Apartment dwelling in dense cities is a joy for some; they think of nothing but the great proximity to bars, restaurants, museums, cafes, etc. For others, apartment living is a burden; they are consumed by their space cramped. Though the joys of city amenities may be of little comfort to the latter, there is no reason to feel claustrophobic in your space, no matter how small. By following the simple principles in this piece, you’ll learn how to make even the tiniest city apartment feel open and airy.
Mind The TapeMind The Tape
When arranging furniture in an apartment, the first thing to bring in is a tape measure. Measure each room and the openings as a reference for what will or will not fit. Bring some masking tape to visualize various-sized pieces in a room. For instance, we are laying out a 3′ x 6′ rectangle in the dining room to see if a table that size will allow enough room for chairs and people. Not that exact dimensions have to be settled right then and there but to get some general notion.
Watch The WallsWatch The Walls
When faced with staging a small space, the temptation is to move all the pieces out to the room’s perimeter, up against the walls. Counterintuitive though it may be, it’s a time-honored law of interior design that allowing some space between the walls and furniture objects will produce an open, spacious feeling. Experiment with the idea; try moving the bed out to the center of the room, maybe anchored by an area rug. Break the mold of facing pieces toward each other straight on, try angling them, and play with the geometry. You’ll be surprised by the dramatic effect these small changes can have on the feel of a room.
Layer For Visual InterestLayer For Visual Interest
Don’t forget to consider the vertical element of your layout. Just like the city you live in, the vertical real estate of your apartment is valuable. If a room has mostly short pieces like seating and coffee or end tables, contrast it with a tall floor lamp or place art on the walls to draw the eye upward. Drawing attention to the vertical component of the room will inherently make the space feel larger. The goal is to create layers.
Neutral PaletteNeutral Palette
Adhering to a more neutral color scheme with your furnishings and decor items will also create a sense of openness. Not that each space needs to look like a meditation chamber, but consider adding accents of color over a foundation of natural tones that allow the eye to glide over the space. Also, maintaining the same wall color throughout the apartment will increase the effect as you glance from one room to the next with a seamless palate.
Varying colors in each space will make it feel choppy (though accents here and there are fine and done right can be stunning).
Storage in an apartment is paramount. Sure, you have your closets, and with any luck, some built-ins if it’s a prewar building, but you’ll have to get creative beyond that. There are the obvious solutions; custom floor to ceiling shelves in the living room to store and display records, books, objets d’art, etc. An armoire, chest-of-drawers, or sideboard in the bedrooms. These are great but break the mold; try placing a credenza behind the couch for added storage and a surface to display pictures and place lighting. Or, instead of a coffee table, hunt for a vintage navy chest that can double as a keeping place for books or blankets.
Get a few of them and place one at the foot of each bed. Any opportunity to gracefully stow things will reduce clutter; always welcome.
As with any space, a smaller apartment must allow for good traffic flow. Traffic can mean a few friends over for a dinner party (which is something to plan for) and just you and your partner going about your day. Try to leave three feet between a piece in the center of the room and the wall, and keep openings clear. This both enables safe passage and makes for a clean aesthetic. Also, consider curves; the forgiving edges of round or oval tables are easier to work around in tight quarters than their more geometrically severe cousins.
Keep these principles in mind; use them to help simplify the arrangement process, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself and make it your home. Choose pieces that speak to you, not too many of them. And don’t forget to pick up some plants while you’re at it.