10 clever interior design ideas

When you live & work in a small home

I grew up in a medium to small-sized apartment, which I shared with my parents, my brother and our house cat. With 21 I went on an exchange year to Madrid and ended up living in various shared flats. One of the rooms I rented was just big enough for a bed that folded out of a closet and a table-sized board that was attached to the closet and transformed into a small desk. A foldable chair completed the pieces of furniture in my room. During my year in this room I really learnt how to maximise small spaces and make use of every little bit of room available. This would come in handy years later when I moved into a studio apartment in Amsterdam and even shared it with my boyfriend for a year. Did I mention we are both freelancers working from home?!

I know what you’re thinking now. She must be traumatised from living like a sardine all her life. Well, yes and no. Yes, small rooms, houses and apartments can sometimes feel pretty claustrophobic. But, what I always liked about a compact space was the feeling of cosiness. Anyone else obsessed with tiny houses??

I like to keep my space pretty clean and clutter-free. Be mindful of what you put in your home. A little vase here, a few boxes there will all fill up your small space in no time. On the plus side, it’ll take you no time to clean your entire apartment. I say that’s a huge win!

In addition to keeping up with my less is more attitude, there are a few other tips and tricks you should consider when planning to furnish your small apartment:

1. If you work from home like me you’ll need an office corner, that essentially has everything a normal office has, but in a more practical way. Think foldable everything! A fold-down table you can put down when you’re done working and a folding chair you can put away (e.g. hang it on the wall, then it doubles as wall decoration). Instead of bulky cabinets you can use shelves above your table to keep books and other office documents as storage space.

2. In a small apartment/studio it’s pretty likely that you have an open kitchen/living room area. You probably don’t want to eat your dinner sitting on your sofa (all the time), but there’s also no chance you’ll fit a full-sized dining table in. Instead of cramming a normal table in, consider putting in a bar with stools. This doubles as work area and uses less of your precious space.

3. No meditation room? No problem! If you like to get your zen on before work, you just need a few things to transform one of the corners of your biggest room into your personal sanctuary. Place a nice cushion on the floor, decorate with a candle or some incense and use a folding screen (that you use at night to separate your bed from the living area) to create the right ambience to meditate.

4. If you have a little room for a sofa or a comfortable chair, don’t bother cramming in a bulky coffee table in front of it. Get one or two of those little tables that perfectly fit a cup of coffee and a book, so you can move them around as needed. Or, use cubes/small stools that also double as extra seats when you have friends over.

5. We’re still optimising space in your living area. If you have a TV, don’t put it on a media console, but instead hang it on the wall. This frees up so much floor space and will make your room less cluttered. Plus, it’s wall art!

6. Speaking of wall decoration. When I decorate I tend to think practically. You can hang up that expensive bike you’re keeping in the apartment, beautiful plates, folding chairs, colourful bags and hats. It’s practical and at the same time nice to look at. Speaking of decoration that doubles as art, think of an interesting rug as a focal point in an otherwise minimalistic space.

7. If your bedroom/sleeping area feels too crammed or you live in a studio apartment, you can use a sofa bed instead of a normal-sized bed to gain some extra space during the day. A folding screen or a bookshelf are perfect dividers between your sleeping and living/working area.

8. Create zones with the help of a strategically placed bookshelf, a curtain, a plant, a chair or a screen (as mentioned before). Or, you could paint certain areas in a different colour to create the illusion of a room. Sometimes a dark colour like navy blue or dark green works well in a small space as it creates a perception of depth.

9. Use mirrors. This is the oldest trick in the book but it really works. A mirror will visually transform your space into a larger and lighter area. Glass is also a good idea to make a room seem bigger. A glass door (to your balcony) or a bigger window can really open up a small room/apartment.

10. Be creative with your storage space, especially in weird-shaped areas that don’t fit any furniture. Maybe you can place boxes under your bed or between the tops of your closets/shelves and the ceiling. Often people don’t consider this as a practical storage space, but with help from a little step you can reach this area. Plus, the step doubles as a seat or a place to put a pot plant. This practical trick also makes your room feel higher.

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