Tips for Decorating and Organizing a Small Apartment

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Design Inspiration: Cozy Apartment Décor with Small Balcony
Who knew that small apartments could be so cool? Spacious lofts and almost palatial apartments having been the must-have places just a few years ago, smaller apartments are definitely gaining on them. Now one-bedroom and even one-room studio apartments are among the hottest trends. What’s more, the real fun of these popular spaces is in personalizing them. With a few tips for decorating and organizing a small apartment, you can transform a utilitarian box into a home that is uniquely yours.

Glamorous and luxurious, sleek and sophisticated or free-spirited and funky, whatever décor rocked those large living spaces, will be just as spectacular in a smaller one. In fact, small apartments offer the perfect opportunity to try some of the trendy decorative elements that might have been a bit too expensive on a large scale. Now they fit in the budget just right, making these small places very cutting edge. And so are you for choosing them.

The question is where to start. First, forget all the old-school rules on decorating small rooms. Painting every wall white, purchasing lots of tiny furniture and foregoing patterns of every kind might have worked in yesteryear, but that was then and this is now. Break the rules. Putting your personal stamp on your home, fill your apartment solely with items that speak to you, that make you smile each time you look at them, that represent you and your personality. Weave a few noteworthy guidelines into your decorating plans, and the rest will take care of itself.

Scale is one consideration worth incorporating when decorating small spaces, so think big. Yes, conventional wisdom is that small rooms need small furniture — wrong! A collection of small elements only serves to make the room look cluttered and even smaller. Selecting fewer, but larger-scale pieces actually enlarges the room. Besides, isn’t large furniture more comfortable?

Picture a medium-size couch accompanied by a large, upholstered chair or forego the couch in favor of four large chairs. Adding to either vignette, a glass, mirrored or Lucite coffee table takes up no visual space, yet serves its purpose beautifully. Alternatively, a leather or upholstered ottoman makes a striking coffee table, as would two or three small end tables, placed side by side. Versatile and easily rearranged, these pieces offer myriad uses in a room, from seating to storage to an ideal spot for serving refreshments.

And while we’re on the subject of furniture, the tighter space constraints of small apartments call out for furnishings that do double duty. Answer that call with, perhaps, a beautiful desk replacing the traditional bedroom nightstand, creating the perfect niche for writing or bill paying, with drawers for extra storage. Or a bookcase, ascending to the ceiling, adds not only vertical interest, but also a display case for your book collection, television, and ornamental pieces all at once. Using your creativity, think outside that box that everyone’s always talking about.

Now, for the special effects that add star power to a room, consider color, pattern, lighting and decorative accents. Placed on a wall opposite or adjacent to any window, a mirror, for example, is the perfect accent, immediately expanding the visual space and reflecting light around the room. Since you’re the real star in your own home, let each embellishment set your tone, playing a role in telling your decorative story, so to speak. And, oh, the stories they can tell!

Paint the walls in your favorite color, for instance, even if that color is black. Indeed, dark colors add depth to walls in a small space, lending elegant drama in one setting and an air of moody mystery in another. It’s all a matter of how you style it, what you put with it. It’s only paint, so experiment.

Coordinate wall color with the other decorative elements in the room, and suddenly you’ve made a statement. A monochromatic palette using varying shades of one color, for example, offers a calm and sophisticated effect that also visually expands the room. Meanwhile, the interplay of two or three complementary colors — blue and yellow, perhaps, or cranberry and green — provides a more exuberant ambience, possibly matching your own personality. Of course, you can combine the two ideas, enlivening a single color scheme with pops of color for a striking presentation. What matters is that the overall look says that you are the one who lives there.

Throw in pattern and small rooms really come alive. Just limit the large-scale patterns to one per room, keeping all patterns in a room to one color scheme. Then, whether it’s the boldness of animal print upholstery, the wild mix of bright colors in a vintage wallpaper or the chic statement made by subtle striped draperies, it will work as long as color and scale are balanced. It’s that easy.

Then check your lights. While they may be on, why not wield the power of a dimmer switch to add a little atmosphere. Lowering the brightness of reading light to the intimate level of candlelight, the dimmer switch works its magic deftly in a small apartment. Just place lights in a triangular formation, to cast balanced light around the room. Control them all with dimmers, and enjoy the ability to change the ambience from festive to cozy.

Elegant or rustic, urbane or casual, a small apartment can be a wonderful refuge that welcomes you home, invites visitors to linger, and most importantly, reflects who you are. It’s just a matter of having a few tips for decorating and organizing a small apartment.

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