When I started apartment hunting in New York City, I thought I had pretty realistic expectations. All I wanted was a true one bedroom apartment with plenty of natural light, a bathroom that's far from the bedroom, and enough room to entertain every now and then—is that too much to ask for? Just one hour into the search and I realized that I might as well have asked for a West Village duplex for $1000 a month. Every apartment we saw had its quirk: Awkwardly shaped living rooms, kitchens that barely qualify, bathrooms with uneven flooring… you name it, we saw it.
So, when we walked into a "junior one bed" that ticked all the boxes, we signed on the dotted line. The issue? It was tiny. Determined not to be disheartened, I turned to colleagues, friends, and neighbors to find out how they made their small spaces feel larger (or just more livable). As it turns out, New Yorkers are a resourceful bunch, and where there's a will, there's a way.
Here are some of the smartest small-space decorating tips I learned from people who live in tiny apartments (and still love it).
"Tall, leaning mirrors work wonders. I'm working with Interior Designer Jeremiah Brent through Decorist, and he recommended two West Elm mirrors to flank the french doors in my living room. It reflects the limited light and makes the whole place feel huge." — Sophie, East Village
"When you live in a tiny apartment, items are no longer room-specific. If you need to put winter clothes in a box in your pantry, so be it. I put matching boxes above the kitchen cabinets to take advantage of the space and also reset the bars in my closet to fit storage beneath. Every inch counts." — Tavia, Alphabet City
"I've learned to use unsuspecting items as décor. For example, my boyfriend's surfboard has essentially become an art piece in our living room. It has plants and books arranged around it in a corner, so it feels intentional (and not like we're living in a bachelor pad), and I've found that it adds character to the space. Even things like coffee beans and tea sit out on the counter since we're so low on pantry space—I just put them in pretty containers, which is my go-to solution for everything." — Kelly, Williamsburg
"When I first moved into my current place, the bedroom felt like a box. Adding touches of greenery, like succulents on my bedside table and a hanging philodendron in the corner, seemed to breathe new life into the space. Plus, plants purify the air, which is a huge plus when you live in a city like New York." — Kelsey, East Village
"I've had to get creative with storage, using a bookshelf for my jeans, keeping off-season clothes under my bed in suitcases, etc. It's not easy finding a spot for everything, but thinking creatively really helps." — Aemilia, East Village
"I use an IKEA shoe rack as a TV mount. It's narrow, creating more floor space than the original low, wide table. It also gives us valuable storage for shoe overflow from our closets and adds height. We have pretty high ceilings, so I wanted to draw peoples' attention upward to make it feel spacious." — Annie, East Village
"One mistake that people often make is buying too many pieces of small-scale furniture. Instead, I went with a few key pieces—a queen bed, a sofa, a small bistro table, and a dresser that would hold most of my possessions—and a large ivory rug to tie everything together. Treat your small space like a hotel room: By only keeping the essentials and focusing on high-quality furniture, you'll make your home feel cozy and inviting, as opposed to cluttered and mismatched." — Gabrielle, Alphabet City
"Place risers underneath the feet of your bed to accommodate under bed storage. I utilized Container Store's Wide Under Bed Storage Bins to hold my additional bath towels, books, and off-season clothes. Then, I had my favorite upholsterer, Victor Hernandez Upholstery in Long Island City, make me a custom bed skirt to hide the storage." — Samantha, Upper East Side
"The best thing I did was add low shelving just above the baseboard in my bedroom. I had someone from TaskRabbit come in and hang the shelves so that it perfectly fits all my shoes. Like Carrie Bradshaw, I like my money where I can see it." — Rena, Gramercy
"My apartment is a hot mess, but the one storage item that's really useful is this InterMetro unit from Container Store. These units create storage solutions where there are none. I use one now as a closet substitute, and I had a kitchen-specific one in my last tiny apartment in place of a counter. It doesn't really count as smart styling, but it's smart purchasing, so that's something." — Giselle, Harlem
"I'm a former beauty publicist (and all around beauty junkie), so my apartment is filled with makeup, skincare products, body lotions … you name it, I've got it. I've acquired so many things over the years that I've actually started using smaller items such as nail polishes, eye shadows, and lipsticks as décor. I have some tall vases filled with nail polish in my hallway next to my side table, and I really love using apothecary jars as well." — Victoria, NoHo