How to Maximize Space in a Small Apartment — 5 Clever Tricks to Make the Very Most of What You Have

Get the very most out of your small space apartment with these clever designer-approved tricks

A small living room that maximizes space
(Image credit: Tim Lenz. Design: MK WORKSHOP)

If you live in a small apartment, you'll know how important it is to maximize every precious square foot, but optimizing every inch for small-space living is no easy feat. It requires careful planning and consideration, and thinking outside the box. The result should be a seamless space that blends functionality with a welcoming atmosphere.

You want to create a home where it's not obvious that you've painstakingly and meticulously planned every minute detail. If your small apartment still feels cramped and claustrophobic, you could be tripping up over some basic design hurdles. To help you out, we've spoken to the experts who offer these five top tips for maximizing space in small apartments and decorating small spaces so they feel homely.

1. Carve out distinct zones

A neutral living room that uses the sofa as a zoning device

(Image credit: Chango & Co)

Rethinking your layout is our number one top tip. Rearranging furniture in a small room might just unlock a whole new space that you had previously been disregarding, and you can use the furniture as room dividers that carve out different destinations.

When it comes to creating a clear layout in your home, your first thought might be to sit the furniture flush against the walls to create more space. Conversely, floating your furniture might be a better solution to your small space woes. If you float the furniture away from the walls, you create a bit more flow to your room, and clear corridors that direct the traffic flow. Floating furniture simultaneously creates more intimate, conversational spaces that are conducive to socializing.

In this example by Chango & Co, the back of the sofa is used to create an entryway from the front door, acting as a mini wall to guide the guest into the home. Meanwhile, the sofa faces toward the fire to create a cozy and intimate living room zone that looks inward, focusing on the fireplace.

'Living room dividers are useful in creating a flexible space that ebbs and flows depending on use,' says Elisabeth Rogoff, principal at Champalimaud Design. 'Or to break down a space that is proportionally too long or wide. Or simply to create multiple spaces when given only four walls.

According to Elisabeth, the trick is to make each area an extension of the last. 'This gives each module a distinct personality so you are drawn into the next area with a sense of curiosity and don’t feel jarred or confused when you make the transition.'

Sofas are a great tool for carving out space, especially if you can jump onto the dual aspect sofa trend. A dual-aspect sofa allows you to cleverly partition your living area into distinct zones without the need for walls or room dividers. It's a stylish and functional way to establish separate areas for relaxation, conversation, or even a cozy reading nook.

2. Use rugs to pull furniture together

A small living room that floats furniture

(Image credit: Tim Lenz. Design MK WORKSHOP)

Rugs are a powerful tool in small apartments and should not be forgotten. They aren't just a decorative addition, and can help maximize space by grounding and grouping the furniture, as seen here in this example by MK Workshop, contributing to the creation of zones. But they should be fitted properly, explains Emily Brown of Emily Lauren Interiors.

'Small living room rugs can make a room feel cramped and busy,' she says. 'Opt for a larger rug that extends beyond the coffee table, allowing at least the front two legs (or ideally, all four) of your furniture to rest on it.'

This grounding effect not only enhances the aesthetic but also creates the illusion of a more spacious room. 'The mantra here: the bigger the rug, the better!'

3. Make sure furniture is in proportion

A dining room nook

(Image credit: German Sáiz. Design: Sierra de la Higuera)

It may sound obvious but another top tip for maximizing space in a small apartment or small living room is to always have the measurements to hand. 'Always measure a room before buying furniture for it,' says Elisabeth. 'No exceptions - scale every item out and sketch in plan- there is no other way to ensure a proper fit.'

If you have the measurements at the forefront of your mind, you can make sure that everything properly fits together. Work out if that coffee table fits snugly in the right angle of your L-shape sofa, and whether the bedside table slots in beside your bed, thereby maximizing the space you have.

4. Opt for versatile furniture

A kitchen with bespoke storage bench

(Image credit: Fiona Susanto. Design: The Stylesmiths)

Make sure to maximize your space by investing in furniture with multiple functions. Consider a sofa that doubles up as neat storage space (with a clever lever that opens up the sofa to reveal storage space). In the bedroom, pick a bed with a spring mechanism for under-bed storage.

In your dining room, try folding tables that collapse in on themselves or extendable tables that can be adapted as and when you need them. In the entryway, line the space with an ottoman bench that makes for extra storage and a place to sit to put shoes on before leaving the house.

These clever designs not only organize the space and help make the most of the allocated space you have, but they help your small space look uncluttered.

5. Use the corners to your advantage

A small living room that makes the most of the corners

(Image credit: Fabian Martinez. Design: direccion)

Use your corners wisely. So often, the layout of your room means these spaces become dead spaces that are unused and unloved. But you can make more out of your home by optimizing these corners, creating cozy destinations, reading corners and even working from home office spaces.

'By styling an empty corner with a cozy chair, end table and a lamp, the space is instantly and automatically elevated to the perfect nook to read a book and drink a warm cup of tea,' says Laura Williams of ATX Interior Design.

'Add two or three smaller pieces of art above and a basket next to it and you have a lovely and practical way to fill that space,' adds Kathryn Murphy of Kathryn Murphy Interiors.

3 Buys to maximize space in a small apartment

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.