It's not easy squeezing as many apartment storage ideas as you need into your space. Apartments are, on the whole, smaller floorplans to work with, but they also lack some of the most valuable storage space you might take for granted in a house.
'One of the biggest challenges is to maximize the storage as much as possible,' explains New York-based interior designer Tyson Ness. 'That includes not only the expected items like dishes, clothing, and books, but other items that need to be stored away that can traditionally go into a garage or an attic-like holiday décor, sporting equipment, and hobby materials.'
The solution is to consider more thoughtfully how you incorporate storage when decorating an apartment. You might need to find ways to sneak more storage surreptitiously into your design, or you might be able to make a feature out of storage.
Let these 10 designer tips, along with real apartment designs that put them to the test, inspire you to make the most of every last inch of space to store your belongings.
1. Choose furniture with additional storage
Storage furniture is the perfect small apartment idea, creating useable storage where otherwise this space would be wasted.
'Think outside of the box with furniture when possible,' says Tyson, founder of Studio Ness. 'A storage chaise or ottoman in a living room can store extra blankets and pillows; a lift-up bed can accommodate sporting equipment or holiday items; or an entry bench can lift up to reveal storage space inside for shoes.'
'When space is at a premium, look into furniture that can cleverly disguise storage space, any small bit matters.'
The only challenge that storage furniture presents is that of choice of styles. It's undoubtedly a more limited range you'll have to choose from, and some storage pieces can feel bulky. Look for designs that don't necessarily give away that they contain storage. It's even possible to find lift-up beds that don't look like divans, though these aren't likely to have the same storage capacity.
2. Camouflage storage into your space
Overloading an apartment living room with storage can cause it to feel crowded, even if you've got the floor space to include it. Choosing storage furniture that recedes into the background, whether freestanding or built-in, helps to streamline the space. This way you can give attention to the parts of your apartment that you really love, as this design by GNE Architecture highlights.
'In this particular project, the owners wanted a tv in the living room but didn’t want to see it when not in use,' explains founder Greg Epstein. 'As such, used a very shallow space to mount a tv and then have doors, matching the walls, that could be fully opened when watching.'
'Adjacent to the fireplace is a little apartment office idea with shelving above and the opposite side has a storage cabinet below with shelves above.'
These apartment storage ideas are both incredibly useful and packed into every available nook, however by camouflaging in with the walls, the beautiful fireplace takes center stage instead.
3. Carefully plan built-in furniture
'If going through the expense of custom building built-in storage, you want to be sure it captures more than what you currently have,' suggests interior designer Tyson Ness.
'For a closet, for example, I would measure out the linear hanging and review the current shelving and drawer storage. I would start the design to make sure to capture at least that same amount of space and then expand from there. Using clever closet hardware, like from Hafele, will also help maximize the storage.'
'It discreetly conceals the air-con, a door to the bathroom, and extensive storage,' explains Uwe Schmidt-Hess. 'We introduced a central section with drawers and an open niche in a sage green color. This gives the room a colorful focus as well as making the room feel a little bigger.'
'The niche also has removable shelving and so can be used as an open bookcase in the future.'
3. Think about flexibility of freestanding storage
Freestanding furniture is a great way to bring additional storage into an apartment, especially where you're not looking to make huge changes, or it's a rental. However, not all small living room storage ideas are created equal when it comes to their potential to solve your storage issues.
'Flexibility and modularity are the best features to look for with freestanding pieces,' suggests Tyson Ness. 'These pieces should be sizable enough to fit most spaces, but to maximize their use, look for pieces that allow for additional components or movable shelving.'
'This will help to customize to what is being stored, but also allow for great flexibility and growth down the line.'
5. Prioritize the right storage in the kitchen
Small spaces are always a challenge; however, being a designer in NYC is all about maximizing your client's precious square footage,' says James Davison, co-managing partner of The New Design Project. 'In a kitchen, this usually means adding storage wherever you can, perhaps including the cabinets going all the way to the ceiling.'
However, kitchen cupboards aren't the be-all and end-all of designing an apartment kitchen. As New York-based apartment designer Ahmad AbouZanat of PROJECT AZ says: 'Storage is very important, but not at the expense of worktop surface.'
'The main purpose of a kitchen is preparing food, something you can't do anywhere else in the apartment,' he explains, 'while a credenza close to the kitchen or dining table could also be used to hold dinnerware, taking this requirement out of the kitchen.'
6. Use storage furniture to hide a TV
Storage is a great solution when you can't find a living room TV idea that doesn't dominate a small apartment, both helping to make the most of the space you have, and minimizing its presence when you're not watching it.
'We never like to see a television so wherever possible we will try to incorporate it as part of a media cabinet or custom millwork piece,' says Nathan Cuttle, director of Studio Nato.
'Adding sliding cabinet doors is a great solution to help cover it when it is not in use while keeping it accessible. This is what we did here by adding two sliding, ribbed glass doors to a custom millwork piece.'
Creating a TV stand like this design will also help you pack in apartment storage ideas onto a wall, while still creating a well-organized, stylish backdrop when sat on the sofa.
7. Create a design feature with open shelving
Open shelving ideas have the benefit of both providing both storage and wall décor, so shouldn't be overlooked in your space. The only issue is that what you can store is limited, as you also need to be happy for it to be on display in your apartment.
However, once you've filled your shelves with books, you can also mix in small, decorative storage boxes and prettier files and folders to help create storage for documents and keepsakes without ruining your shelving's aesthetic appeal.
This has a domino effect, freeing up drawer space elsewhere that can be used to store your possessions that won't quite fit into an open shelving design.
8. Use storage as a room divider
Storage can play another role in your design, especially in an open-plan apartment. Here, they can be used to create physical divides between areas, helping to demarcate certain spaces for different functions, as well as creating privacy and blocking noise traveling.
There are different ways to approach using storage as a room divider, however.
'Room divider ideas work well when trying to create a separate space or spaces within a much larger space of volume,' explains Greg Epstein of GNE Architecture.
'Depending on the design, you can see around or over or through a divider which allows for the smaller space to coexist and have its own identity or use within the larger space,' he says. Designs like open shelving work well in this instance.
Wardrobes and other closed forms of storage work well as dividers too. 'This kind of divider can also be used as screens to shield the view of something you don’t see or, providing privacy,' Greg suggests.
9. Make a design feature of bulky items
'Finding a spot for bulkier items to be stored is one of the most complex challenges for an apartment,' says interior designer Tyson Ness of Ness Studio. So how do you approach finding room for possessions that would usually find a home in a loft, or garage for example?
Your main options are to look at your built-in storage options, which have the space to adapt to large objects. Think about bulkier items you own when planning built-in storage, and have internal shelving and rails adapted to ensure they'll fit.
In the right apartment, you could also consider making a feature of storing some large items, such as bicycles. In this loft apartment design by The New Design Project, wall-mounted cycles offer an apartment storage idea that keeps the apartment entryway free but also creates clever wall décor that plays into the quirky, industrial scheme.
10. Add room for storage with a loft bed
If you're trying to find some extra square footage for storage, then a loft bed idea might be exactly the solution you're looking for. By raising the bed onto a platform, you're able to create much more storage space than a simple lift-up divan offers.
You could choose to go for the full loft bed experience, which creates a space tall enough to walk underneath - perfect for a walk-in closet idea. However, this isn't always ideal for everyone. Otherwise, consider just a small raised platform as in this design created by Studio Oink. 'The clients needed extra storage in this apartment,' says Lea Korzeczek, 'and under the platform bed there is ample storage space for suitcases, shoes, winter clothing, and their other bulky belongings.'
How do I organize storage in a small apartment?
Organizing your clothes, kitchen supplies, cosmetics and other belongings is part and parcel of making the most of your apartment's storage. But how do you squeeze the most out of your storage space?
First up, use vertical space efficiently. Make sure you use shelving that effectively uses the storage space you do have, and stack where possible. Installing levels onto shelves with organization inserts will help you see and reach things kept at the back of the shelves, making them more usable too.
When storing out-of-season clothes under beds or in cabinets, use a vacuum bag for storage. This not only protects them but makes them as compact as possible, ensuring you can fit more in.
Our top tip for kitchen storage? Oven pans and trays can be large and difficult to store. Just keep them in the oven when not in use if space is tight, just remember to take them out before you turn on the range to start cooking next time.
Using small boxes in drawers is better than having an overflowing 'junk' drawer. This can help to group things together, making it easier to find things. Small boxes can also be used as decorative accessories throughout your apartment, creating those small pockets of storage that are really useful and help free up larger spaces for your bulkier storage requirements.
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Hugh is the Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2024.
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