6 Budget Decorating Tips for Small Spaces


My apartment is approximately 400 square feet, or about four times the size of your average Starbucks restroom (Stock Quote: SBUX). In New York City that’s nothing to complain about, though creating a functional and fun living space in a 20 x 20 room has been a challenge, especially when I entertain friends.

Given that more folks are downsizing or trying to do more with less in this economy, I’d like to share some handy decorating tips, for those of us not endowed with generous square footage. 

1. Go Deep. You want scaled-down furniture without compromising comfort. The key, according to Michelle Rohrer-Lauer from Michelle’s Interiors Design Group in Grayslake, Ill., is depth. She suggests picking trimmer couches and chairs, pieces that may be armless or have thin frames, but still have deep seats, ranging between 20 and 22 inches for the most comfort. 

2. Double Up. My queen-sized bed has six built-in bottom baskets, a secret place to store my winter sweaters and extra sheets. Flat-top storage ottomans and sleeper sofas are other examples of double-use furniture that’ll save space and money.  Something as simple as a step ladder can be used to display plants or picture frames, along with helping you reach a bowl in a high kitchen cabinet. 

3. Create an Optical Illusion. One of Rohrer-Lauer’s favorite and oldest tricks is to create an interesting mirror design using small mirror squares on a wall. “It gives you the feeling the space continues even more,” she says. Also, when choosing accents like pillows and art work, use smaller proportions. “It makes the space look larger.”

4. Divide and Conquer. My friend Jessica paid $1,000 to put up a wall in what was her one-bedroom apartment, effectively turning it into a two-bedroom. It later became extra revenue for her after she rented out the space.  In a few months she broke even on the investment. Check with your landlord to make sure putting up a wall in your apartment is allowed.

5. Keep it Bright and Light. Avoid dark colors and furnishings, which can make your space seem smaller. Rohrer-Lauer says one of the most important considerations is wall color. Keeping the walls bright and organic-colored with maybe a warm orange or a light blue or green lets the artificial and natural lights give the room a boost. 

6. Give the Room Texture. Some monochromatic wallpaper with texture can add dimension to the walls and make the space seem bigger.  There’s also what’s called “faux painting,” paint kits that come in different treatments like wood, brick or marble.  Create a unique feel with these decorative and space-enhancing wall accents.


Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8.


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