When your apartment is 500 square feet, the term living room means something entirely different. When you are living it up in tiny apartment, you need to use every inch of your space to store your stuff without getting cramped in. Your living room, bedroom and kitchen all bleed into each other which means your entire apartment becomes your “living room”.
So how do you get the most from your space while still expressing your style? Like any interior design or decorating project, you first have to establish the function of your apartment. The three categories below are usually the major functions of any small apartment.
How much you need for each will be determined by you. Some people work from home and rarely entertain so they will need more work space then entertaining space. Others don’t work at home at all, but love to lounge or hang out with friends in their living room. They will concentrate on getting more seating in their living room. Rate these functions from 1-3 in order to see what you need the most and least of in your tiny living room.
LIVE: You want to come home from work and stretch out in front of the television, make some calls, cook a simple dinner or maybe entertain a few friends on the weekend. You try to leave work at work and not bring it home, other then maybe a laptop you use for emailing. If this is you, then you want your living room to function as a getaway from the outside city where you can unwind.
Main elements to LIVE in a small apartment:
- Sofa: You will need either a sofa, loveseat or other type of lounge furniture for you to sit and relax on. This piece of furniture will be your most used item so make sure it is comfortable! It will be a worthwhile investment. If you will be using this area as your main dining place as well, you may also want to consider a slipcover over your sofa that can be washed easily if it becomes stained.
- Bookshelves: Whether you are an avid reader or you have a few knick knacks to display, adding some bookshelves to your walls above your sofa will save space and look great. West Elm has some really cool, graphic shelves that look great with or without anything on them.
- Table: If you are really tight for space, you will also have to make the most of your tables. Your coffee table, for example, will probably end up being where you do most of your dining. Make sure it has a durable top that is easy to wipe down with just a wet paper towel. This will minimize damage and clean up. For those times that you do want a bit more of a dining experience, a drop leaf table that can be stored up against the wall can be a great addition to the tiny living room.
WORK: If you work or study from your apartment you will need a designated area to be able to keep a computer or some basic writing tools and books. With technology what it is, you can plop a laptop down on any surface and, voila, instant work station. Even with this mobile work method, you may still need a designated space to put everything away in when you are finished. A coffee table with storage built-in is a smart way to have your furniture multi-task for you. Otherwise, you may consider using a closet or some shelving to store your stuff.
Main elements to WORK in a small apartment:
- Desk: A desk in a small apartment can double as a dining table when company is over. If you choose to have a convertible style desk, it is a good idea to have some sort of small, rolling storage cabinet where you can store everything when you need to get it out of the way. Another good desk option for a small apartment is a small office armoire. This is a piece of furniture that has a drop down desk and a good amount of storage in it for files, books, pens and pencils and more. When it is not in use, it can easily be closed up so that you don’t think about work during your off hours.
- Seating: You may occasionally entertain clients in your home. If that is the case, it is nice to have a good seating area other then your desk. If you have a sofa and coffee table that may work, but you might want to add a few small scale chairs that can be pulled into the room in case a sofa is not enough, of if it is not comfortable to work from. Some coffee tables can also convert into a higher table without any fancy price tags or electronics. This way, you and a client have more of a professional work space. Other types of coffee tables that work are ones that can store small ottomans under them. They are easy to pull out for seating and easy to store.
- Storage: If you work at home most of the time, you will need a significant amount of storage to hold reference materials, papers and other office supplies. In a small apartment it is a good idea to stay as convertible as you can to allow for movement. Try stacking storage cubes or file cabinets that are meant to be moved and rearranged. This way your storage can grow, move or change along with your work.
PLAY: If you like to entertain a lot, then your main focus is to set up a comfortable environment for friends to come and hang out in. Lighting and comfortable furniture are two key elements for this purpose.
Main elements to PLAY in a small apartment:
- Lighting: Layering the lighting in your small living room is important. You should be able to go from bright task lighting to a dimmer, softer light fairly easily. Make sure you have good, bright ambient lighting. Some apartments have existing ceiling fixtures or recessed lights in the ceiling. If you do not have any ceiling lighting and don’t want to add anything permanent then a floor lamp or two can do the trick. In addition to these lights, decorative table lamps or wall sconces that you can plug in to a socket without electrical work can function as a more mood setting type of lighting. Last but not least, good old fashioned candles are always a hit when entertaining. Lining up a few candles on an interesting shelf behind the sofa will create a soft glow that can be used with or without electric lights.
- Seating: For a larger gathering, simple folding chairs can be stored easily and taken out for additional seating. If you need more dining table space at your fingertips, try a fold up or roll up picnic table that can be put together quickly and covered with a table cloth for a nicer look. When not in use, these tables are pretty small and convenient to put away. You can even get two or three depending on how big your small living room is.
- Accessories: Last but not least, for a living room that is always at play, you will want some fun accessories to have around the room. You can put up wall stickers which are temporary wall graphics that can be applied to the wall any way you want. A glow in the dark domino set is definitely a way to break the ice, and finally make sure you have music ready at the flip of the remote to get the party going!
Your apartment may be small in size, but it doesn’t have to be limited in the way you use it!