold colorways in real life before committing. (Don’t worry — beige, gray, and navy are options, too.) APT 2B is also the exclusive upholstery partner of designer Kyle Schuneman, who was named a House Beautiful top 20 new design talent to watch. Did I mention the sofas also come with a lifetime warranty? That’s a lot of mileage, folks.

Over the years, modern furniture emporium CB2 has quietly built up its more modestly sized offerings. They don’t have a small-space collection, per se, but they stock folding tables, wall mount shelves, and cabinet-style wardrobes for those who deal with another small-space tragedy: lack of closets. If you’re looking for clean and compact home solutions, definitely check them out.

Sara Cannon, designer at House Heroes LLC, is all about shopping at chain stores targeted to young folks, like Urban Outfitters and even PB Teen, for scaled-down pieces. “My own home is a 1920s row house, so it’s super narrow and has smaller rooms that are way more compartmentalized than a modern home,” says Cannon. “While I treasure my ‘grown up’ pieces, I have to admit that I scored quite a bit of decor and storage items during back-to-school sales when retailers are targeting college students moving into little apartments or dorms.” Urban Outfitters is great for sofas and beds, but they also offer rolling rack storage solutions, shelving units, side tables, and ottomans from a lot of the same vendors as sister store Anthropologie. On the whole, UO furniture is just a bit smaller and more youthful.

Think of the newish direct-to-customer brand Open Spaces as a tightly curated, cooler younger cousin to The Container Store. Their current collection includes different kinds of organizing accessories, from bins and baskets to racks and dividers. The overall look and feel is clean and modern, thanks to a muted palette of light woods, gray felts, and powder-coated steel.

Another great Japanese minimalist brand is Yamazaki, which specializes in small-space-friendly storage and decor pieces for every room of the home — particularly the kitchen, bathroom, and entryway. If you love quiet wood pieces that mix and mingle with black and white, then this is a site fo you to shop, for sure. Keep in mind that popular sites like Amazon, Urban Outfitters, and West Elm also stock Yamazaki, so it’s always a good idea to compare costs to snag the absolute best prices.

When you’re looking for special storage pieces, make sure Expedition SubSahara is on your list. Founder Sofi Seck stocks beautiful woven baskets in tons of different colors and sizes, with or without lids, so you’ll surely find something that catches your eye and fits in with your design scheme. Many of the styles are great for entryways, bathrooms, and media rooms.

If you have a bigger budget, Made Goods is an amazing resource. “Small-sized heaven — they often have petite sizes for bedside and console tables that can be nimble,” says Jennifer Jean Morris. Translation: Their little pieces can really go anywhere in the house and (literally) fit in. The craftsmanship is on point, too. “Their quality and finishes are so refined, so you really don’t feel like you are giving up anything,” adds Morris.

Don’t let the name fool you — since 1969, this New York-based store has been a go-to for far more than just cabinetry. You can find relatively affordable custom wood furniture of all sorts, including storage beds, wall units, radiator covers, and dining tables. Freestanding and built-in styles run the design gamut, from Early American and Art Deco to Shaker and mid-century modern. Many pieces are backed by a lifetime warranty, and you can get a custom job quote for free. Check out their clearance and floor sample section for ready-to-ship items at even deeper discounts.

(Image credit: Resource Furniture)

This NYC-based retailer is the place to go for multifunctional pieces and furniture that transforms — think Murphy beds, sofa beds, and furniture with streamlined silhouettes. Their modular pieces can also accommodate drop-down desks and extra storage compartments. “One room we designed for two brothers with Resource Furniture featured tall storage units with beds above and desks below,” says designer Elizabeth Sanchez Vaughan of In-Site Interior Design. “It was a lot of function for one small room.”

Designer Melanie Morris of Melanie Morris Interiors is another fan of the brand. “Going to Resource Furniture with a client is like taking them to a magic show,” says Morris. “One of their products I absolutely love is their Goliath Glass Console Table that goes from 17 inches in depth to a full-fledged dining table up to 115 inches long.” Magic indeed! Morris is also a fan of their Murphy beds.

When designer Hillary K. Cohen of hCO INTERIORS is working on a spatially challenged room, she loves to visit Calligaris, especially for dining tables. “They have modern pieces that are designed with great proportions and smart touches,” says Cohen. “In our ‘River Residence’ project, we used a round dining table with a marble top that expands when you have more guests.” Not only is the base of the table designed to fit as many chairs as you need, Cohen says the extension pieces for the top are also stored within the table. That’s a true space saver.

If you don’t have a full-line showroom near you, several retailers around the country sell select Calligaris pieces.

Fans of a more minimalist aesthetic will appreciate this Japanese chain store’s stylish brand of housewares and storage items. Additionally, many of their pieces have simple, scaled-down silhouettes, particularly in the furniture collection. If you are looking for more compact cooking utensils and closet organization solutions, you can find these kinds of items here, too.

Credit: Vitsoe

If simple, Scandinavian-style interiors speak to you, IKEA is not your only option, particularly when it comes to shelving. In 1960, German designer Dieter Rams introduced his 606 Universal Shelving System, and this modular design is still a small-space dweller’s dream. Fill out this questionnaire, upload a photo of your room, add dimensions, and specify your budget. Then Vitsoe (606’s exclusive manufacturer) will come up with a configuration that’s best suited for you and your space (with no obligation to buy). The best part? You can keep adding to the unit and take the entire thing with you if you ever move.