4 Designer Tricks to Make the Most Of Even the Smallest Space — What To Do When Every Square Inch is Precious

Designers revealed their best-kept secrets for optimizing small spaces. Shop their recommendations here

How to make the most of the very smallest of spaces, according to interior designers.
(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

Residing in New York City, a locale infamous for comically small apartments, non-existent closet space, and dormitory-style kitchenettes, I find myself navigating the challenges of a place where real estate comes at a premium. Like many others in this bustling metropolis, I've had to get quite creative with how I utilize my limited space.

Every square inch is precious to me, so when it comes to creating the illusion of space, I'm eager to explore any small apartment ideas. Seeking expert advice to address the challenges of furnishing in the face of limited space, I reached out to professionals not only for my benefit but also for anyone grappling with the same issue.

This isn't just a New York City problem – whether you're attempting to maximize a small guest room or dealing with a square footage challenge elsewhere, the desire to create an illusion of more room is universal. Read on to discover the best-kept secrets of interior designers for optimizing even the tiniest of spaces.

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How to maximize limited space

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Room with cream decor.

(Image credit: LAYERED)

Interior designer S.A. "Sam" Jernigan asserts that color is a crucial element where breaking the rules can yield significant benefits. She suggests considering dramatic hues for the walls or ceiling, but advises against heavy contrast, as our eye is always seeking contrast and "stops" when that's found: "In a more diminutive room, washing over architectural elements that might typically be painted in a contrast (e.g., trim) color can instead be painted in the same hue as what's adjacent or behind them - thus creating a clean, unbroken sightline, which then serves to visually expand the space.” 

While maintaining a singular color palette achieves this, Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, a NY-based interior design studio, favors a lighter one for its ability to brighten the room and create the illusion of a more expansive space.

Multifunctional Furniture

Bedroom with storage ottoman.

(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

Challie Stillman, VP of Creative at NY-based design store Resource Furniture, suggests opting for multifunctional furniture to open up a room and make it feel larger. For example, in bedrooms where the bed occupies most of the square footage, folding it away when not in use maximizes the available space.

Professional home organizer Laura Price adds that an ottoman sofa is another excellent example of multifunctional furniture, providing extra storage built into the sofa, perfect for storing blankets or bedding, achieving two purposes with one piece.


Room with framed wall mirror.

(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

Mirrors are the go-to optical illusion for designers aiming to enhance our perception of space. Sam advises against using small-scale mirrors in smaller spaces, recommending larger mirrors as a "verse optical illusion" that fools the eye into perceiving a space as more expansive than it is. The frame matters, too. Instead of choosing a greater number of subdued mirrors, Sam suggests opting for a couple of larger mirrors with a more substantial appearance. The placement of mirrors is equally crucial, with designers favoring unexpected locations, such as behind large furniture pieces or in room corners.

Reduce Visual Clutter

Storage cabinet.

(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

Laura emphasizes that one of the easiest ways to maximize small living spaces is by reducing visual clutter. The organizational expert elaborates, “having excess items on surfaces, unnecessary furniture, or even too many plants all contribute to visual clutter, which makes the room feel smaller and can make us more stressed. For areas of the room that feel overcrowded, try taking a few items away; you’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make.” For those wondering where to store extra items, concealed cabinets, as recommended by Artem, or stackable storage boxes are fantastic options, particularly suitable for cupboards with tall shelving.

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Style Editor

Formerly covering fashion at L’Officiel USA, style maven Julia Demer brings her love of design to Livingetc’s world of interiors. As the title’s Style Editor, Julia's work reflects a sharp eye for detail and an innate passion for aesthetics. Her journey began with a strong foundation in design, honing her craft at renowned establishments like The Row and even establishing her own eponymous fashion brand. Julia’s design background is evident in the way she thoughtfully curates shopping edits, always maintaining a focus on emerging trends while preserving timeless sensibilities. For Julia, fashion and interiors go hand in hand, reflecting her lifelong commitment to perfecting the art of style.