Small Space Living Hacks That Will Make Your Life So Much Easier

These 10 small-space secrets will help you maximize the minimum.

Photographed by Ashley Batz.

While living in a small space might not be your dream scenario, small-space living does have quite a few benefits. The smaller your pad, the less items you have to move and store. And small apartments are so much easier to clean. If you're new to living in a small space, and you're struggling with how to best trick out your tiny home, these small-space living hacks are about to make your life a whole lot easier. 

Being a small-space dweller requires some creativity on your part, but once you get into the groove decorating your studio apartment can actually be a lot of fun. While you'll need less furniture in your small space, the items you do select will have to work twice as hard as they would in a larger space. Case in point, perhaps your dining table is also your desk and it folds out from the wall.

If you have an open-concept studio apartment and you want to visually differentiate your sleeping area from the rest of the space, there are some inventive ways to divide the room. "I once walked into a studio where the owners used a large bookcase to divide the room," Maggie Fanney, a New York City real estate agent, told Apartment Therapy. "They filled the top shelves with books that created a fun and functional display and used the bottom shelves for extra hidden storage. I always recommend this to my clients."

If you eat all of your meals on the go and you don't have a lot of kitchen items, you've got some extra usable space. Channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City — she uses her oven for storage. "If you're one of those people who orders take-out (because, well, who cooks in New York City?), do what many people do in the apartments I've shown: Store your sweaters — and your shoes — in unused kitchen cabinets," Philip Salem, a real estate agent, told Apartment Therapy. Need some more small-space living inspo? These hacks are going to change your life and get you excited to decorate your small digs.

1. Make Your Apartment Look Bigger With Low-Seating Furniture

One of the tricks to making the most out of your small studio apartment is to remember that vertical space is your best friend. If you have high ceilings, create the illusion of space by opting for low-seating furniture like the Reema Floor Cushion from Urban Outfitters. Choosing low-to-the-ground furniture makes your ceilings appear higher creating a vibe that is comfy but not cramped. Sure, there's no getting around the fact that your apartment is small, but if you also make it super cozy, it will definitely be a place you'll love to hang out.

"Buy low lying furnishings where all seating hits at the same eye level for visual continuity, to keep parlor style conversations flowing, and to make your ceiling appear taller so each room comes off as much grander than they really are," Décor Aid Interior Design recommended on its blog.

One reviewer of the Rema Floor Cushion said: "We can't recommend these floor cushions enough. Comfy and perfect for every occasion. We loved how they added life and personality to our space," while another noted: "I love this floor cushion so much I ordered a second and a back cushion. It's super comfortable and great as both a couch and a bed!!!! Totally recommend. I've had it for about a year now and its still just as good as the day I received it."

Reema Floor Cushion: $198

2. Put Your Bed On Risers

Even if you're keeping your seating low, if you have a separate bed, putting it on risers can create a ton of additional storage space. When my current roommate lived in a studio apartment she used these risers from Amazon and was able to store almost everything under her bed. When we moved to a house together with tiny bedrooms, the risers again saved the day. We recently moved into a condo with huge bedrooms and large closets so she was finally able to lower her bed, but she still says those risers were the best $20 she ever spent.

What's more, while these risers look small, they're mighty and can hold up to 2,000 lbs. Reviewers agree this hack is totally boss with one saying: "Wow I have discovered a lot of storage under by guest beds using these! Easy to use. Lifts the bed to different heights depending on what you want to store. I have solved a lot of storage issues I had using these." If you want to bring your bed up even higher, you can opt for a loft which leaves you space underneath to create an office or even a DIY walk-in closet

DuraCasa Bed Risers: $19.97

3. Build a DIY Breakfast Bar

OK, you've got your comfy-cozy low rider living-room space and your elevated bed. You've also got to eat, and life is easier if you can do that at a table. Because you have a separate bed and sofa, you're going to want to opt for a super slim breakfast bar with modern stools like these WATERJOY Bar Stools on Amazon. Next, consider creating a DIY breakfast bar. The blog Offbeat and Inspired offers step-by-step instructions for creating a breakfast bar that you can hang at a window. This allows you to be able look outside while sipping your morning coffee. 

"I brought a little taste of my favorite cafe set-ups to the apartment by adding a wooden bar to one of the living room windows and brightening it up with some happy stools. Now there’s extra seating and eating space in the living room, AND I have myself a new work spot, breakfast nook, or a comfortable place to unwind while I enjoy my view of downtown Lexington with a hot cup of tea," blogger Tiffany explained on Offbeat and Inspired. "It’s hilarious how easy this was. It cost less than $200 (including the brand new stools) and took about 20 minutes to install."

So, even if you don't generally consider yourself handy, if you follow Tiffany's very specific instructions, you can totally create your own breakfast bar on the cheap.

WATERJOY Bar Stools: $55.99

4. Choose Functional Furniture

Successfully furnishing a small space means choosing furniture that does double duty. Each piece you bring into your home should serve more than one purpose. Think daybeds, desks or tables that fold out from the wall, and coffee tables that also serve as foot stools and storage bins."Smart space planning is the best thing you can do for a small or cramped [area]. I love using furniture that can have multiple purposes and can be moved around a home," Whitney Jones, interior designer and blogger, told Design Sponge.

"A small parson’s table can be used as an entry table, an office desk, or a sofa table, and house small ottomans underneath for extra seating. A storage ottoman is much better than a coffee table in a cramped space and can be used for storage, seating, and a hard surface by placing a tray on top. Decorative storage boxes are my favorite way to hide clutter in a small space and keep a room organized. I have many boxes all over my home that hide things like batteries, loose change, keys, matches, and even dish towels.”

One example of this duality is a daybed. For a daybed that's modern and comfortable for both sitting and sleeping, the DHP Franklin Mid-Century Daybed from Amazon is a affordable and stylish way to maximize space."To save on space in a small home, convertible furniture can make one room into many. A couch that folds out to become a bed, a pull-out desk that turns into a table, and a dish-drying rack that also stores plates and bowls elegantly until the next use are all excellent examples of innovative furniture that can add style to a small space while reducing clutter," the Chicago Chic explained on her blog. 

If you live alone, there's generally not a need for a large sofa or a dining table with seating for six. Design your small living space with your needs in mind. What do you need to be happy? Do you actually need a couch? I have a sofa that my roommate and I rarely sit on. In fact, we hardly use our living room at all. Sure, it's decorated nicely and is pretty to look at, but if I moved back to a studio apartment tomorrow I could part with everything in the living room without missing a beat. When deciding how to furnish your small space, make a lit of the essentials and stick to it to ensure you don't bring unnecessary items into your home.

"To get the most out of your small space I start by determining the functionality of the space, then I make a list of all furniture/items needed to use the space in that way. Once the list is complete I highlight the must-haves so I know what to focus on first. Once I know the space’s purpose and my must-have pieces I get to searching for specific size pieces to make the most of the small space. I also love finding items that serve dual purposes, like a couch that is also a bed, or a coffee table that is adjustable to become a dining table and a shelf that can hold useful items as well as decor," Jove Meyer, event planner and designer, told Design Sponge.

DHP Franklin Mid-Century Daybed: $294Eshow Ottoman and Storage Foot Stools Ottoman: $69.99

5. Maximize Vertical Space

Another secret to making your small living space seem larger than it is is to make the most of vertical space. Consider things like tall skinny shelves, or even this shelf/lamp combo from Simple Home Designs on Amazon. Grab two of these to meet your lighting and storage needs. You can use the shelves for books, plants, or whatever you'd like. 

"Small-space dwellers and decorators need to use every inch of space they have for living a full life in a small home. This means that wall and ceiling space start to gain much more importance, with stacked shelving, wall gardens, and creative placements of lights and fixtures helping to achieve a rich, intriguing home environment," The Chicago Chic said on her blog.

Simple Designs Home Organizer Storage Shelf Linen Shade Floor Lamp: Starting at $32.17

6. Carefully Consider Each Item You Bring Into Your Home

When living in a small space it's important to select timeless pieces that serve a number or purposes. Items on wheels like this Råskog utility cart from IKEA are always a win because they can be used as additional kitchen space, or space to store other items, and they can be rolled out of sight when you're not using them. "I love a utility cart that actually lives up to the word 'utility.' IKEA frames this as a bathroom storage piece (which is what I use mine for), but it’s equally at home as a bar cart, rolling spice rack, workshop organizer, or even a nightstand," Billy Domineau, who resells furniture, wrote for New York Magazine.

"So many similarly priced carts use extremely thin metal grates connected by easily broken plastic fasteners, but in my experience, the Råskog can stand the test of time while sporting an elegant, slightly futurist look." When deciding what will work best in your small living space, artist and graphic designer Wendy Furman told Remodelista that it's important to carefully consider each item you bring into your home. Impulse buys can backfire in small spaces. Ideally, every time you bring something new into your apartment, you should be getting rid of something else.

"Take your time when you buy something. Don’t go for fads, and only buy what gives you the most pleasure. Understand that you will be living with pieces for many years," Furman said. "Ask yourself a lot of questions: 'What does this add to my life?' 'What is its beauty, its function?'" Basically, you're going to want to embody Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Does the item give you joy? If it doesn't, don't buy it.

"It really comes down to making your space as efficient as possible to your needs and how you live. But the best tip I can really give for maximizing space is to declutter," Meaghan Shanley, home decor publicist at Nylon Publishing, told Design Sponge. "Decluttering is not only a good first impression but it contributes to your overall wellbeing."

Råskog Utility Cart: $29.99

7. Make Your Doors Work For You

If your small space is older, it might not provide much in the way of closet space. I looked at one apartment recently that didn't have any closets at all. The person who converted the apartment from a pool house was British and said closets never occurred to him because he grew up using armoires and wardrobes. If you find yourself in a similar situation, this is where your doors come in handy. While you might only have two doors, one to enter your apartment and one to enter your bathroom, put those doors to work for you by using the backs of them to hang coats, clothes, dog leashes, hats, and more. This mDesign Decorative Over Door 10-Hook Storage Organizer Rack from Amazon is small but mighty, and it can solve the problem of not having enough closet space.

"Another part of a home that often goes unused is the back of the door. Getting a few hooks and racks can help free up some significant space! You can use them for hanging pots and pans on pantry doors in the kitchen or hanging hair styling tools and products on the bathroom cabinet doors! This will keep your necessities at arm’s reach but away from view," Stella Van Lane wrote for Whose Your Landlord. What's more, you can use both sides of a door with one side acting as a curated display.

"If you don’t have enough wardrobe space, curate your clothes on walls and doors (the nice pieces only that fit the color palette or style) — that gives your home more of a gallery or studio vibe," Maggie Coker, creativity mentor and floral stylist, told Design Sponge. Finally, the space above the doors can also come in handy for storing linens. "Install a shelf and brackets over the bathroom door to put that out-of-the-way spot to good use: Keep towels or bulky items there to save space in closets and cabinets," the Martha Stewart website suggested. "If you have enough room to install more than one shelf, keep the items you use least frequently at the very top." Seriously, you'll never look at a door the same way again.

mDesign Decorative Over Door 10-Hook Storage Organizer Rack: $16.99

8. Design Creative Nooks

When living in a small apartment it's important to make use of space you might not think about if you lived in a larger home. For example, nooks and corners are available space that's often overlooked. Take advantage of these spaces by choosing space-saving solutions that won't make your digs look cluttered, like these Homdox Corner Shelf 5-Tier Wall Mount Shelves on Amazon. "Always look for wasted space whether that is above cabinets or your closet rack. Try hanging floating shelves or nightstands for extra storage underneath," Shanley said. Opting for something like this gives you five small shelves in a corner that you can use for books, photos, or even kitchen and bathroom items.

"In any space, no matter the size, you’ll find 'dead space,'" Toronto-based cleaning expert Melissa Maker said on her blog Clean My Space. "These little nooks and crannies generally fall between walls and pieces of furniture or appliances, or may even be above or below pieces in your home. The reality is you can likely optimize any little area of dead space that you come across. There are lots of options out there, like command hooks, hanging systems, tasteful storage boxes, and a whole slew of custom shelving solutions which come in all shapes and sizes. Maximizing these spaces with a DIY solution is much easier than you think."

Homodox Corner Shelf 5-Tier Wall Mount Shelves: $32.88

9. Hang It High

Another space-saving hack is making use of your ceiling. If you have a bicycle, and you live in a tiny studio apartment, your bike can take up valuable floor space. Invest in some Stalwart Wall or Ceiling Mount Bike Hooks from Amazon and get that bike out of your way. Aside from bikes, you can also use ceiling hooks to create additional kitchen storage for pots and pans as well as to hang plants. 

"If you are short on space, you might be surprised how handy your ceiling could be; it’s one space for some of the best interior design hacks out there. There are loads of genius ways to make extra use of ceiling space, like introducing hanging storage elements where you can store pots and pans in your kitchen," Décor Aid Interior Design noted on its blog.

Stalwart Wall or Ceiling Mount Bike Hooks: $11.17

10. Use The Magic of Mirrors

When living in a small space, mirrors are a must to create the illusion that your space is bigger than it is. "Mirrors are an age-old styling trick for making your home feel more spacious, and they never fail to work. Use mirrors to reflect light and trick the eye into thinking the space is bigger than it is," Décor Aid Interior Design explained on its blog.

"Mirrors situated adjacent to windows reflect the outdoors and are certain to make it seem as if you have another window in your room, and the more windows you have, the bigger your home will appear. Affordable with a hint of glamour, mirrors are a must for any small house interior design ideas." Consider these Midway Mirrors from Anthropologie to bring more light and depth into your living space. Mirrors are a trick I have used since I got my first apartment, and I have one mirror I've been toting around with me for 14 years.

It's large enough to make my space look bigger but not so large that it takes over the room. If you invest in a quality mirror in a timeless design, you'll have a solid piece of decor your could realistically have for decades. While it's true that the mirrors won't actually increase the size of your space, the fact that your apartment feels bigger will go a long way toward your enjoying your tiny living space. And ultimately, that's the goal.

Midway Mirror: Starting at $98

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