Efficient Decorating for Small Spaces

Background Information about my Living Space

While I was absolutely ecstatic about my new title, fiance, becoming engaged and getting married in less than a year meant we needed to cut spending somewhere. So when we found out that the rent for our beautiful 1,200 square foot two-bedroom apartment was going up, we had to take action. So we did what a lot of 20-somethings end up doing, and moved into my parents' basement studio apartment.

Now, this space didn't start as a studio. We had to work to get it to the point where it could resemble a separate space. In its glory days, this was my father's den, also known as his “man room complete with cable TV, a futon, sofa, and pool table. When we had company, the private entrance and driveway as well as the private bathroom pleased all house guests. Eventually, after being used as a residential space by me and later on my brother it morphed into a simple open space in my parents' basement that was rarely used.

In the process of making this space our own, my fiance and I had to find ways to efficiently decorate while keeping style and space in mind. Check out my tips on how to decorate for small spaces through our experience!

Our Peacock Feather Rug

Choose a Theme and Make it Your Own

Choosing a theme before painting a space is the easiest way to decide on colors. For this space we chose a combination of peacock and Paris themes because in our previous apartment, the bedroom was done with a Parisian theme while our living room was peacock. So we ended up combining the two and using what we had. With this theme in mind we were able to select a turquoise blue for the small accent wall, doors, and steps. We then chose a silvery gray for the rest of the walls. The end result was a much better look and feel than the previous white that had been on the walls for 15 years!

Our Kitchenette

After the paint was dry we added a kitchenette. We got a great deal on a counter top and used cabinets. After a quick paint job, some pine trim on the counter top to match the pine car siding, drawer and cabinet pulls, they were as good as new! Luckily my father is brilliant with building furniture and he built the cabinet under the fridge to lift it up to normal height. Adding the bakers rack and the rolling cart added even more space for me to store kitchen tools and small appliances.

We also have some interesting tools for cooking. Instead of an oven, we have a large counter top convection oven and in place of a stove top we have a portable induction cook top. The best part is that they both work better than a more conventional oven range.

Rolling Cart

Because there is no plumbing in our kitchenette we keep a red dishpan on top of the microwave to collect dirty dishes and we take them to the other side of the basement and wash them in the laundry room sink. To be honest, I didn't think I was going to like washing dishes by hand, at all. We had a dishwasher in our apartment that I REALLY loved. However, doing dishes is something Josh and I do together at the end of the day. I wash and he dries and puts them away. Who would have thought it was actually relaxing and gave us a chance to catch up on the day's events?

Furniture Placement

View from the Outdoor Entrance

Defining the space is important, especially in studio apartments and larger open spaces. In this case, I tried to define an eating space, a cooking space, a dressing space, a living space and sleeping space. To do this I placed our dining set alongside the kitchen area and the living room furniture in front of the bed and the dresser and dressing table alongside the bed. 

Make a Statement

Choose a couple of statement pieces. Ours is the bed, the sofa and peacock rug. Statement pieces help identify the space and really add texture and pop to the design. The reasons these are our statement pieces is because you cannot have a king sized bed and upholstered headboard in a small space without it making a statement, the sofa is another large, yet beautiful piece but it also provides a homey and welcoming vibe. And the peacock rug, that's the theme of the room so it definitely makes a statement.

Living and Sleeping area

Storage, Storage, Storage

Take advantage of all closets, ledges, shelves and any furniture pieces you have with drawers and/or shelves. In our case, we used the ledges that stretch along most walls in the space for decorative pieces such as figurines, framed prints and photos. Although, in some instances the cats like to use them. You can also get rolling plastic totes to store under your bed. If your bed is not tall enough, try bed risers.

.Desk with Storage Options

We had a couple of desks to choose from and I went with the desk with a hutch and drawers. I realize that in smaller spaces it is wise to choose small pieces that do not have a big footprint but I am a real person and I have things that need to be put away because they are not so pretty to look at. So I went with the bigger desk with lots of storage.

Bathrooms require storage space too and while this bathroom has a cabinet and linen tower, we still needed a place to store our extra necessities. That is where the shorter industrial shelf came in. All you have to do is add a couple of baskets and it's a great solution. The laundry has a home too in the bathroom. By using a sorter with removable hamper bags we can sort our laundry. 

Bathroom with Shelves

Pets Have Needs Too

By now you may have noticed my two feline photo-bombers. Being two spoiled house cats, they need a place to go to the bathroom too. Remember what I said about using ALL closets? Well we managed to use the closet next to the bathroom for the litter box and cat grooming supplies. My dad got even more creative when he cut and trimmed out a hole in the adjoining bathroom wall (that used to be an air intake vent) for the cats to walk through to get to the litter box. 


My cats love it and it keeps the litter box and smell contained. It's very possible that I am overly excited about my cats' bathroom because when I have friends over the first thing I show them is the opening to my cats' bathroom! But if you are a cat owner, you KNOW that being able to hide that thing is the best feeling ever.

If you find that you need to downsize like I did or you are simply looking for ideas to make your current small apartment more efficient just remember to keep it simple. You don't have to buy ALL new decor and furniture. You could just invest in a couple of statement pieces that will help to amplify your theme. Just remember to take advantage of all storage spaces and maybe even use something for unconventional purposes.

Author Alicia Bowe's hobbies include reading, D.I.Y. crafts, interior decorating, and spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys camping and attending theatrical productions.