The Counterintuitive Secret to Making Your Home Feel Twice as Big

published Jan 8, 2024
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Colorful art filled gallery wall above shelving unit in living room.

One of the hardest things about living in a studio apartment is making it feel like it’s not a studio apartment — you know, giving the illusion of separate rooms and more space, rather than having one big, open area. It’s a challenge you might deal with even if you live in a larger space that requires you to use one room for multiple purposes. How can you make it look like everything isn’t just thrown together and out all the time?

Building a new wall is one way to do it, but that’s not really an option in rentals (and obviously is cost-prohibitive, as well). And really, a wall isn’t the best choice anyway if you’re looking for flexibility in your space. The best option, I think, is one that was shown off in renter Malon Kraaijvanger’s tour of her Berlin home: a long, flowy curtain hung from the ceiling.

“For the longest time, I tried separating the bedroom area from the living room area by just having chairs in front of the bed,” Kraaijvanger says. “I felt I was living in the same room a bit too much and really wanted to accentuate the ‘different areas’ of [the] bedroom, living room, and home office. Basically I wanted to have the illusion of a separate bedroom without actually having one.”

The chairs weren’t quite cutting it, but a shelf felt like it would take up more room than Kraaijvanger wanted to sacrifice in her 377-square-foot apartment. “I wanted something lighter, but still effective,” she says. “Then I was talking it through with a friend and came up with the idea of separating it with a curtain!”

Kraaijvanger wanted to limit the holes she put in her rental walls, so she opted for a long tension rod. “Make sure the pole is slightly longer than the space you try to cover, so that the pressure of the pole between the two walls makes it very sturdy,” she says. Once she had that, the project was as simple as pushing the rod as close to the ceiling as possible to eliminate any gaps and fitting it with sheer curtains (hers are from IKEA).

If you’re OK putting holes in your walls and ceiling, a sturdier option is to use track rails that you can screw into studs. This option from Amazon is under $40 and made with a flexible material that can be installed straight or on a curve.

Kraaijvanger’s rental-friendly curtain rod let her do a tool-free installation, but it did mean that the rod she has in place can’t hold more than the ultra-lightweight sheer curtains that are on it. For heavier fabrics — velvet, anyone? — you’ll need to reach for a drill and screw a track directly in place.

Even though it’s a simple project, the effect is almost instant. Once the curtain was up in Kraaijvanger’s apartment, it suddenly felt a lot less like a studio and a lot more like a one-bedroom. And dividing up the area had the surprising effect of making the space look bigger — first, because there’s less furniture to clutter your view from the living room, and second, because hey, now there’s a whole new room!

Now Kraaijvanger can work from the living room, or have guests over, without her bed taking center stage. (And in your own multi-use space, you could, say, hide away a cluttered craft area when guests sleep over, or close off an office area when it’s time to kick back on the couch and watch TV.)

I am happily surprised with how it turned out and how much it changed the look and feel of the space!” Kraaijvanger says. “It actually feels like I have my own little bedroom now compared to before where it felt like I was sleeping in the living room. For any next interior upgrades, I might make the curtains myself or find nice ones secondhand, and maybe add some more color!”

Like the idea of customizing your own DIY curtains to use as a divider, too? Check out these 18 easy DIY curtain ideas.