3 Interior Designers Answer All of Your Burning Small-Space Questions

Updated 05/02/19
Small Living Room
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

It seems as though the bigger a city is, the smaller the apartments are. The average size of a New York City apartment built between 2010 to 2016 is 866 square feet, while in San Francisco, a typical unit is a meager 825 square feet. In Los Angeles, a standard apartment is only slightly larger, coming in a 916 square feet. All of these averages are smaller than units built from 2000 to 2009, and if this is any indication, apartments just keep getting smaller for the typical city dweller.

However, a small living space is simply an opportunity to get more creative with your home décor. To find out exactly what issues are facing those lacking in square footage, we asked our Instagram followers what their most problematic small-space challenges are right now and took their complaints straight to the experts.

Whether it's creating multiple functions for one space, finding smart, stylish organization pieces, or getting creative with your décor, there are plenty of ways to take a small space from cramped to cozy. Allow three interior designers to show you how to decorate a small room, no matter the dilemma.

The Challenge: An A-Frame Bedroom

Small A-Frame Bedroom
Fantastic Frank

"How [would you] decorate an A-frame bedroom? We love our furniture but we have a corner that’s a huge waste of space. How do we bring art and color into a room with limited wall space? How [do we] make it cozier?" — @meghan.spooner

While a slated A-frame room can present challenges when it comes to wall décor, interior designer Ginny Macdonald suggests adding some form of treatment to the wall, like wallpaper, shiplap, or a limewash paint. "Those will help to add some interest to the walls and make it feel more homely," she explains.

Hanging art is the tricky part, but it can be done. Macdonald and interior designer Max Humphrey both recommend finding nontraditional ways to display art in an A-frame room. You can tack up unframed prints, vintage posters, flags, or fabric art. "Just because a piece of art isn’t framed doesn’t mean it’s not special," according to Humphrey.

Benjamin Rasmussen Noah Swimming $80

The Challenge: A Small Walk-In Closet

Small Walk-In Closet
Fantastic Frank

"We recently bought a new house—moving in the fall while we wait for it to be finished building. In the meantime, we're shopping and planning out everything… [Our walk-in closet is] an okay size, but I want to maximize it without spending a ton. Do I bring a dresser in there? All shelves? Help please!" — @tina

Interior designer and author Nate Berkus suggests heading straight to The Container Store to stock up on handy storage items. "Go all the way to the ceiling with storage and keep a step stool inside your closet so you can access what you need," he says. You'll want to have open shelving at the top of your small closet, according to Berkus, as well as a mix of long hang, double hang, and open shelves. For something a bit more stylish, find a dresser to break up your new storage system.

In addition to creating an organized space for all of your things, a walk-in closet is also an opportunity to have a bit of fun with your design choices. "Think about how you can personalize the space before you install," he advises. "I like the idea of a temporary wallpaper in a color or pattern that would make you happy to see it every day."

Morris Dresser
Urban Outfitters Morris Dresser $499

The Challenge: Make Room for a Home Office and Nursery

Small Bedroom and Office
Fantastic Frank

"How do I turn [a] room into an office and a nursery?" — @katethekazaryan

When it comes to planning for a baby, Berkus is quick to advise against setting up a nursery anywhere near something that could wake the little one up. "My advice is to move the desk to a different wall in your home, like your bedroom or another space," he says. If space allows, dedicate one room or section of your home just for the baby to ensure that they (and you) can get as much peaceful sleep as possible. "Trust me, as a dad of two, you'll never want to take a conference call in there when the baby is napping," Berkus says.

Audrey Mini Desk
West Elm Audrey Mini Desk $399

The Challenge: Clutter

Organized Entryway
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

"With a small space, it's important to minimize clutter. But with my busy schedule, I find organizing and cleaning to be a huge pain. [Do you have] any tips for making a small space more organized and visually sound?" — @tati_wm

"Being organized is such an important part of living well," Berkus says. He and Macdonald both propose creating designated areas for everything from your mail to your car keys to stay organized and eliminate unseemly clutter. That means baskets for shoes by the front door, trays for keys on the entrance table, bowls for TV remotes, bins for magazines, and boxes for things like hardware supplies, cleaning products, and bathroom essentials, according to Macdonald. "Obviously those things have to look cute if they are going to be out in the open, so look for fabric-covered boxes, ceramic trays and bowls, and wooden boxes," she says.

Seagrass Tray Set
Anthropologie Seagrass Tray Set $118

The Challenge: A Studio with a Baby

Small Studio Apartment
Fantastic Frank

"I'm currently living in a tiny house with my 1-year-old daughter. It's a studio setup, so we're sharing one big, open square space. This means that when she goes to bed at 7:30, it's all lights out and headphones on. It's not been too bad because we have a wonderful porch area, but during our first winter, I imagine I won't be so happy about it. I've thought about [partitions], but they wouldn't go all the way to the ceiling to fully block the light. Suggestions?" — @sweetemmagrace

Aside from building a new wall entirely, there are a few options to help create boundaries and make a studio layout feel more divided. If you're able to make more serious alterations, Macdonald suggests adding a ceiling track with a curtain to section off a space and help muffle sounds. The track allows you to easily open up the space during the day or close it off in the evening, and the right fabric will do wonders for noise blocking in style. "Using a heavier-weight fabric like a thick linen or velvet will not only help to muffle sound, it will feel cozy in the winter months," she says. 

If installing hardware into the ceiling simply isn't possible, you can try fabric folding screens, which Macdonald says will work similarly to a curtain as a barrier at night but folded away during the day. Humphrey echoes her advice, suggesting hanging vintage fabric panels from the ceiling to block light and create separate spaces. He also suggests ordering custom canvas panels to hang on the walls with grommets for easy install and removal. Finally, a canopy bed is another solution for increased privacy in an open floor plan. It won't block out the sound but it will give you the sense that you're in your own space.

Whitaker Four Poster Bed
Serena & Lily Whitaker Four Poster Bed $2998

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