Small Space Design Tips: From LA Architect David Applebaum

Small Space Design Tips: From LA Architect David Applebaum

Beth Zeigler
Mar 9, 2009

030909david-07.jpgWe had the opportunity to pick the brain of LA's architect to the stars, David Applebaum. While some might think that an architect (especially during times like these) is a luxury, David reminds us that an architect should be trained to coax the most luxury and livability out of every square foot. While he couldn't reveal any juicy secrets of his famous clients, he did let us in on a few tricks to make any small space feel roomy.


  • The theme to making a space seem larger is to always keep the eye moving. The easiest way to accomplish this is a serious editing job. And that step is the most difficult. Cramped and cluttered spaces feel smaller.

  • A Murphy bed. This is an efficient concept since the bedroom is mostly unused during the day and the living room similarly unused during the night. In exchange for the extra effort of closeting the bed, one utilizes the space for its need when required.

  • Dining tables can also do double duty for dinner parties at night and function as a work desk during the day.

  • A rolling Craftsman toolbox is great for kitchen utensils.

  • A framed mirror can give off the appearance of a window and a mirrored wall will make the room feel twice as large. In addition, a framed mirror placed on the wall perpendicular to a window will create the illusion of another window. Large or small, mirrors will break down the solidity of the walls on which they hang. My primary advice is to be creative, but not to overdo it.

  • Another trick is to edit anything that looks heavy. That means replacing the shag carpet with one that has a low pile, wood or tile. It also means replacing thick drapes with blinds, shutters or a translucent, gauzy material.

  • Paint is a great way to open up a small space and you can start by differentiating the ceiling color from the wall color. Another trick is to subtly vary the color of each room to accentuate the spatial differences. What's more, a certain luster will make a room look larger. And to take that one-step further--stripes are a fun way to keep the eye moving and make your rooms look larger.

  • After you have removed those heavy drapes, borrow elements from both sides of the glass and extend your living space outdoors. Matching the materials, colors and elements on both sides of the glass will literally expand your room. For instance, if you match the tiles or decking of your exterior to the interior room, that room will look like it continues beyond the glass.

  • An easy DIY project that targets the most under-utilized wall space of any home or apartment--the area that is just above the doors and windows. A shelf that circles the room just above the header of the doors and windows, like a halo, will provide heaven sent storage that you never knew you had.

  • If you are really tight on space, things like stools, cleaning supplies and electronics might be forced into view. So buy the well-designed vacuum and the cleaning products that were designed by a professional.

--Thanks David!

[Image on first page from House Tour: Greg and Laura's Space Maximizing Bungalow]

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