Architectural digest small spaces

Architectural digest small spaces DEFAULT

When Jonathan Adler’s creative services manager Nicholas Obeid moved from a lofty two-bedroom to a 450-square-foot studio in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, he brought with him more stuff than one might expect to fit in such a small space. Among his treasures: a pair of chrome Chippendale chairs, a nickel-plated credenza covered in geometric studs, tiered Lucite bedside tables, and a midcentury daybed that he reupholstered in a stunning emerald-green velvet. Somehow, the resourceful entertainer managed to find a place for each piece, creating three distinct living areas—plus a bar moment for good measure—without overwhelming the apartment. “The common approach to a studio is minimalism,” says Obeid, “but I opted for the opposite. I think the variety of visual elements makes the apartment feel bigger.” Here, eight ways Obeid maximized his small space with statement-making style—and how you can do the same.

1. Paint it white. Before moving in, Obeid recovered the apartment’s midnight-gray walls in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White to give the room a lighter, brighter base that allows furniture and accessories to stand out.

2. Think in vignettes. Create a floor plan that sections off the space according to your needs, then consider the intended purpose of each area. “There were two ‘musts’ that I needed the floor plan to accomplish: a place to sit and have dinner with a friend, and a pair of bedside tables flanking a bed that wasn’t squeezed into a corner,” says Obeid. “The light-filled seating area by the window is where I’ll have friends over for drinks.”

3. Opt for Lucite. Floating Lucite tables are light and airy and don’t weigh down the space.

4. Use color to differentiate each space. Obeid established monochromatic palettes for the three distinct areas: The entry features burled wood with orange, camel, and onyx; the bed is highlighted by pewter, brown, and gold; and the seating area is awash in tonal greens. “This does the math for your eyes and calms the visual chaos,” says Obeid.

5. Use full-size furniture. It seems counterintuitive, but small furnishings can actually make a room look smaller. Bonus: Larger pieces help hide unsightly elements—for Obeid, that includes wires and a cable box—that add clutter to a space.

6. Display artwork above eye level. Hang a gallery wall of paintings and other framed pieces as high as possible to give the illusion of a tall ceiling.

7. Choose furniture that serves multiple purposes. “A daybed with a slim profile tucks back in the window nook and doubles as a guest bed,” says Obeid of the emerald-green sofa in the living area.

8. Always edit. “Studio living has forced me to be neater than I thought I was,” says Obeid. “If one thing comes in, another has to go.”


Decorating small spaces can feel like an impossible puzzle. You want to fit as much in as possible, but the room mustn't feel cramped. You want it to be filled with personality, but it can't look chaotic and cluttered. But it's possible to have a small space that's as stylish (or perhaps even more so) as their sprawling counterparts. Whether you’re starting out in a studio apartment or choosing to live a more minimalist existence, you don’t need to sacrifice style. We’ve gathered our favorite ideas for decorating small spaces to help you tackle your own petite dwelling.

Keep the Floor Clear

You need space for the essentials, but even the most perfectly decorated small room doesn’t work if you can’t walk in it. Try floating pieces, such as shelves and nightstands, to keep the ground clear of obstacles and create space for extra storage beneath if needed. Opt for sconces and wall lights rather than floor lamps.

Go for Folding Pieces

You may need a desk and a dining table, but do you really need them 24-7? Consider installing furnishings that can fold up when not in use. You’ll free up floor space and avoid the stacks of mail and work that inevitably pile up on these surfaces. If you have a one-wall kitchen, folding doors can conceal clutter when not in use.

Focus on Lighting

Small spaces can often end up feeling dark due to small or nonexistent windows. Make up for the lack of natural light by adding plenty of light sources in every room, from the kitchen to the bedroom. Combine striking ceiling fixtures—either a pretty pendant or elegant flush mount, depending on your ceiling height—with sconces or table lamps for a cozy and bright atmosphere.

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It's one thing to talk about decorating a small space—try under-counter refrigerators instead of a huge tall one, we might advise—but quite another to actually do it. In the case of those fridges, you can feel comfortable taking the leap thanks to a particularly good real-life example: Ryan Lawson's smart kitchen design in Greenwich Village. He got rid of the big fridge that blocked the window and purchased two under-counter ones to go in its place, making the room feel much bigger and breezier (and essentially doubling his counter space). And he loves it! (Key, in our opinion.) We get some of our favorite small-space ideas from the home tours we run on Clever, real spaces designed by intuitive decorators—often the owners themselves, who can attest to the quality of the hacks and tricks because they actually live with them. Here are 15 that recently caught our eye for you to try.

1. Paint the radiator or AC unit the wall color.
Tone on tone is one of our favorite tricks for helping a small room feel less cluttered, which the Pieces cofounders expertly employed in their Brooklyn apartment by painting the radiators the same color as the walls. Now you see an ugly, bulky appliance; now you don't.

2. Use a windowsill as a nightstand.
If you've got a window in your bedroom, and hopefully you do, use the sill as a nightstand and then you won't have to allot any extra square footage to getting a little table on the other side. H/t to Jessica Herber, who taught us this trick in her apartment in Germany.

3. Get rid of upper kitchen cabinets.
Before you get upset about where you're going to put all your things, do a big KonMari-style kitchen cleaning and then consider how to renovate. By ditching upper kitchen cabinets, the way Pluck Kitchen did in this galley, the whole room will feel bigger. (You can always store overflow in a hutch in the next room over.)

4. Paint bookshelves anything but white.
A tip we swiped from designer Ryan Lawson's Greenwich Village apartment: Paint built-in bookshelves a warm gray to help them recede visually. This way, they won't seem like such a bulky space-hogger.

5. Streamline your finishes.
That could mean opting for an all stainless-steel kitchen, rather than stainless appliances mixed in with wood cabinets, or even wood floors painted the same color as the walls. “Using a lot of the same material helps blur the lines of the space and give a more rounded and open feel in a small space,” Studiomama cofounder Nina Tolstrup says of the allover Douglas fir in her London apartment.

6. Get some furniture that has hidden storage.
Even if you aren't up to the task of DIY-ing your own secret storage coffee table, the way Fort Standard founder Greg Buntain did in his Brooklyn apartment, you can still shop for one that is similar. Look for sofas, beds, tables, and bench seating that lift up to reveal storage space within.

7. If possible, build in furniture.
As evidenced by many a small apartment that we've seen—Starrett Ringbom's Brooklyn family home and this Paris pied-à-terre by Mariane Evennou, for starters—built-in furniture can be the difference between a cramped small space and a thoughtful, pleasant one. Bookshelves, sofas, desks, shelves, and even radiator covers are worth considering.

8. Use bench seating around a table.
Not only will a banquette allow for more people to squish around the table than chairs, it'll also provide extra storage if you do it right. (See: Fazeelat Aslam and Jimmy Goldblum's Brooklyn dining room.


As urban and eco-conscious living becomes more prevalent, many homeowners are decorating small spaces: compact apartments and homes rather than sprawling, multi-room mansions. We're of the mind that good decor doesn't discriminate by size, but packing a stylish punch into limited square footage can be tough. How many patterns is too many patterns? How to get a layered look without appearing just messy? What type of furniture won't dwarf your space? To help answer these questions and more, AD turned to a few trusted designers to hear their take on the small space living and get their time-tested tricks.

1. Don't Be Afraid to Think Big

By far the most popular advice we heard from designers was perhaps the most surprising: Don't think everything has to be tiny just because the space is. "I often see people make the mistake of only using small-scale furniture in small spaces because they're afraid a larger piece will overpower the room," says Eddie Ross, designer and style director of "If space is tight, think big. You might be surprised what a single statement piece can do to make a small room feel grand." Ross recommends the oversize Safavieh bar chest, shown above, for an avid entertainer. Bonus: Its height means you can use the space between its legs for storage.

2. Go Bold

Jon Maroto and George Nunno, founders of Flair Home, agree. "The biggest mistake to make when decorating a small space is to treat it like a small space," they say. "We love to use dramatic oversized art, paint the room in a dark color, or use a bold piece of lighting to make a smaller space feel larger and special. It is important to find the balance and use a mixture of smaller- and larger-scale pieces."

3. Keep it Uncluttered

"The biggest mistake I see people making when decorating a small space is using too many small furniture pieces," agrees designer Grace Rosenstein. "It seems counterintuitive, but usually a few pieces of moderately sized furniture combined with an efficient floor plan will make the space feel much bigger, while creating less clutter and more functionality."

4. Add Color from Floor to Ceiling

It's no surprise that designer Sasha Bikoff, known for her daring, colorful rooms, is on the same page. "There is a common misconception that when you have a small space, you have to have keep it minimal with furniture and color," she says. "I like to create what I call a 'Christian Dior jewel box.' The idea is to pack as much punch as possible into the space and create an experience. Painting walls and ceilings will make a space feel larger."

5. Plan, Plan, Plan

Having a sound design plan is important in all spaces, but it's especially crucial for smaller ones. "The biggest mistake when decorating small spaces is not having a furniture plan in place," says Annsley McAleer of Annsley Interiors. "Small spaces require careful thought, and every inch matters. Avoid furniture with dramatic arms and let the slipper chair be your friend!"

6. Pick the Right Rug!

When it came to carpets, designers seemed to be eerily in accord. When asked her opinion on mistakes to avoid, designer Anne Hepfer didn't mince words: "Rugs the size of postage stamps." Rena Cherny of RC Studio agrees. "Go big on the rug!" she says. "Small, 'Post-it'–looking rugs make a room feel smaller."

7. Go Wall to Wall

Says Marshall Watson of Marshall Watson Interiors, "wall-to-wall carpeting can help enlarge a space. A postage-stamp rug in a postage-stamp apartment only shrinks the room. Use carpet to push out the parameters."

8. Edit

For Michelle Nussbaumer, founder of Ceylon et Cie, the trap to avoid falling into is "trying to squeeze too many elements into it. It’s best to go with one cohesive theme and elaborate on that," she says. "That doesn’t mean limiting style or drama." A discerning eye is any designer's best friend, especially in a limited space.

9. Use Statement Pieces

Montreal-based Richard Ouellette of Les Ensembliers echoes this sentiment. “Thinking that using small furniture will work better in a small space is the biggest mistake; instead use large statement pieces, big art. The important thing is to use fewer pieces, but the right ones to create more impact and give character to the space.”

10. Try a Monochromatic Look

Interior and product designer Jeff Andrews has the same opinion on paring down, but in terms of color. "One mistake I see often in a small space is too many colors. I like to keep small rooms monochromatic with layers of texture," he says.


Spaces small architectural digest

Use Decor to Add Visual Interest

“Having several different lighting sources at different heights will draw your eye to different areas of the room, making it feel bigger and more interesting,” says Murphy. She also recommends adding a larger attention-getter to balance scale, such as a piece of art or built-in bookshelves. Try an eye-catching gallery wall or artwork or mirrors, or add a bold accent wall or wallpaper.

Float a Selection of Furniture

In any room that's tight on space, it's tempting to push all big furniture up against the walls to create a kind of pool of open flooring in the middle. But while useful for doing cartwheels—and there is some real liberation in being able to do just that—the space would be put to better use serving a function. In the living room of social media savant Amy Stone, the design team at One Kings Lane opted to float the couch across from two wicker-and-chrome chairs in the middle of the room, transforming the heart of it into a space for conversation.

Try Café-Style Seating

If you've ever tried eating dinner at a coffee table, you know it really isn't possible unless you don't mind being hunched over so far your nose touches your knees. But a single person—or even a pair of people—doesn't need a massive dining room table to suit their needs on a daily basis. If your living room needs to also serve as the dining room, consider a round café table with two chairs. It can easily be pulled out from the wall to fit four in the event of a dinner party just by adding two folding chairs.

Fashion a Desk from a Console

Besides being the picture-perfect place to stash another bit of seating, a console that's wide enough can also serve as a desk without looking like one. By day, stack it with books and a lamp, and maybe even your keys when you arrive home; by night, settle down at that ottoman you snuck beneath it for a bit of highly glamorous bill-paying.

Delineate Functions Using Rugs

To visually set apart that floated sitting area in the middle of the room from the room's other functions, Amy Stone's design team chose a rug just larger than the couch and matching chairs. The edge of that rug doesn't extend all the way to the walls as you'd expect; instead, the café table dining area and console/desk sit outside of its edges. The line visually cues that you're moving from one "zone" into another, which keeps the furniture from feeling like a jumble.

NEVER TOO SMALL Architects Tiny Apartment - Type Street - 35sqm/370sqft

Small spaces are the bane of practically any city-dweller’s existence. And when you’re living in a minuscule apartment or home, figuring out how to make the most of your square footage is essential. Thankfully, inventive interior designers and architects have long devised solutions—from paint finishes to light fixtures—for making small spaces feel big (or at least bigger). Phillip Thomas’s petite room at this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse is chock-full of small-space ideas. We caught up with the New York–based interior designer for his tips on living large in a tight spot.

Create a glossy ceiling.“With the right finish, a ceiling can make a room feel bigger. At Kips Bay, we chose to use a decorative plaster finish that adds sheen. The finish helps to move light around the space and create the illusion of height.”

Add glass.“Glass can also be a wonderful way of making a space feel larger. In our daybed nook at Kips Bay, we used laminated glass panels by Galaxy Glass, consisting of a layer of frosted mirror and of frosted clear glass with a metallic gauze interlining. The effect of the glass is to create the illusion of great depth in the space.”

Cover the walls in pattern.“We upholstered the walls of our ‘Lady Lair’ in a beautiful cream fabric, which was then graffitied by Andrew Tedesco Studios. The layering of graffiti paint and the play of the sheens create the illusion of depth.”

Hang a statement light fixture.“Even if a space is small, a large light fixture can make a room feel larger and taller. At Kips Bay, we chose a monumental vintage Italian glass chandelier that is 54 inches in diameter but only nine inches in depth. The diameter of the chandelier helps to open up the space, while the depth is not oppressive. The glass also catches the light, drawing your line of sight up.”

Delineate different spaces.“While your space may be limited in square footage, the function of the space does not have to be limited. Create different zones to maximize use of the space. At Kips Bay, we created three zones within our space: a desk area, a small entertaining area, and a sleeping area.”


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