Modern Decor Ideas for Your Small Apartment
You don’t need 2,000 square feet to turn your home into a masterpiece. Your small apartment is a canvas where you can compose a work of art that’s representative of your personal style.
Quaint spaces have big design potential that you can unleash with a gentle paring back and a few selected pieces. Some of the highest forms of art come in small packages: Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is about the size of a bowling ball; Van Goh’s Starry Night is smaller than the average TV; Munch’s The Scream is as wide as your microwave. Fine art aside, here are some ideas to get you started.
Adopt A Minimalist Swagger
Cut the cra … excess. Reduction is at the heart of a minimalist approach to modern interior design accessories— and also a desirable trait for small apartments where even a bit of clutter can become visually consuming. But minimalist design isn’t just a tight edit: it’s about marrying form to function. And it’s because of this emphasis on function that minimalist design techniques work well in small spaces. The best part? There’s more than one way to design sparingly.
Traditional Minimalist Design Made Easy
Design tenants: This style uses furniture made of irregular shapes, clean lines, and flat reflective surfaces.
Color: Black, white, and shades of grey.
Why it’s great for small apartments: Traditional minimalism is the abode-version of a perfectly tailored suit. It’s stripped down. It’s classic. It’s sleek. It’s precise. Some would even call it “sexy.” In an effort to maximize floor space and minimize distractions, traditional minimalism prioritizes streamlined functional furniture and only uses essential pieces. In addition to giving your small apartment an air of sophistication, minimalist design favors long, clean lines that have the effect of lengthening rooms.
Modern Scandinavian Design
Design tenants: This style uses furniture with simple profiles made from woods and naturals. Scandi rooms typically have lots of light, and mix textures like buttery leathers and chunky knits.
Color: Light, muted tones, powdery hues, pops of greenery.
Why it’s great for small apartments: Scandinavian design revolves around the Danish idea of “hygge”: the art of creating a cozy lifestyle. Every material, every accent, every fabric in the room must embody a sense of warmth — appropriate, given this style was invented by people who endure the harsh winters of the Arctic circle. Scandinavian design principles work well in quaint little apartments because the style banishes severe or unnecessary elements in favor of lightness and rarity. The result? A snug, airy space that you want to tuck yourself into.
Mid-Century Modern Design
Design tenants: This style uses furniture that embraces curved lines, smooth edges, and mixed materials. Often, mid-century pieces are made from raw materials like wood, metals, and plastics. Textiles can be anything from sumptuous velvet to soft polyester blends.
Color: Bright hues, eye-catching patterns.
Why it’s great for small apartments: Give your small space a big personality. Mid-century modern design is perfect for apartment-dwellers who want a bright, bold, boiled down design. Mid-century design works well in small spaces for two reasons. First, mid-century modern design puts a spotlight on the furniture, not accents or finishings. The result has an inherent decluttering effect. Second, mid-century design uses one or two points of visual interest, like the combo of a vibrant velvet sofa and a statement sideboard. These focal points draw your eye, distracting you from the room’s smaller size.
Small Space Elevating Furniture
Notice how this section isn’t titled “space saving furniture?” Contrary to popular belief, decorating small spaces isn’t just about making them feel bigger; it’s about making them feel intentional. Small space decor should aspire to intentionally direct the eye to the design objects of your affection. This is why we suggest using a combination of all small space design tenants we’re about to describe.
The modular sofa is probably not your first thought when mapping out your modestly-sized living room. But these tetris blocks of comfort allow you to choose your own adventure. Whichever one you choose will inevitably be the star of the show, so you may as well go big. Because modular sofas come by the piece, they give you that extra bit of flexibility, allowing you to construct a custom modern sofa that molds to your living space. We go deep into the mod, mod sofa world in our blog post, Modern Furniture Style Guide: Modular Sofas.
Furniture You Can See Through
And for our next trick, beautiful furniture that makes your small space appear bigger: that’s the magic of see-through furniture. By choosing furniture that has slim silhouettes, translucent materials, or a frame-dominant design, your eye sees more of the room around the piece, which in turn makes it look bigger. Transparent pieces allow you to pare back… without actually paring back. Take the Clarus coffee table for example. Because its glass top is perched on thin, wooden legs, it takes up less visual space than a more traditional alternative.
So your small apartment didn’t come with an extra room for your personal library? (Mine neither.) You can hack it. Create the feeling of a room-within-a-room by grouping furniture together in a functional area. What does this look like? You could use a modern rug to separate your sitting area from your dining nook. Corners work great too. Transform a corner of your living room into a reading refuge with a carefully selected accent chair and a minimalist bookshelf, like the Lignum shelf. The result? A mini-library. Mold = broken. As a bonus, you can also invoke the (transformative power of the accent chair) by pulling it over to your sitting area whenever you need an extra seat.
Decorating for small spaces requires some in-the-box thinking. Walls aren’t just barriers. They’re a gallery awaiting your art. Ceilings aren’t just stomping grounds for noisy neighbors. They’re an under-used blank canvas. In the same way, hanging ceiling lights aren’t just functional. They open your apartment up. By emphasizing vertical space, your eye registers and experiences that height as airy-ness.
Let’s take some timeless advice from interior design legend Lil Jon: get low, get low. Indeed, low-lying furniture makes small spaces appear less cluttered because the furniture is below our natural sight lines. With negative space above the furniture, the room seems taller and more spacious. By choosing low-set pieces, you can even get away with chunkier builds. For example, the Solae sofa is anything but transparent or slight. But the earth-bound build ensures that it keeps a low profile in small spaces, even with its generous cushioning.
Don’t Cut the Rug
Wait — don’t rugs box you in? Not if appropriately proportioned. While small rugs can accentuate a lack of square footage, an oversized rug does the exact opposite. Let’s use a sitting area as an example. An area rug acts as a catch-all for your sofa, coffee table, and any additional seating will make the space appear bigger because it draws the eye wide and long. It also has the additional benefit of grouping your sitting space, invoking the room inception technique we spoke about earlier.
Bright lights or — brace yourselves — pops of color.
Whites and powdery neutrals create the effect of more light because they reflect light — making spaces appear brighter and more spacious. When mixed with raw woods and layered on with buttery hues, plants, and a variety of textures — a la modern Scandinavian decor — light colors uplift small apartments with an easy, breezy feeling.
But that’s not to say you should fear color. If a neutral palette isn’t your jam, there are ways you can use color to your small space advantage. There’s an urban myth that color makes a room appear smaller. In reality, the more color you have, the more the eye moves, and the less it settles on size. Since your eye is attracted to color, bold pops open up the space by making your gaze to bounce from piece-to-piece. To use color effectively, you could choose an accent color and layer it around the room, or even throughout your whole house. Your love for lavender could appear in your living room’s bookshelf, your bedroom’s throw pillows, and your kitchen towels.
This isn’t just a rule for small apartments. It’s a rule for living. But we’ve got to mention it anyways. You don’t have to be Marie Kondo to know that visual clutter equals mental clutter. Today’s modern storage solutions are functional pieces of art. Take the Envelo sideboard, for example. It’s spacious enough to host your old DVDs, grandma’s china, and that shoebox of old love letters you just can’t let go of.
As Henry David Thoreau once said, “Your small apartment is but a canvas to your imagination” … or something like that. Small apartments have a comfiness and coziness that sprawling villas could not easily muster. It’s time we embrace the small space for its big design potential. By gently trimming down excess artifacts and choosing pieces that elevate your little home, you can design a work of art that you’ll be happy to come home to.