Thinking Big in a Small Space, guest post



A shortage of space in an apartment is only a challenge, not a problem

Many, maybe even all of us, often struggle with space in our home. This is certainly always the case with those of us living in an apartment. No matter how hard we try, or how much clutter we clean out, there’s always a sense of just not having enough space to store all that you want to keep or display.


With a little thought and a lot of creativity, even the smallest of apartments can accommodate the biggest of ideas. Most of them, as those on a tight budget will be pleased to hear, involve simply adjusting the existing outlay of your apartment:


  • How to use the walls and floor space

  • Convert furniture to storage space

  • Tricks with lights and mirrors

Let’s have a look at how you can make the most of the space you have


Using The Walls


It’s too easy to say “just put some shelves up” as a solution to storage. Our thinking on this subject is often to simply stack a vertical line of shelves up on a wall wherever they will fit, and leave any wall with immovable objects (light switches, windows) shelf-free. This just wastes valuable space.


Why do we need geometrically correct, vertical lines of shelves? Having stacked, flowing shelves often allows you to not only put more on them, but lets you work around things like light switches.  

Creating a wave like effect with the shelves also looks incredibly stylish, something enhanced by some careful consideration of what you store on them.


On the subject of walls, if your TV is currently not attached to the wall, I have to ask why not? The era of big, clunky televisions has gone. The LCD, Plasma or LED TV you have in your home was designed to be placed on a wall, not stood on a cumbersome stand. Mount your set on the wall, put up shelves for the DVD player and the cable box, get rid of the TV stand and look at that – a whole lot of space under the TV for a more practical cupboard or set of drawers.


Small floor area can be problematic when it comes to carpets. To this I say don’t look at carpets, look at rugs. Many stores specialise in over-sized rugs. These are designed for huge homes, but you will find they perfectly fit a smaller apartment room. A rug you can just lay down over the existing carpet, and when it needs cleaning or replacing it’s a lot easier to take out – indeed as it is to take with you if you move.

Changing Furniture Use


Let me ask you this – do you have an eReader or a tablet computer at home? Do you also have bookcases full of novels you have read and will not read again? If you answer yes on both, right after you have read this you need to get a box, clear your books out into it, take them down to a trade in store and start using your bookcase for something more practical.


Bookcases are fantastic for storing things other than books in. Getting some desk buddies from an office supply store and putting them in it gives you a large amount of drawer space. For the more adventurous, how about removing the top half of shelves from the case? Do that, place a pole at the top of the case and there you have it, hanging space for your clothes.


Not all changes of use require some Do It Yourself skills. If you have a look at the lounge, are your couches and chairs flush against the wall? If so, there goes another potential use for them to help with storage. If you angle the chairs in the corners of your apartment, you not only increase the floor space, but also create a small cubby to store things behind them.


Tables and drawers in your apartment can also be converted with minimal effort. Simply cover them with a large, attractive looking piece of cloth or blanket. All of a sudden your drawers are now also a table to put things on; your table is now a place under which you can store things without them being visible.

Lighting, Glass and Mirrors


It’s with good reason that magic tricks are often referred to as being all “lights and mirrors”. That’s because, more often than not, they are.


Lighting is of importance in an apartment, in particular the more modest sized one. Tradition has us always assuming that the ceiling is the place for the main source of light in a room. It certainly does not have to be. Having a series of lights on the walls of your apartment not only looks better (how many times have you walked into an apartment and the way the light hangs from the ceiling has made you feel you are in an interrogation room?), but creates an effect of making the room look bigger than it is.


Mirrors, other than their intended use, are great to have in an apartment. Positioned correctly, they help spread natural sunlight through the rooms of your apartment, making them look more spacious and lighter.


If your budget allows it, always go for a glass surfaced coffee table and a glass dining table. Sure, you have to be more careful with it than regular wooden ones, but the benefits are worth it. If I took you into identical rooms, only one featuring a wooden table and one featuring a glass one, you would swear that the glass tabled room was the larger of the two. This great trick on the eye will give you a great dining table and the appearance of a more spacious home.


As promised, most of what has been said here relates to things you can go and do right now to make the most of the space in your apartment. One or two ideas will cost, certainly, but this is your home we are talking about. There are few better investments for your money in this world than being comfortable in the place that you live.


If this article has inspired you to make changes to your apartment, or you have thought of another way to make the most of limited space, then why not share and discuss what you did with all of us here? The internet is the greatest communication tool we have; why not use it to share thoughts and ideas that will truly help others with their home and apartment design?

Adam Prattler, with his wide range of knowledge on a number of popular subjects and his dazzling writing skills make for compelling reading, composed this article after a number of conversations withRental Apartment professionals in  Liberty MO.


21 thoughts on “Thinking Big in a Small Space, guest post

  1. Great ideas, on space saving…We are in the process of de-cluttering and the scrap iron dealers who drive regularly around our avenue have had some great finds as hubby gets to grip with clearing his garage :-)


    • What’s with men and their garages? :-) As I’ve gotten older I want less and less around me. Plus, the less I have the less my children will have to deal with when I am gone. It’s amazing how much we can accumulate in a good long life.


      • I know…. its a case of ” it will come in handy, so I will save it”.. Trouble is, when that handy moment comes, they can never find it so buy a new bit anyway! :-) … But that’s Men! LOL
        My Hubby has been a bit of a garage hoarder over the years, and the garage door sticks, so I can not lift it.. so I said we have got to get a new door.. So hes making a start of clearing out… at Last! :-D


        • Isn’t that true? :-) I grew up with a grandfather who was so neat that his saved stuff was so organized he always knew where things were, it was a surprise to me later to learn he was one of the very few.


  2. Great ideas, and yes, I agree about having the TV’s on the wall, we have the one from our living room above the fireplace so it doesn’t take up space but the others one are still on top of dressers, I have to get hubby to work on that :-)
    you know when hubby and I we moved in together, we had so many books, so months later, I decided to give them away not all of them but over a 100 of them and just kept the ones I loved or meant something to me (Like a gift from hubby or my mom) and now I used that space in my bookcases for “craft supplies” :-)


    • I saved my favorite books, the ones that mean something to me and got rid of the rest. I organized a few things and now have a total of 17 inches which holds my books, and 2 stack-able CD boxes; one holds movies and music the other my sewing supplies. Before this I had a seven foot by 5 foot bookcase filled plus books in every possible storage space. My sewing supplies I mostly inherited, I had never gone through them before. I found a lot of things that were of no use to me, passed them on. And the DVDs and CDs I removed from their plastic cases put in paper sleeves to minimize space. I showed my daughter-in-law who had 2 full bookcases full of DVDs. She liked it so much she now has 4 of the CD boxes sitting on one shelf, with more room next to them for books. It’s all about looking at your stuff a bit differently.

      Hope you get hubby to deal with the TVs for you soon. :-)


  3. Good suggestions!

    We’ve focused on making our balcony our “little piece of heaven.” We bought potted palm trees, and plan to put wood flooring down, over the concrete. Most of our time at home, is spend out there.

    As far as televisions are concerned–we don’t watch TV, but occasionally watch DVD’s and play video games (we have a Wii). We use a projector, and project onto our white wall. It doesn’t show at all, when we aren’t watching or playing, and it barely takes up any space at all.


    • Bethany, you are going to have to share pictures of your balcony when you get it done. Does this mean you plan on staying there longer than just a few months like you originally intended? A projection TV is a good idea, huge space saver! I didn’t know you could play games with them, how cool.


  4. I like the tip about the rug … often, in an apartment or any rental unit, we aren’t allowed to change things. Putting a large rug over an existing carpet would make the space more interesting and “our own”. Thank you for all the suggestions!


    • You are welcome, when my boys were little I bought a few pieces of remnants and had them bound so they wouldn’t fray, they were perfect for keeping the existing carpet clean as the boys knew the throw rugs were where they played.


    • Marlene, how horrible that you can’t hang anything on your walls! Just because you rent doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to personalize the space to make it feel like home. Having policies that restrict what you can do results in a higher turnover of residents. I hope you find the place you want to call home soon.


      • I too want to find a place as soon as possible. The last place charged me for every nail hole no matter how tiny. This one is more strict. Yes, they have a high turn over but that’s how they make their money.. I’ll find a place next summer for certain. I’m hoping one more winter without the costs of moving and more healing will put me in a better position.


        • Marlene, that’s crazy. If you do have small nail holes in the walls you can patch them with a dab of toothpaste. They will never know the difference. I have my fingers crossed that you both feel better soon and find the place you want to call home.


  5. I wouldn’t assume everyone has a TV that can hang on a wall. I have a great tube TV that is almost 10 years old and works great, and was way cheaper than the skinny ones sold these days. Personally I keep my walls for art, not for electronics. For me, rather than trying to find more space, I make sure every time I get something, I give something away. I don’t believe in having lots of knick-knacks, so my house (which is the same size if not smaller than most 2BR apartments) doesn’t get crowded. I have two bookshelves with my favorite books, and whether or not I’m going to read the classics, I’m never going to trade them in for an e-reader. I’d much rather surround myself with books than just about anything else in this world :)


    • EcoGrrl, I think you know how I feel about TVs. I find them to be a waste of my time, nothing worth watching anymore so I don’t own one. I agree with you, I would rather have art on my walls, something I enjoy looking at. I did donate almost all my books when I moved here because I realized I could get them all at our library. Since moving here I’ve tried using a Kindle app, but it’s not the same as holding a book, I have nearly 50 years of fondling the pages while I read, or looking to see how many pages are left to a chapter to decide if I want to keep reading or put a book down. I can’t do that with an eReader. If I had to choose, books would win out over any other type of collection.


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