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An interior designer explains how to make a small apartment look bigger

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  • One interior decorator told me how to make my one-bedroom apartment in New York better fit three people.
  • She said that full-size furniture looks better than small pieces in a small space.
  • She suggested I divide my living room into several spaces and get more rooms with storage.

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

We only planned to stay 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 both our work-from-home offices, our new pup’s house, and our gym.

Now we are months away from adding a new baby to our family. I don’t know how we will be able to adapt to so many different aspects of our life and another person in such a narrow spaceI reached out my hand to Kristy DeGinaan interior designer specializing in small spaces.

Here’s what DeGina suggested I do for make my little apartment bigger And more suitable for two adults, a dog and a baby.

She said we should divide our main living space into “mini rooms”.

When you walk into my apartment, you see a long rectangle where we have our dining room, living room, my husband’s office, and our workout space.

I struggled to figure out how to create a space that is used for so many things look presentable while still being functional.

Our main living space should serve many functions.

Jen Glantz

DeGina suggested I divide the area into “mini rooms” to better utilize and define the space. A simple way to do this is to add an area rug in the middle of the living room under the couch.

“Not only will adding a useful rug for a baby when they start to crawl, but it will make the space cozier and more comfortable,” she said. Additionally, it will define specific zones in that room to clearly determine where your workspace is in relation to where your living room is.

DeGina said I could get any rug I wanted, but suggested I avoid a light color that will easily show dirt and stains because I have a baby on the way and a dog.

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

She also suggested that we take inventory of 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 space, I planned to donate our workout gear and kitchen table. In our room, we’re going to get rid of the desk and the bench.

The interior designer said we should add a rug under our couch.

Jen Glantz

From there, DeGina and I discussed the items I planned to purchase for the baby’s birth, including a crib, changing table with dresser, and recliner.

Based on this information, she mapped out how I could incorporate everything perfectly.

Kristy DeGina’s rendering of what my space might look like if I made the changes she suggested.

Kristy DeGina

To better define the living space in our main room, she suggested moving the sofa, media console, and TV closer to the window. It would leave room for a recliner and a crib if I decided to keep it in that space.

Since we’re getting rid of our dining table, DeGina suggested we 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 would have space to work.

We need to invest in items that have storage

Since our space is used for so many different purposes and is about to turn into a nursery for the baby as well, DeGina said it was important to have furniture that can also be used as storage. .

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

She also suggested we get side tables next to our couch, storage ottomans, or a coffee table that opens up and lets you place things inside.

Regarding our room, she mentioned that we could add storage under our bed using plastic bins.

I’m hoping to add a dress just for baby stuff.

Jen Glantz

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

Also, after removing the bench and desk from our bedroom, we can install an additional chest of drawers (with a changing table on it) for baby’s clothes, toys, diapers and other essentials.

We are going to remove the desk and the bench which does not provide storage.

Jen Glantz

She said it was OK to keep our walls bare

When we first moved into this apartment, we didn’t have a plan to design and style the place. We just wanted to focus on its functionality, so over the years we’ve left the walls pretty bare.

I asked DeGina if there were any possibilities to add storage or style by adding anything to the walls.

We didn’t hang anything on the wall above our TV.

Jen Glantz

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

Either way, she reminded me, I shouldn’t hang anything over the crib or changing area for safety reasons.

If we wanted to use decor to enhance the space, she said, we could add a large mirror on the floor or two side-by-side behind the couch to make the room look bigger.

I shouldn’t be afraid to buy full size furniture either.

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

“When you have a small space, sometimes smaller rooms can shrink the size of the space even further,” she said.

In my living room, she noticed that I had a small mirror, a desk and a media cabinet. If I replace this furniture, she says, I would have to shop as if I were styling a medium-sized living room, which would expand the space.

All in all, I had a lot of great ideas to optimize my space

Kristy DeGina’s rendering of what my apartment layout might look like with a few tweaks.

Kristy DeGina

Ultimately, I understand why it can be helpful to work with an interior designer to map out a space.

It’s part of their job to make spaces work for different people by understanding their priorities, their floor plan, and the elements they want to make sure they fit into the space.

A lot of DeGina’s are suggestions for things I would never have thought of on my own, even though I spend so much time in my apartment.

I can’t wait to move some furniture around, invest in some new pieces and add more storage solutions.

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