This Simple Decorating Trick Creates Visual Cohesion in a Teeny-Tiny Space

published Oct 5, 2022
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Credit: Erin Derby

In theory, decorating a small space should be easy. You don’t have a lot of space to play with, so you should be able to fill it with the essentials and check off tasks in a cinch. Yet, most people don’t want their home to be designed solely with must-haves — no matter the size. That’s when the job of decorating tight quarters becomes more challenging. After all, how do you make a tiny footprint encompass the necessities but also showcase your personality? 

In this 200-square-foot Upper West Side studio, Bailey Heldmar faced this dilemma after deciding that she loved the apartment’s location and could see its potential. The studio had an exposed brick wall — a classic New York City detail — and fit in her budget. As an added benefit, her neighbors made her feel welcome in a place that some have called home for 40 years, too. The space did have its drawbacks, though, namely as far as natural light was concerned. “My unit is on a low floor and doesn’t get a lot of light, so I sometimes call it my ‘cave,’” she says. “I leaned into it and made a cozy, warm retreat from the hustle of NYC.”

Heldmar describes her style as lived-in and cozy, aspiring to be the type of English country cottage look that’s perhaps a bit cluttered. Her home exudes that comfortable yet quirky charm though, particularly with the floral quilt at the foot of her bed and the bust that acts as a vase for greenery on the mantel. The one aspect of her apartment that’s traditional yet clever — and a universal trick for small spaces everywhere? Most of the wood pieces she uses for storage have a similar stain and finish. 

Credit: Erin Derby

“I had to rethink how I used all of my furniture,” Heldmar says. “I previously used the wood cubby piece (found in my grandma’s attic!) as a bookshelf, but I knew it would be great for extra kitchen storage. The coffee table used to be my bar ‘cart,’ and the armoire that housed linens for many years offered a clever shoe-storage solution!”

Not only do these pieces provide function, but they also create visual cohesion in her small space. If all of these items were stained in various colors, it would give off a more mismatched, maximalist, and maybe even cramped feel. Yet, because these different pieces are mostly all stained dark, it’s easier for the eye to move throughout the room, and perhaps, this continuity even makes the space feel slightly bigger than it is. 

“One thing that surprised me about moving into a studio was how expensive it was to get settled in,” Heldmar adds. “You need such specific items to help you stay organized, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind I have when everything has a place.”

Since these wood pieces are the same shade, the other aspects in her home work together better, too. The stain complements her brick wall, and that shared backdrop makes the many colors of her books stand out. The saturated terracotta color of her pillows fit in nicely, too, as does the red hue of the rug underfoot 

If you live in a small space, consider which wood shade best suits your style, and stick to it as you decorate. It’ll likely be the thing that helps tie everything together.