9 Space-Saving Tips For Tiny NYC Apartments

Photo: Courtesy of The Container Store.
Like overcrowded subways and rapidly rising rent, small-space living is a topic of conversation over which New Yorkers bond, citywide. But, as much as there may be to complain about — kitchens in living rooms, bedrooms without closets, staircase landings that double as out-of-season storage — a scarcity of square footage has made us all, if anything, a very resourceful bunch.

For those looking to add a few tips to their urban-living toolkits, three local experts share space-saving — and storage-maximizing — secrets for making even the tiniest of cubbyholes feel limitless. 'Tis nearly the season for spring makeovers, after all. 
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Photo: Courtesy of Room and Board.
Size Matters
"A general rule of thumb is to pay close attention to scale and proportion," says New York-based interior designer Michael Moeller. "When it comes to larger furnishings, like armchairs or couches, leave that three-piece, overstuffed reclining monster to suburbia, and think 'tight and compact' instead" — which is why the Trenton sofa from Room & Board is kind of perfect. (The designer also recommends Blu Dot and CB2 as reliable sources for furniture "that fits snugly into average urban-apartment square footage.")
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Photo: Courtesy of Restoration Hardware.
Make It Multipurpose
For cityfolk with laptops, Moeller suggests creating an at-home work space that's easily hidden away when not in use. "Why shouldn't a desk area be as portable as the computer?" he asks. The designer's pick for a space-saving work station? A statement piece like a steamer trunk-meets-office space from Restoration Hardware, which features a pull-down desk for when it's time to work — and neatly folds shut when it's not. Plus, it looks kind of cool in the corner of your room, no?
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Photo: Courtesy of The Container Store.
Transformation Is Key
When it comes to closets, versatility is essential. "In a small space, a great, transformable closet system is key," Moeller says. "The Container Store's closet systems allow you to switch out individual components to make sure every last Mary Jane, tweed jacket, satchel, Panama hat — or whatever your latest obsession might be — fits just right."

And, while it may be a splurge, Moeller insists it's an investment worth making. "Once it's installed, it requires no tools to change parts, so it's super-easy to customize, even for the un-handiest of people." For a less expensive alternative, try Ikea's customizable systems that come in too many shapes and sizes to count. Both allow for alterations as the seasons — and your wardrobe — begin to shift. What could be more convenient?
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Photo: Courtesy of Samuel Masters.
Dark & Stormy
Though it may seem counterintuitive, fellow Manhattan-based interior designer Samuel Masters insists that a coat of dark paint can actually work wonders. "Dark walls make a place feel cozier, and actually make tight corners less noticeable," he says. For those who'd rather not agonize over the process of picking paint colors, Masters is a fan of Benjamin Moore's Midnight Blue, a shade he used in his own Nolita apartment, pictured here.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ikea.
Go Vertical
"Use your height!" Masters says. "Install shelves as high as you can to maximize storage. This will make your walls seem taller, too." Smart shelving can also help add space to tiny bathrooms, something most New Yorkers have to deal with: "Even an inexpensive upgrade to your medicine cabinet — like this mirrored model from Ikea — opens up lots of useful storage."
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Photo: Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.
Think Outside The Box
Once shelving is installed, consider where your things will live — and what should (or shouldn't) be displayed. "Everything can be in a container," Masters says. "Consider using nice shoeboxes for extra toiletries, lightbulbs, batteries, and extension cords — they look much better than clear tupperware boxes that you can see into." Decorative boxes made of wood, glass, or horn don't even register as storage, he points out, and can actually serve dual purposes. "This one, made of naturally salvaged bone, would be a chic and unexpected place to store stationery or flatware."
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Photo: Courtesy of Home Depot.
Keep It Simple
For Erin Boyle, whose blog Reading My Tea Leaves features a popular column titled "Life in a Tiny Apartment," wooden crates serve a similar purpose. "We use simple crates for storing all kinds of things in our apartment. I like them because they're affordable and, unlike a lot of plastic storage solutions designed to be kept out of sight, they're pretty enough to be displayed in the open. This is especially helpful if you move to a new place that might not have the closet space to accommodate extra drawers or bins."

For one-of-a-kind vintage crates, Boyle recommends perusing your local flea; for something new, she says, "basic wooden ones are available at lots of online retailers and hardware stores."
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Photo: Courtesy of West Elm.
Add Some Height
Under the bed isn't the only option when it comes to stowing odds and ends — a couch with height can do just the trick, too. "Consider a long-legged sofa," Boyle says. "Opting for a loveseat or upholstered bench might mean you can squeeze a little under-couch storage without sacrificing style. We currently have the West Elm Elton Settee (pictured) in our apartment, which has 9.5 inches of clearance below the seat. Similarly, Room & Board sells the Murphy Sofa, which has 10-inch legs and comes in a 59-inch length, perfect for small spaces."
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Photo: Courtesy of Kaufmann Mercantile.
Get Crafty
Lastly, the writer (who's currently at work on her first book, Simple Matters) insists that a proper tool set is a solid investment for improving the amount of space and storage available in your home. "Hang things up. In my experience, I've found that a solid hammer, some nails, and a bit of twine have been among my most useful storage tools. Being able to get things out of the way is a simple — and, practically free — solution to countless small-space problems." Her go-to hammer for everything D.I.Y? "The classic Estwing Leather Handle Claw Hammer."
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