How To Decorate A Small Space

West Village, NY

My sister recently moved into a new apartment in Williamsburg and I’ve been helping her decorate it! I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned from living in small NYC apartments over the years, and which ones I incorporated into her place. There are a ton of simple ways to make a small space look and feel bigger – you just have to do a little rearranging!

How To Decorate A Small Space

Use a large round jute rug under a sofa or bed.

A round rug completely opens up a small room and is a nice juxtaposition to a big, rectangular piece of furniture. Jute is a natural, airy, clean material that will go with any style of decor – and it’s one of the most inexpensive types of rugs. I’ve gotten mine on Wayfair, Overstock, and Pottery Barn.

Use the Ikea Billy Bookcase as storage and decor.

This simple white bookcase has been in every single one of my apartments! It’s been a wardrobe (the one with doors) in my college dorm and West Village apartment, a bookcase in my first NYC apartment, and it now acts as shoe + bag storage in my office. You have the option to get it with or without glass doors (it’s super chic with glass doors – and you can switch out the knobs + put wallpaper or fabric behind the glass to hide what’s inside!), and it also comes in various widths. It’s a great divider if you live in a studio and want to put 3 right next to each other.

Use a narrow bench, ottoman, or acrylic piece as a coffee table.

Most coffee tables are pretty big and made for large living rooms. Be sure to properly measure your space so you’re not stuck with a HUGE one! My favorite coffee tables for small spaces are; a narrow bench that you can decorate with coffee table books and trinkets to warm it up, a small fabric ottoman or two matching stools (sometimes a printed fabric is fun depending on your style!), or an acrylic/lucite piece like this one that I had in my old Upper East Side studio. If the room won’t fit a traditional coffee table, get some fun moroccan poufs, or a stack of small vintage suitcases or trunks for the space.

Create a gallery wall behind your sofa, dresser, dining room table, or in a narrow entry.

A gallery wall instantly lifts your eye up and makes a space feel more cozy and eclectic. You would be AMAZED at how it can transform a long, dark entryway. Don’t be afraid to hang art on a brick wall – there are special nails that make it possible. I always hire a handyman through Taskrabbit to do all of my hanging since they come equipped with the right tools. Be sure to read my; How To Find Art For Your Home blog post to see some of my favorite resources.

Wallpaper a small bathroom.

A beautiful, intricate patterned wallpaper can transform a tiny bathroom! Swap out a plain light fixture for a mini chandelier or pendant, and put in a pretty mirror – and you’ve got yourself a darling powder room.

Incorporate vintage pieces into your space.

Vintage pieces are much smaller than the furniture pieces they sell in stores today. A vintage item can add a ton of pizzaz to a space and make everything feel more homey. I never like to order sets of furniture or everything in the same type of wood/color because it ends up making a space feel crowded and sterile. Mix and match modern pieces with vintage pieces. Get a cute gold bar cart to put booze, glasses and books on. Find a fun ceramic umbrella holder for your entry. Hang baskets or hats on the wall. Mix gold and wood frames of all shapes and sizes on a gallery wall. Use a vintage leather trunk as a side or coffee table.

Frame your windows with long white curtains.

Quality curtains immediately make a ceiling look higher and elevate a space. They pull together any room, and give it a more chic/polished look. I’m a sucker for a thick, Belgian linen French pleat style – and in my opinion, no one does it better than Restoration Hardware. BUT their curtains are pricey, so I recommend checking out Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma Home, and West Elm for other options!

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors!

Mirrors act as windows in a space. If you feel like your space is cramped and doesn’t have enough light or windows then add a mirror! I love the look of an oversized mirror leaning against the wall opposite of a bed to really open up a room. I also love a mirror behind a sofa, or dining room table. And last but not least, a mirror in an entry is always a good idea – not only for makeup touch ups before you leave, but just to add that extra oomph that most entries need!

Use baskets as storage.

I LOVE baskets. I use a basket in my living room to store extra pillows and blankets in, I use baskets in my bedroom for laundry/dry cleaning, I use baskets in my entry for groceries/errands, and I use baskets in my closet to store towels, scarves, and toiletry bags. There are a zillion places to buy baskets, but some of my favorite spots are Ralph Lauren, One Kings Lane, Serena and Lily, and Etsy.

Use a dresser as a TV console.

A dresser maximizes your storage space, AND in my opinion looks way better than an open TV console which shows the cable box and cords. Anthropologie has gorgeous dressers like this bone inlay one, or this carved wood one. I also always like to check World Market, vintage stores, One Kings Lane and Studio McGee’s shop for consoles!

Keep clutter to a minimum.

This goes without saying, but whether you live in a small or big space, my philosophy when it comes to “stuff” is always less is more! Be diligent about cleaning out your closet and cabinets. Don’t hold onto stuff that doesn’t fit or that you haven’t used in a year. Purge, purge, purge! I have an entire blog post talking about How To Clean Out Your Closet here. So be sure to check that out!

I hope this post was helpful and you learned a few things :) I’d love to see photos of your space and ways that you’ve incorporated my tips + tricks in so feel free to send them way!!! As always, feel free to leave any questions you may have below! And be sure to check out all of my other Decor posts here like; How To Find Art For Your Home, Refresh Your Home For Spring, and My Favorite Coffee Table Books.

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Charissa Fay Photography

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10 Comments

  • Marta says:

    Amazing tips. I’m still living with my parents but luckily they let me decorate my room the way I want it to and it being a small room (pretty average size but I wasnt the best at decorating it so it looks smaller than it is) so I’m definitely gonna take your tips into consideration when I redecorate it, thanks for sharing!

    July 17, 2019 | Reply
  • Rach says:

    I would have never thought to get a round rug! Good to know!

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    July 17, 2019 | Reply
  • Vanessa says:

    Great Post! I would have loved to have seen photos incorporating some of these tips in rooms to see placement for ideas (where to place baskets etc) . Thanks for sharing and linking your old apartment. Beautiful space and decor <3

    July 18, 2019 | Reply
  • Lisa Autumn says:

    Oh I love this little hallway!

    x Lisa | lisaautumn.com

    July 19, 2019 | Reply
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  • mimi says:

    These are great tips. I’m moving to NYC and ive been looking at apartments which are quite smaller than what I’m used to. So, these tips are so useful!

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    July 19, 2019 | Reply
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