11 Small-Space Living Tricks From Real-Life Apartments

UPDATE: This post was originally published on February 4.
No matter where you live and what you're paying for rent, one thing is certain about your apartment: It's not as big as you'd like it to be. At least, that's what it seems like when you try to wedge yet another dress in your closet, or try to have more than two people over your place. While we can't upgrade you to larger digs, we can help you utilize your current space better so that it's like a good diamond — much larger than it appears. Check out these fabulous apartments to see 11 tried-and-true tricks for carrying out that grand illusion.
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Photo: Courtesy of Viyet.
Make use of every available wall space.
A "short" wall doesn't have to stay bare, even if it can't fit any large furniture piece. Just add a low-profile table (one that doesn't jut out too far) and top with a mirror. The reflection will make a room seem bigger, while the table gives you a spot to park books, beautiful-but-random objects and anything else that doesn't quite have a home. This is a great spot to try something new with your decor — like the sexy '70s metallic trend that's hot right now.
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Look out for multi-functional furniture.
If your space is so “cozy” that you’d really give anything for the aforementioned short wall, no worries. You can have your space — and enjoy it too — with multi-functional furniture. Look out for anything that can be used in more than one way. Think ottomans with secret storage, desks that can turn into dining tables with the addition of a leaf, or a coffee table with compartments for stowing your favorite reads. Or, get clever with a piece like the Shelton Nailhead Footstool, the Petite Waterfall Coffee Table, or these Design Lush side tables. Also look beyond “suggested” uses — the Alexa Hampton Chris Stacking Trays which can be used as individual trays (surprise, surprise) but can also be stacked to create custom-sized tables.

Clockwise from top left:Shelton Nailhead Footstool, $520, available at Viyet; DesignLush Hal Side Tables By William Earle, $945, available at Viyet; Plexi-Craft Petite Waterfall Coffee Table, $395, available at Viyet.
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Photo: Heather Zick Design/Courtesy of Viyet.
Shop for shape.
When shopping for new seating, look out for tailored options. Interior designer Heather Zick recommends pieces without arms: They take up slightly less room without cutting down on space to actually sit down. (Another good way to save a few inches? Choosing a bed without a footboard.)
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Photo: Kammi Reiss Interiors/Courtesy of Viyet.
Make your furniture count.
A random collection of hand-me-downs, on the whole, can read "messy." Instead, try to unify pieces with a coat of paint — or, do as NYC designer Kammi Reiss did and add some bold fabric to that IKEA chair.
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Photo: Kammi Reiss Interiors/Courtesy of Viyet.
Let it float.
Even in the tiniest of bedrooms, you can fit two bedside tables. You just have to rethink the dimensions. Reiss used two smaller, two-tiered floating shelving units on each side of this lovely bed. These pieces give you just enough space to put a good read, your trusty smartphone, and a glass of water — all while freeing up floor space underneath.
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Photo: Courtesy of Viyet.
Carve out an entryway.
A bar cart, like the one in the Upper East Side apartment of Viyet client relations manager Callie Castellani, serves a one-two punch. It gives you a place to put your keys and a spot to place your spirits for that much-needed after-work cocktail. Castellani also gave this small space way more impact by painting on a gray-and-white chevron pattern. The points of the pattern draw the eye up, which creates the illusion of height.
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Photo: Courtesy of Viyet.
Slip in storage any place you can.
You don't always have to put everything in under-bed boxes. Pretty baskets look great while hiding odds and ends, canvas totes can hold anything, bright boxes can disguise desk clutter, while jars and canisters can help save precious kitchen counter space.
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Photo: Courtesy of Viyet.
Make like a ghost.
See-through furnishings, whether in lucite or glass, are design classics that also give the illusion that you have much more space than you actually do.
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Photo: Kelly Turso/Courtesy of Viyet.
Studio dweller? Think in "zones."
While you can't put up a wall (nor have the space to), you can still treat your open-concept floor plan as separate rooms. Here, stylist Shana Ecker placed an open bookshelf between the "bedroom" and "living room" of this NYC apartment. A jute rug underneath the sofa also helped visually define the living area.
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Or, if you have the room, create a wall with a screen.
A folding screen used to be a must-have — we say, it’s time to bring it back. In a small apartment, it can subdivide a room in a number of ways. This Ted Boerner Rikyu Screen works especially well because of its geometric cut-outs. These add interest while also letting light shine through.
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Photo: KellyTurso/Courtesy of Viyet.
Double up your tables.
Here, Ecker nixed the standard coffee table in favor of two cocktail tables, which can be moved around when guests come over, or when more floor space is needed. Shop similar: 1940’s American Lacquer Side Tables, $535 for a set of two, available at Viyet.