11 Ways to Do Big Things With Your Small Space (On a Tiny Budget)

how to decorate a small space

Vertical storage in a bright color, a large mirror opposite a window and a clear console all help to create the illusion of space. Array yellow bookcase and other items from

We've all been there. Some of us are currently there. Where, you ask? A small apartment. As more and more young adults flock to cities and forgo owning homes and cars to pay off student loans, or just enjoy an active lifestyle, small apartment dwelling is on the rise. Your mom may find the prospect bleak, but you certainly don't have to. Check out some tried and true ways to maximize space and create a cozy little corner in the big bad city that's all your own. 

Metal Shelving Units

Definitely embrace what the interior design world calls "open space storage" to decorate small spaces. Instead of cupboards and drawers (which can be few and far between in small places), pick up a simple metal rack to hold your stuff. Organize your dinnerware, linens, dry food goods, even your clothes. There are tall standing racks that have horizontal shelving, as well as horizontal bar racks made for hanging clothes. If you put your prettiest things on display, then open storage becomes a statement of your personal style, and we're all about expressing individuality.

Pick a Standout Hue

In the game of musical apartments, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Like a place with outdated counter tops or seriously old school bathroom tiles. One way around features you can't change is to decorate small spaces with a strong, standout color. Choosing one bright hue draws the eye away from undesirable elements to the new focal points you've created.

Be Creative with Storage

No place to hang your hat? Pick up a bookcase with removable and/or adjustable shelves. Take out top shelves to create open space you can place hooks in that'll let you hang hats, jackets and use as a nook for placing umbrellas. You can fit shoes in bottom shelves you leave in place. 


Think of this trick as an oldie, but a goody. If you have wall space directly opposite a window, it's the ideal place for a mounted mirror. The mirror will reflect natural light back into the apartment, create a cool infinity thing and give the overall impression of largesse. No windows? No problem. Create a wall mosaic of small mirrors to act as both decor and a "bigger-is-better" feeling.

Mount It

Many of us have made the switch to flat screen, but some of us haven't taken the leap of having the screen mounted on the wall, instead opting for the easier stand. Putting the TV on the wall frees up precious space below and draws the eye upward, giving the impression of a bigger pad. Get help from friends, the building super or a freelance handyman to get it up there. 

Skirt the Issue

Another way to hide unwanted space is to put a skirt or a curtain over it. Velcro is at every craft store, create a foldover hem, attach velcro to a pretty piece of fabric and put it over unsightly areas, like below the sink where the cabinet doors have mysteriously disappeared.

Clear Solutions

Here's another visual trick: Buy plexiglass furniture items, or use a glass top table to decorate small spaces. The clear materials, like mirrors, will help create the feeling of more space.

Give it Legs

Look for furniture items with legs, as opposed to ones that sit directly on the floor. You can see the theme with your decor is to leave as much space visible as possible while still making the space feel decorated. 

Keep it to Scale

Some designers like to play with big accessories in small spaces, but if you're new to home decor, your best bet is to start small. Don't overcrowd the space with too many things.

Let No Nook Be Underutilized

So many older places have odd little nooks, crannies and divided spaces due to years of many tenants. Use this to your advantage. Are you sure that recessed spot between rooms is too small to insert a shelf you can use as a desk? 

Think Before You Buy

Definitely move into your pad and unpack before you go on a shopping spree. One unlucky small-living-spacer admitted that she bought first, and ended up having to throw things out because they wouldn't fit with what she'd brought from her old place (and wanted to keep).