Interior Designer Shares Ways to Make a Small Apartment Feel Bigger

  • An interior designer told me how to make my one-bedroom apartment in New York better for three people.
  • She said regular-sized furniture looks better in a small space than smaller pieces.
  • He suggested dividing my living room into more spaces and getting more pieces with storage.

In 2019, after two years of living in new cities every month, my husband and I decided to sublease a 600 square foot one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

We only planned to stay six months, so we outfitted it with spare parts from my husband’s parent’s basement to make it a place for two adults. We ended up staying longer than we had planned and our apartment ended up having to become both our home and work office, our new puppy’s home, and our gym.

We are now months away from adding a newborn to our family. Not sure how we could fit so many different aspects of our lives and another person into such a tight space, I reached out to Kristy DeGina, an interior designer who specializes in small space living.

DeGina suggested what I could do to make my small apartment feel bigger and more suitable for two adults, a dog and a baby.

He said we should divide our main living area into “mini rooms”.

When you walk into my apartment, you see one long rectangle, where we have a dining area, a living room, my husband’s office, and a workout space.

I struggled to understand how to make a space that was used for many things both functional and beautiful.

window to the living room, sofa, table in the corner

Our main living space has to fulfill many functions.

Jen Glantz

DeGina suggested that I divide the area into “mini rooms” to better use and define the space. A simple way to do this is to add a rug under the sofa in the middle of the living room.

“Adding a rug when baby starts crawling is not only helpful, but it will make the space feel cozier and cozier,” she says. “Plus, it will define specific areas in a room so it’s clear where your work space is and where your living room space is.”

DeGina said I could get the carpet I wanted, but since I have a baby and a dog on the way, she suggested avoiding a light color that would easily show dirt and stains.

It’s also good to take inventory of the furniture and be open to relocating it

He also suggested we inventory the furniture we already have before bringing in any new items. We need to decide what we can get rid of to make room for baby stuff and replace the rest.

I was planning on donating our exercise equipment and kitchen table in our main living area. We will get rid of the desk and bench in our bedroom.

jen glantz apartment

The interior designer said we should add a rug under our couch.

Jen Glantz

From there, DeGina and I discussed the items I planned to buy for when the baby was born, including a crib, changing table with dresser, and recliner.

Based on that information, he figured out how I could neatly put it all together.

Image of living room by jen glantz

Here’s what my space might look like if I make the changes Kristy DeGina suggests.

Christy DeGina

In our master room, he suggested moving the couch, media console, and TV closer to the window to better define the living space. If I decide to keep it in that space, it will make room for a recliner and a five-year-old.

Since we got rid of our dining room table, DeGina suggested adding some bar stools to our kitchen counter. She said we could put a bigger table where the kitchen table was, so my husband and I had room to work.

We should invest in things that have storage

Since our space is used for so many different purposes and it’s about to become a baby nursery, DeGina says it’s important to have furniture that can double as storage.

He recommended replacing our small media cabinet with a larger one with more storage. We can then use the cabinet to store dog and children’s toys, small exercise equipment (such as weights and bands) and various household items.

She also suggested getting side tables next to the sofa, storage ottomans, or a coffee table that opens up and allows you to place items inside.

As for our bedroom, he said we could add storage under our bed using plastic containers.

jen glantz bedroom nightstand white bedside cabinet

I hope to add a closet for baby stuff.

Jen Glantz

If we have more money in our budget, we can instead invest in a bed frame with drawers underneath to store sheets, baby items and even out-of-season clothes.

Additionally, after removing the bench and table from our bedroom, we can place an additional closet (with a changing table on top) for the baby’s clothes, toys, diapers, and other essentials.

with jen glantz room

We will get rid of the desktop and the bench, which does not add memory.

Jen Glantz

He said it’s good to keep our walls bare

When we first moved into this apartment, we didn’t have a plan for the design and style of the space. We just wanted to make sure it was functional so over the years we left the walls pretty bare.

I asked DeGina if there were any opportunities to add memory or style by adding anything to the walls.

jen glantz nothing on the living room walls

We haven’t hung anything on the wall above our TV.

Jen Glantz

He mentioned that we could add floating shelves above the couch, but that would be more for decorative purposes. Storing too many items on them can be impossible or cause visual clutter.

Anyway, she reminded me that for safety reasons, I shouldn’t hang anything above the crib or the baby’s changing area.

If we want to use decor to enhance the space, she said, we can add a large mirror behind the sofa or two side-by-side mirrors to make the room appear larger.

Also, I shouldn’t be afraid to buy normal size furniture

Finally, DeGina told me to avoid buying small pieces of furniture, which is a common mistake people make when decorating small spaces.

“When you have a small space, sometimes smaller pieces can further reduce the size of the space,” she says.

He noticed that I have a small mirror, a desk and a media cabinet in my living room. If I were to replace this piece of furniture, he said, I should shop as if I were designing a medium-sized living room, which would make the area feel larger.

In general, I have a lot of great ideas for optimizing my space

apartment plan illustration by jen glantz

Kristy DeGina’s rendering of what my apartment plan might look like with some adjustments.

Christy DeGina

Finally, I understand why it can be beneficial to work with an interior designer to map out a space.

It’s part of their job to make spaces work for different people by understanding their priorities, the floor plan, and the items they want to make sure fit into the space.

Many of DeGina’s suggestions are things I would never have thought about on my own, even though I spend a lot of time in my apartment.

I’m looking forward to moving furniture, investing in a few new pieces, and adding more storage solutions.

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