Interior designer explains how to make small apartments look bigger

Interior designer explains how to make small apartments look bigger

  • An interior designer told me how to make my one-bedroom apartment in NYC better suited for three people.
  • She said regular-sized furniture looks better in a small space than smaller pieces.
  • She suggested I divide my living room into more rooms and get more pieces with storage.

Loading Something is loading.

Thanks for registering!

Access your favorite topics on the go in a personalized feed. Download the app

After living in new cities every month for two years, in 2019 my husband and I decided to sublet a 600 square foot one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

We had only planned to stay for six months so we simply furnished it with spare parts from my husband’s parents’ basement to make the space livable for two adults. We ended up staying longer than planned and our apartment eventually had to become our work from home office, new puppy and gym.

Now we are months away from adding a newborn to our family. Unsure how we could fit so many different aspects of our lives and another person into such a small space, I turned to Kristy DeGina, an interior designer who specializes in small space living.

Here’s what DeGina suggested to make my small apartment feel bigger and more suitable for two adults, a dog, and a baby.

She said we should split our main living area into “mini rooms”.

When you enter my apartment, you see a long rectangle that contains our dining area, living room, my husband’s office, and our workout area.

I’ve been struggling to figure out how to make a space used for so many things both presentable and functional at the same time.

Living room overview window, couch, desk in corner

Our main living area has to fulfill many functions. Jens Glantz

DeGina suggested dividing the area into “mini-rooms” to better utilize and define the space. An easy way to do this is to place a rug in the center of the living room, under the couch.

“Adding a blanket is not only helpful for a baby when they start to crawl, but it will also make the room cozier and more comfortable,” she said. “It also defines certain areas in that one space, so it’s clear where your workspace is compared to your living room.”

DeGina said I could get any rug I want, but suggested avoiding a light color that shows dirt and stains easily because I have a baby and a dog.

It’s also good to inventory furniture and be open to repositioning it

She also suggested that we inventory the furniture we already have before bringing in new pieces. We should decide what we can get rid of to make room for baby items and reposition the rest.

In our main living area, I planned to give away our exercise equipment and kitchen table. In our bedroom we will get rid of the desk and bench.

Jen shines apartment

The interior designer said we should put a rug under our couch. Jens Glantz

From there, DeGina and I discussed items I would buy when the baby was born, including a bassinet, a changing table and dresser, and a recliner.

Based on this information, she designed how I could integrate all of this cleanly.

a depiction of jen glantz's living room

Kristy DeGina’s take on what my space could look like if I make the changes she suggested. Kristy DeGina

To better define the living space in our main room, she suggested moving the couch, media console, and TV closer to the window. This would accommodate a lounge chair and cradle if I decided to leave it in this room.

Since we’re getting rid of our dining table, DeGina suggested we just add some bar stools to our kitchen counter. She said we could put a bigger desk where the kitchen table was so my husband and I have space to work.

We need to invest in items that have storage

Since our space is being used for so many different purposes and will also be turning into a nursery for the baby, DeGina said it’s important to have furniture that can double as storage.

She recommended that we replace our small media cabinet with a larger one with more storage space. We can then use the cabinet to store dog and baby toys, small exercise equipment (like weights and bands), and various household items.

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

When it came to our bedroom, she mentioned that we could use plastic bins to add storage under our bed.

jen glantz bedroom bedside table white bed dresser

I’m hoping to add a dresser just for baby stuff. Jens Glantz

If we have more cash in our budget, we can instead invest in a bed frame with drawers at the bottom to store bedding, baby items, and even off-season clothes.

Additionally, after removing the bench and desk from our bedroom, we can add an extra dresser (with a changing table on top) for baby clothes, toys, diapers, and other essentials.

Jen Glantz room with "x" on bench and des

We’re going to get rid of the desk and bench that don’t add extra storage space. Jens Glantz

She said it was okay to keep our walls bare

When we first moved into this apartment we had no plan to design and style the place. We just wanted to focus on making it functional, so over the years we’ve kept the walls pretty bare.

I asked DeGina if there are any ways to add storage or style by adding to the walls.

jen glantz living room nothing on the walls

We didn’t put anything on the wall above our TV. Jens Glantz

She mentioned that we could add floating shelves above the sofa, but it would be more for decorative purposes. Storing too many items on it could be inconvenient or cause visual clutter.

However, she reminded me not to hang anything over the crib or changing area for safety reasons.

If we wanted to use decor to elevate the space, we could add a large floor mirror or two side by side behind the sofa to make the space feel bigger, she said.

I shouldn’t be afraid to buy regular size furniture either

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

“When you’re short on space, sometimes smaller pieces can reduce the size of the room even further,” she said.

In my living room, she noticed that I have a small mirror, a desk, and a media cabinet. When replacing this furniture, she said, I should shop as if I were designing an average-sized living room, which makes the area feel larger.

Overall, I got a lot of great ideas on how to optimize my space

a representation of jen glantz' apartment layout

Kristy DeGina’s take on what my apartment layout could look like with some adjustments. Kristy DeGina

Finally, I understand why it can be helpful to work with an interior designer to plan a space.

Part of their job is to make spaces usable for different people by understanding their priorities, their floor plan, and the items they want to make sure fit in the space.

So many of DeGina’s suggestions are things I never would have thought of on my own despite spending so much time in my apartment.

I look forward to rearranging furniture, investing in a few new pieces, and adding more storage solutions.