Inside S.F.'s Teensiest Apartments — Major Inspo Ahead!

Anyone who's ever hunted for an apartment in S.F. knows that sometimes, you need to forego square footage for location.
But, to prove that bigger isn’t always better, we’ve tapped four stylish locals to show us how they maximize their pint-sized pads. The results are nothing short of mind-blowing — and huge on interior inspiration. Get ready — these small spaces are a big, big deal.
1 of 24
Name: Jordan Ferney
Gig: Blogger at Oh Happy Day!
Hood: Mission
Square Footage: 500-square-feet

Tell us how long you've been living in your digs and why you chose the space.
"I've lived in this apartment for a year with my husband Paul and our two small children. We returned to San Francisco after spending a year in France and found that the current housing market was crazy. We ended up finding this gem of an apartment on Craigslist and begged the landlord to choose us. We did a lot of work on it before we moved in, because it was in pretty bad shape though the location is ideal. It is a little small for four people, but the layout is really efficient and we hang out a lot in our outdoor spaces, like the stoop and backyard. It's been perfect for us."

Describe your design philosophy.
"With a few exceptions, everything should be sourced from an artist or a designer — or a thrift store."
2 of 24
What's the key to decorating a smaller pad without making it look cluttered?
"The key to living in a smaller place is to get rid of everything. Make very deliberate choices about what you bring into your home; the fewer things you own, the less time it takes to manage and care for it."

What are your favorite parts of the apartment?
"It gets the best light of any apartment I've ever lived in. I love it and it makes such a difference in my mood. Our bedroom is really a sunroom, so I feel like I'm sleeping in a treehouse."
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3 of 24
Any secrets to keeping a small space neat?
"Every four months, we purge a bunch of stuff. It's always easy to tell when it's time to reorganize, because the house is impossible to keep clean. My husband is an artist and we share a workspace on Valencia Street. We don't have a home office and it has made a huge difference to keep all the paper clutter away from home."

Is there anything you don't have room for that you wish you could bring in?
"I would love a dining room. We have people over for dinner on our stoop but I miss having real dinner parties."

What’s one thing you are always restocking?
"Fresh flowers from the flower mart. I go three or four times a month."
4 of 24
What is your favorite home store in S.F.?
"I have lots of favorites. Gravel & Gold always has cool artwork and things made by artists. I love the bookshelves made by Book/Shop in Oakland — they are genius. In Bed has beautiful linens and pillows. I also love the Alameda Flea Market for vintage pieces and Urban Ore always has cool furniture."
5 of 24
Do you have any tips for apartment hunting in S.F.?
"It's the worst. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I did a blog post on it, but in general just ask your friends and co-workers and look on Craigslist."

How does your personal style compare to your home decor?
"It's similar. But, I probably spend more time on my home decor than my clothing."

Any tips for making your small space look bigger?
"Art, plants, and books make everything feel bigger and homey."
6 of 24
What is one thing you are looking to splurge on for the home this season?
"A Japanese chef's knife from the new Bernal Cutlery on Guerrero Street. I know it's kind of boring, but I love making investments in quality pieces for my home that we'll have forever."

What is the defining characteristic of your apartment and your best tip for designing in a small space?
"The defining characteristics would be the light and location. My best tip for designing in small spaces is to get rid of everything you own."
7 of 24
Name: Andrea Cheng
Gig: Senior Product Marketing Manager at Yammer, Co-Editor of Got a Girl Crush
Hood: Castro
Square Footage: 600-square-feet

Tell us how long you've been living in your digs and why you chose the space.
"My boyfriend and I have been in this apartment for two years now. At the time, we were both working from home, so it was important for us to find a place that got a lot of natural light — it makes such a difference when you’re in the same place all day. We were immediately sold by the fireplace, charming built-ins, and incredible view of the city. All those things made up for the fact that it’s so small."

Describe your design philosophy.
"I guess it’s a product of my surroundings. There’s something very 'California' about the things that I like. I’m also drawn to things that are a bit weathered. Design is all about having fun, and there’s a playful element to all the random objects my boyfriend and I have collected over the years. I like looking around the room and seeing all these little things that make me smile!"
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8 of 24
What's the key to decorating a smaller pad without making it look cluttered?
"As much as I appreciate minimalism, it’s just not in me. Simply put, I love stuff. We’ve got knickknacks in every nook and cranny of this apartment, but it’s all about finding the perfect place to put it. I get so much satisfaction out of creating little narratives around the house. Putting random things together as if they came from the same place! So, I guess the key would be to group things by similarity. Try to turn that clutter into a story."

Any secrets to keeping a small space neat?
"Yes! It gets dusty really quick. This sounds silly, but find a vacuum that you love. Yes, I love my vacuum. I used to have whatever was the cheapest at Target, but ponied up for an Electrolux Cannister when we moved in. It sucks — har har."
9 of 24
Do you have any tips for apartment hunting in S.F.?
"Bookmark and refresh Craigslist searches like it’s your job! And, keep an open mind. In this town, something always has to give, so think hard about what is the most important to you, and be willing to compromise on the not-so-important."

How does your personal style compare to your home decor?
"They go hand-in-hand. I’m a sucker for wacky prints, and I love jewelry that incorporates natural materials. It’s the same thing for how I approach decorating. The more irreverent, the better!"
10 of 24
What is your favorite home store in S.F.?
"General Store, Voyager, and Muji. Although, my absolute favorite place to get housewares is the Alameda Flea Market.

What’s one thing you are always restocking?
"Candles from Unionmade. They smell incredible."
11 of 24
What is one thing you are looking to splurge on for the home this season?
"I’ve been pining after a pair of Salt Chairs for ages now, and I’m ready to pull the trigger. They’re designed to be compact, so they’re perfect for our little home."

Any tips for making your small space look bigger?
"Get more storage! Muji is my go-to place for getting boxes in all sizes. Vintage suitcases are also a great storage solution, because they look snazzy."
12 of 24
What are your favorite parts of your apartment?
"The living room — we call it the 'hang zone.'"

Is there anything you don't have room for that you wish you could bring in?
"A bigger couch and a proper dining table. We had to downsize those two things when we got this place. I miss taking naps on the couch and inviting more than two friends over for dinner. Oh, and a dog!"

What is the defining characteristic of your apartment and your best tip for designing in a small space?
"The fireplace is really something special. I’ve rearranged our mantelpieces so many times now, but that’s the fun of it. My best tip would be to not take it too seriously. After all, your home is where you spend the most time, so think of what objects bring a smile to your face and place them front and center!"
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13 of 24
Name: Aubrie Pick
Gig: Photographer
Hood: Mission
Square Footage: 700-square-feet

Tell us how long you've been living in your digs and why you chose the space.
"I moved in in April of last year and still cannot believe my luck. It was in really rough shape when I first moved in, so I tore out the whole kitchen and redid it within weeks. I could see so much potential. It's a quirky, unique space — totally different than any of the other apartments I looked at. Plus, it has a huge patio for my cats and dog to sunbathe on."

Describe your design philosophy.
"Philosophy would be overstating the case, but generally, it's this: Be fearless, be willing to make bold moves that might not work out, but never sacrifice comfort for style. This is my nest, so I want it to feel like home."
14 of 24
What's the key to decorating a smaller pad without making it look cluttered?
"Man, that's a line that I'm always stepping over. I love old books and ephemera which can easily turn into clutter. I think the key is to vary the size and density of furniture — you need to have lots of storage but you don't want to weigh down a tiny space with heavy pieces. My bookcase-slash-divider wall is a good example: It's a rugged, big piece that serves to separate my bed from the rest of the apartment, but because it's got an open back, it doesn't stop the flow of the space."

What are your favorite parts of your apartment?
"I love the skylight — it makes the place so much brighter! And, that bookcase is pretty sweet. But, let's get real, it all comes down to the bathroom. I've never had a bathroom that big in my whole life. It's amazing."
15 of 24
Any secrets to keeping a small space neat?
"I have two cats and a dog. It's nearly impossible. And, I'm not exactly the tidiest person. I try to be realistic about my lifestyle and plan accordingly. I've got a set of hooks in my closet that I use for the clothes that I wore lightly or the jeans that I'm living in for the week. That's super helpful."

What is your favorite home store in S.F.?
"I'm definitely more of a vintage furniture type. Is it cheating if I say the Alameda Flea Market?"
16 of 24
Is there anything you don't have room for that you wish you could bring in?
"More plants and more art!"

What’s one thing you are always re-stocking?
"Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products. I'm a bit obsessed, and use them to clean everything."

What is one thing you are looking to splurge on for the home this season?
"A kilim! I just bought a mid-size one for the bedroom, but I'd really love a large one for the living room."
17 of 24
Do you have any tips for apartment hunting in S.F.?
"Be patient, but be ready to move when you find the right place. It's a competitive market, so when I was looking I had a super friendly, personal cover letter drafted to introduce myself and my brood to the potential landlord."

How does your personal style compare to your home decor?
"They are pretty similar. I try to pair classic, simple items with bold statement pieces to make an eclectic, unique look that I can still be comfortable in."
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18 of 24
Any tips for making your small space look bigger?
"I tried to create little vignettes to break up the room in to smaller areas instead of designing for one big space. Even though it's one room, I tried to think of there being living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom — and decorated accordingly."

19 of 24
Name: Theresa Gonzalez
Gig: Apartment Therapy Contributor, Sewing Instructor
Hood: Lower Pacific Heights
Square Footage: 500-square-feet

Tell us how long you've been living in your digs and why you chose the space.
"I moved in almost four years ago, which is the longest I’ve lived in a space. At first, I was worried it was too small and had major renter’s guilt. But, once I moved my furniture in, it felt much more spacious. The main things I look for are location, light, and wood floors. I actually prefer small spaces, so this one’s the perfect size for me."

Describe your design philosophy.
"I appreciate a lot of different design styles, so I just go with what I like and make it work together. I’m definitely more minimal than most. For my bedroom, I went a little more girly than expected, so I offset that with a more modern living room. I always strive for balance and try to plan out my space in a way that feels inviting and uncluttered."
20 of 24
What's the key to decorating a smaller pad without making it look cluttered?
"What I like about living in a small space is that I really have to be selective about what I buy. It helps that I’m kind of cheap. (I wrote a piece for Apartment Therapy about how I’m the anti-hoarder.) I just don’t like a lot of stuff around. I look for sleeker furniture that still feels cozy and to compensate for new buys, I'll donate or sell old stuff. I’m pretty good about purging every season."

What are your favorite parts of your apartment?
"I love the living room windows that open out rather than up. I’ll have chats with my neighbor across our shared fire escape, and it feels very European. I also have a sweet Magnolia tree right outside the apartment. I work at home a lot and it has great light, which inspires creativity."
21 of 24
Any secrets to keeping a small space neat?
"One of my favorite things about a small space is that there’s less space to have to clean. It can get messy though so I try to keep up with putting my clothes away regularly and doing the dishes often, but I can definitely slack on both. I think paper can build up, too. So, I’m good about going through mail every day and organizing it."

Is there anything you don't have room for that you wish you could bring in?
"I used to have a desk instead of a dining table. It was a great mid-century desk, but it just didn’t fit in the space once I replaced it with the dining nook. I have a large tabletop from Ikea hidden under my bed that I place on top of the smaller table for when I work on sewing projects. I wish I had a separate craft room, but in a city like San Francisco, that kind of space is hard to come by."
22 of 24
What’s one thing you are always restocking?
"I’m big on bringing fresh flowers into the space. It adds color and variety against my all-white walls without committing to another extra piece."

Do you have any tips for apartment hunting in S.F.?
"Network! My friend lived in the building and for two years, I was hoping a spot would open up because I knew the rent was reasonable. Finally, a place became available right next door to her and I feel very lucky to have nabbed it. I paid it forward by telling another friend about the apartment upstairs; he moved in this month."
23 of 24
How does your personal style compare to your home decor?
"They are very similar. My style tends to be minimal like my home. I gravitate toward neutrals with a piece of jewelry or shoes or a belt to add color."

Any tips for making your small space look bigger?
"I try to work up rather than out. For example, I'll choose pendant lamps rather than table-top, high shelving rather than furniture storage, and maximizing closet and under-the-bed space. Also, I keep clutter at bay by consolidating furniture pieces. My dining table now acts as my desk and my craft table; my bedroom end table is a chair that I can use when guests come over...that sort of thing."
24 of 24
What is one thing you are looking to splurge on for the home this season?
"I splurged on my dining chairs and I don’t regret it. I love them! But, I am also itching to replace my plates and mugs and I’m eyeing Heath Ceramics, which is a splurge for me."

What is the defining characteristic of your apartment and your best tip for designing in a small space?
"When designing a small space, I say start with the sofa, since that is your biggest buy, and then work around that. Take your time and go for must-have pieces rather than good-for-now ones, so you don’t end up with too much clutter."
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