After weeks of fruitless, disappointing, disenchanting apartment hunting, you finally find a promising listing. It’s in a great area near your job, so you won’t have a long commute to dread. It’s within your budget. It’s got all the amenities you need. And, most importantly, it’s got the space. Wow — look at all that space! It’s one thing for an apartment to look spacious in pictures, but seeing it in person and confirming for yourself is another.
Space is the most important quality of a rental, isn’t it? That’s what real estate refers to. At the end of it all, you’re paying for adequate space, and when you’re on a budget, especially a budget that nudges you toward studio apartments and smaller one-bedroom apartments, every square foot counts. A spacious-looking apartment, with high ceilings and plenty of windows bringing in natural light, will make you forget that it’s just one room.
But this is the bummer: that big, wide apartment will suddenly feel tiny and cramped once you’ve moved in all of your things. Your bed, couch, dresser, television stand, desk, and that guitar you never play will all add up to a massive chunk of floor space, making your once-roomy studio into a glorified storage unit. We all run into this problem sooner or later, whether it’s our first home away from home or our first place in a new city, and at first, it seems crazy that anyone could live this way. What we all learn sooner or later is that there are ways to make even small apartments liveable and comfortable by reducing our material footprints.
Maximizing Storage Potential
A big part of making the most of your limited space is maximizing the storage potential of that space. Sure, you can have cabinets, a big dresser, a wardrobe, and a bulky entertainment stand, but why waste the square feet? If you have a host of belongings that aren’t regularly used — for example, an air mattress, a bolt-action rifle, or SCUBA gear — you should be able to store them out of sight, or at least without dedicating floor space. Even items you use regularly don’t have to be real-estate hogs.
Consider the classic under-the-bed storage. If your bed frame is of the solid, block-of-wood variety, think about trading it for a compact folding bed frame with space underneath, where you can stash slide-out drawers and bins filled with clothes, shoes, or just about anything. Now, about that fridge: everyone puts things on top of their refrigerator, but don’t you think there’s a little more potential there than a single flat surface? Your refrigerator can be adorned with a beautiful and functional multi-tier shelf!
Use Your Walls
Your walls aren’t just for decoration! Walls are valuable real estate just like floors, and should be used to their utmost utilitarian potential. For almost every storage application that uses floor space, there’s a wall-based alternative. Forget your guitar stand — get a wall-mounted guitar holder! As for that large entertainment stand that sits around gathering dust, talk to your landlord about mounting your TV on the wall instead. With the correct mount and proper support, you’ll not only make your space more efficient, but you’ll elevate your entertainment setup to be even more immersive and seamless.
Wall-mounted shelves will also free up tons of room, and will look much more presentable than having your knick-knacks scattered across your home’s various flat surfaces. Lighting can also be rethought in this way. Instead of a lamp on your nightstand, or a big standing pole lamp, how about color-changing RGB light strips spanning the walls of your living space?
While we’re talking about lights, let’s not leave out that wonderful invention: the ceiling! Those RGB strips can be mounted along the wall-ceiling line, and you can also install hooks in your ceiling for hanging Christmas lights, paper lanterns, or even luxurious Turkish globe lamps.
One of the best ways to make your apartment feel more spacious, while not actually making it more spacious, is to hang mirrors on your walls. Many of us already have mirrors, of course. It’s always nice to have one handy outside of the bathroom, so you can check out your outfit, fix your hair, and make sure nothing’s stuck in your teeth before you walk out the door. But a mirror can also provide an incredibly effective illusion of more space.
Without consciously thinking about it, your visual brain registers a mirror’s reflection as being part of the room you’re in. That’s why so many boutique shops feature mirrors and other reflective surfaces: they’re making the most of limited space, creating an inviting environment the best way they can. If you want your place to look bigger and feel bigger, buy a few large mirrors and mount them strategically. “Whenever we can, we install wall mirrors in our vacant studios and one-bedroom apartments, because they create that sense of spaciousness apartment hunters love,” says Pete Evering of Utopia Management.
Dual-Purpose and Stashable Furniture
One of the best ways to maximize your apartment’s usable space is to combine your furniture. No, that doesn’t mean get out the wood glue and make some kind of horrifying amalgam of coffee table and office chair, although that might work in certain situations. It’s a lot more simple: get a futon or a folding bed.
With a futon, you’re combining bed and couch, rather than sacrificing one or the other as is often the case in studio apartments. Futons are obviously rather common, a mainstay in the typical bachelor pad. What’s less common, but growing in popularity, is a folding mattress.