You’ve moved from a big home to a small apartment. You worried about downsizing, but you methodically chronicled your belongings and kept only the stuff that you knew would comfortably fit in your new apartment. The process to get to this point was challenging, but by putting items for sale on Craigslist, consigning some items to an estate sale specialist, donating things to homeless shelters and by just throwing some items away you were able to cull your things to an appropriate level.
Whether you’re moving into a small one-bedroom in a cheap apartment in Chicago like the ones offered on sites such as Abodo, or a studio apartment in a huge area like New York City, learning to downsize is an art, but if you follow the tips and suggestions that follow, you’ll find that the path to a comfortable, cozy but spacious-feeling apartment is not as difficult as you may have thought.
You’re happy about the things you decided to save, and you don’t feel bad about the items you have disposed of. That’s a good thing, and you’ll be surprised at just how quickly those old and unneeded items will disappear from your memory.
The only problem now is that you feel just a little cramped, and you want to know what you can do to give your cute apartment the illusion of space. So again, Check out the following five tips along with the bonus suggestions we have outlined below:
Paint the Walls White
We know that light-colored walls are preferable to dark ones, but we need to take that a step further if your goal is to create space.
When painting your walls, use only a bright white paint, because anything with a grayish tinge will work against your plan to make your apartment look more spacious. Tricks, like adding a little pink or even blue to your white base, are not suggested. Go to your nearest big box store and ask the people in the paint department to get you the brightest white paint available.
Also, avoid buying cheap paint because you feel that “all paints are the same.” After you have applied that third coat of inexpensive paint and the walls still look splotchy, you’ll wish you would have spent just a little more for quality paint.
Remember, bright white walls will reflect more natural light, and that will help your small apartment look bigger. The illusion of light is a very powerful one.
Paint the Ceilings Dark
We admit that this may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but when used correctly, dark colors like navy and maroon when used on ceilings only can create an amazing feeling of depth, and your rooms will look many feet taller. This effect has been used for years in fancy hotels and ornately decorated office buildings. When you look up, you’ll see what looks like a faraway night sky, and that illusion will instantly make your room look larger and feel more spacious.
We do suggest that you use only high-quality paint, but it’s up to you whether you want to do flat or glossy. Either way, try this hack and your rooms will look bigger!
Respect the Windows
Hello—darkness is not your friend; light is. If you have any sources of natural light—and most of these would be windows, not skylights-we urge you to let them be.
Don’t crowd furniture items around windows and don’t cover them with heavy drapes or curtains that can’t be properly opened. Natural light makes everything seem more spacious, so don’t block its source.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a rack of cooking utensils hanging on a rod in front of a window. As long as most of the light isn’t blocked, the natural brightness will still be able to get through and your room will definitely look bigger.
Move It Out
You probably have the tendency to place all big furniture items as close to the wall as possible because you want to create as much visible floor space as you can, and by doing this you may create a big center space. Many people think that this is the only answer for furniture placement.
This, however, might make your room look more cramped than you think because everything will be jammed up against the walls. Even if you have created some open center space, this area may be light-obstructed, and the heaviness of the items against the wall can be foreboding.
Try moving large furniture items three inches away from the walls and let the light flow behind them. You’ll be amazed at the space this trick creates. Don’t worry about losing a few inches of usable space because the dancing light behind your larger items will be a treat!
Finally, consider purchasing multi-purpose furniture like the bed below:
As you can see, if you use the space under a bed for storage, you can create space by avoiding the use of a big dresser. Shop online, and you’ll find many multipurpose items to choose from. As you know, you don’t really have to go out and look at big furniture items anymore because online shopping sites are so well made that it’s easy to picture that piece of furniture in your room without having to take that long drive to the store.
Remember those old cartoons where a folding bed came out of a closet? This contraption is still manufactured and it is called a Murphy Bed. Wikipedia tells us that “The bed is named after William Lawrence Murphy (1876–1957), who applied for his first patents around 1900. According to legend, he was wooing an opera singer, but living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco, and the moral code of the time frowned upon a woman entering a man’s bedroom. Murphy’s invention converted his bedroom into a parlor, enabling him to entertain.” For those with a very small bedroom, something like this creates an amazing amount of space.
Some Bonus Tips
Vertical storage is another great way to save space while respecting the light. An empty wall may look peaceful, but if you have lots of plants in random spots, a vertical garden shelf unit can organize them and help cut the clutter.
Old TV sets should definitely be abandoned and replaced with thin wall-mounted units. In your grandparents’ home, the television set was a piece of furniture. These were so pervasive and monochromatic that even guitar manufacturers began to pick up on their color, and some Gibson guitars were nicknamed “The TV Model” as they had a finish that was close to those old Philco TVs. Sorry for the digression, but if you have a big old TV, you have to get rid of it and replace it with something slender that either fits on the wall or even on a shelf.
And while we’re talking about video equipment, make sure that you have the newest cable box model. Those giant boxes can be a thing of the past and your new box can be as small as a medium-sized router. Nothing looks uglier and takes up more space than outdated cable equipment.
Wait, There’s More!
Remember those giant speakers you saw in grandma’s house? They were made by Onkyo or Pioneer or some other similar company. The system that they called a stereo also came with a turntable, a tape player (!), and later a CD player. The unit also needed a separate amplifier and sometimes a radio tuner for both AM and FM. All of these things took up a lot of space.
If you have one of these, maybe take it to Antiques Roadshow; by all means, get it out of your home because you know that phone plus a little blue box can give you all of the quality sounds you need.
You’ve made the move and you’re almost there. You got rid of what you didn’t need, you painted your walls white, you bought appropriate space-saving furniture, you moved things away from the room edges, and you let your windows be. Now, take a look around and enjoy your clutter-free and space-enhancing existence.
And one final note for you. Your 3500 square foot home with the big backyard served a great purpose. Everything you needed was on-site. You didn’t need to go to the park to relax as you could sit outside in your own yard. You could cook outside, and relax on those nice summer days. Inside, you could retreat to another room or even the basement or the attic if you had to get away from others.
If you live in an apartment or condo complex, you can still do the same things. If your place is small, just use the amenities in your building. Most apartment complexes have areas where you can cook outside, and many have pools and pleasant sitting spots. Just quit thinking that everything has to be self-contained in your own private unit.
Downsizing is a challenge and creating space is a bigger one. Try the above tips, however, and the entire process will be easier!