Designing on a budget and within a small space is a challenge; but I’m one to love a good challenge, so I’m going to share the things I’ve learned decorating my Williamsburg apartment in a relatively short amount of time.
When I say my apartment is small, compared to a house somewhere else in the country, my living area might be considered cozy. At only 1000 square feet, I don’t have a separate dining room so I really needed to make my living room feel open, not crowded.
Luckily, I’ve had the chance of working with some top brands and designers over the years and I’d like to think that I picked up a few tips along the way. Heymama community member Amy Purcell recently launched Fifty Two Rooms, a curated site of shoppable designer rooms and I tapped her for a few tricks of the trade as well. Read on for all the nuggets of design gold that is sure to take you to #aptdecogoals in no time.
1. Figure out the vibe of your space before you start designing.
It might be tempting to find one piece and go from there, but typically you’re drawn to a style for a reason. Go on, pin some stuff to Pinterest and hone in on the style you like best.
Amy says, “I agree with this 100%. Too often people design a space without a full picture in mind. They buy things as they see them without a plan. The end result is usually a space that looks unpolished and incohesive. Always start with a plan and an overall style or feel that you want to achieve, then ask yourself, “What do I see happening in this space? Is it dinner with friends? Movie night with your significant other and/or your kids?”, then design your space around that idea.”
2. Invest in your sofa.
Your sofa is the one item that you will get the most use out of and given that it’s the largest piece, it’ll also set the tone for your living room. Make sure it’s comfortable, well-made, and brings the vibes you chose in the exercise I recommend above. I chose the Soma Sofa Bed in Dawn Grey from Article because it was a beautiful neutral, could accommodate guests (it’s a pull-out!) and having a sectional to lounge on at the end of the day is a snugglers dream.
Turns out, Amy agrees with us too. “I believe that if you are going to invest in only one piece for your living room/family room, it should be your sofa. A well made, comfortable sofa makes all the difference. And going with a neutral tone allows you the flexibility to change the look of the room instantly by swapping out the pillows, throw blanket etc. In a small space, having the ability to give your room a fresh look without spending a ton of money is an added bonus.”
3. Go with circular dining tables and coffee tables.
Round tables help contrast other more structured pieces and for me, symbolize community and togetherness. I chose this Article Mara Walnut Coffee Table and the Mara Walnut Side Table because it was small enough for the space to not take it over, and felt modern and light with the beautiful marble.
4. Find a statement piece you love.
You may not be able to buy everything you want but there could be one piece worth throwing down for. Find that thing that makes your heart smile and could be one of the centerpieces of the room. I chose this stunning White on White branch dining table that is a key focal point, and some other gold pieces that make me things feel very luxe like this stool.
5. Plants, plants and more plants.
If you want to transform a space, add some gorgeous greenery. Nothing makes it feel more lush than beautiful greens and they are good for you! You can then add a dash of design with the containers and pots that you place the plants in. I chose these beautiful basket weave plant holders that add the boho vibes I wanted to contrast the modern room décor.
6. Invest in your pillows.
When you have a small space you need to do a lot with a little, and pillows are one way to complete your room. The little details, textures, and colors in your pillows add some dimension which gives your room a designer feel. I chose these Lulu & Georgia pillows and this stunning one from Aviva Stanoff.
I love Amy’s tip to go high-low. I do it all the time in my wardrobe, why not do it at home? She says, “A great tip for pillows if you are on a budget is to invest in at least two really great matching pillows with a bold pattern that speaks to you. Then, add solid colored, less expensive pillows, to accent them.”
7. Don’t put too much furniture in the room.
As tempting as it may be to put a piece of furniture in every corner, less is definitely more in a small space. You don’t want to overcrowd it with random stuff, so keep it open. Steer clear of too many knick knacks that clutter the room or huge oversized pieces not meant for NYC style apartments.
This is one of Amy’s biggest tips as well. “The flow of a space is incredibly important and can make a room feel inviting or like one that you don’t want to enter. When designing a small space less is more. Think about how people are going to move through the space and lay out the furniture accordingly. There is nothing more frustrating than having to weave in and around pieces of furniture every time you have to get up from the sofa to go to the bathroom.”
8. Books are your best accessory.
Small spaces feel instantly cozy and homey with the addition of books. Whether you’re putting your best ones on a coffee table, or you have a dedicated bookshelf, books give so much character to a home and really tell a personal narrative of your life.
9. Get a light rug.
Although our instinct is to get a dark rug for wear and tear, nothing opens up a room like a beautiful neutral light rug and it also gives you more flexibility on everything else in the room. I chose this rug from Lulu & Georgia, it’s the perfect mix of feminine to contrast the modern vibes.
Amy is open to going dark, but has a few thoughts as well. “Dark or light, rugs help to ground a space and can also be used to define different spaces in the same room (i.e living area, dining area etc). Wool rugs are best, not only because they are a natural material, and so much better for the environment inside and out, but also because wool is naturally stain resistant. Be sure to invest in the correct rug pad as well as they help extend the life of your carpet.”
10. Lighting is everything.
As someone who always thinks it’s too dark, getting your room well lit is key. Find lighting that doesn’t take up too much floor space and can work well with your chosen vibes! I love this Article lamp, it fits in perfectly in this nook between my heater and my couch. Like many NYC apartments, we don’t have any overhead lighting, so finding ways to lighten up the room has been a challenge.
According to Amy, “Lighting truly is everything! I love designing a space that has various different lighting options. Overhead lighting is great for the daytime when you are trying to get things done. At night, I love incorporating different table and floor lamps (or task lighting) throughout a space. They allow you to set the mood(s) and give you flexibility. Task lighting also helps to make the space feel more cozy.”
We hope you enjoyed these tips for a small living room! We’d love to hear your tips, so please share in the comments below!
Thank you to the wonderful brands Article, White on White and Lulu & Georgia that partnered with me to make my apartment feel like a home. I received product for review but all opinions expressed are my own.