I remember when I moved into a relatively small apartment and was faced with the challenge of making it feel like home. I wanted to make the place seem bigger and brighter without making any structural transformations, which can be difficult in a rented property. However, by following some basic guidelines throughout the decorating process, I was able to work with what I had and achieve my goal.

In my opinion, simplicity should be your motto if you have limited experience in home design. This does not mean your decor has to be plain or boring; instead, simplicity can be a guiding principle. While there are many ways to take risks and add bold ideas through accessories and accent details, it’s important to consider some ground rules. Working on a small space is an excellent learning opportunity to master the basic but essential rules of interior design. After this experience, you will feel more comfortable decorating a bigger space if you decide to upgrade. Photos: www.bestdesignideas.com

1 – The Process Needs Time For Development:

Consider the process of decorating your place a creative one, where the end result is a balanced, aesthetic reflection of who you are, your taste, and your personality, while also taking into account practical solutions for modern standards of living. There is a lot to think about, with many elements to juggle, so bringing a creative vision to life is not something that can be rushed, even if you have the financial means to do so. A rushed process might not do your vision justice, and one thing none of us can afford are expensive mistakes or eyesores.

That being said, when you first move into a new place, the first thing you urgently need is a bed, and that’s fine. However, before buying a bed, you should take the following steps: locate the area where you want to place the bed, measure it, and think about the right bed size for the space available (king, queen, super-king). The height of the bed frame is also important. For example, a bed that is too high in a room with a low ceiling might feel claustrophobic. Walkways at the end of the bed frame should be between 80cm-100cm, and the same applies to the space on either side of the bed.

2 – Define The Interior Design Style You Like:

Is it Scandinavian, Industrial, Japanese, Contemporary, French, Modern Farmhouse, English Cottage, Mid-century, or a mix of two or three styles? Social media is your best friend. In my opinion, if you don’t want to get too technical, you can use platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. They offer a wealth of information, with excellent examples and inspiration for all kinds of interior design styles.

From my own experience, Scandinavian is one of the easiest styles to integrate into small spaces, as furniture lines, shapes, and styles are never too bulky, making them easily adaptable to different spaces. Additionally, there are many budget-friendly stores that specialize in the Scandi style and offer decent quality products (yes, including Ikea).

Photos: www.home-designing.com

3 – Work on a Clean White Canvas:

Unless you have experience in interior design, it can be challenging to create a vision board in a place where previous tenants or owners left their mark with questionable choices of wall colors and wallpapers. Therefore, I believe it is worth taking the time to strip back anything you don’t want and repaint all walls in a simple white. Painting is a task that anyone can do. If I can do it, I am sure you can too. I had never held a brush or roller until a few months ago, but it turned out to be one of the most satisfying tasks I did in our house. Repainting doesn’t cost much, and it sets the base for the changes you need to make.

4 – Measure Each room’s Dimensions:

Taking precise measurements of your whole apartment is a key step in the overall process. No decision should be made, and no piece of furniture or even a picture frame should be purchased without having previously taken accurate measurements. A simple tape measure is all you need. When measuring a room, consider the following: floor area, height of walls, walkways, windows, doors, and wall space around doors and windows. It’s a good idea to keep your notes with you at all times so that if you come across items you like online or in a store, you can double-check whether their size fits the measurements you took.

5 – Create Defined Zones Within Your Space:

To create defined zones within your space, you should be clear about your and your family’s habits and behavior: where do you sleep, work, dine, watch TV, and entertain? Sometimes, when you have limited space, you need to combine activities within a zone, such as cooking and working or dining and working. Other times, you have to compromise and optimize the limited space you have. For example, you may have to “kill” your TV and just use your computer or tablet to watch Netflix. It’s important to keep in mind that the space should never feel cramped, cluttered, or overloaded, and walkways should not be reduced.

Photos: www.apartmenttherapy.com

6 – Establish a Color Scheme and Carry it Through The Apartment:

You might come across a sofa, chair, or dining table that you absolutely love. However, it is important to carefully consider furniture sizes to make sure they fit your space before making any purchases. You should check the length, depth, width, height, overall volume, and proportion of the furniture. For example, with a tape measure or a simple masking tape, you can trace the position of the sofa in your space and see if it fits. You should do the same for any piece of furniture you would like to buy. Please remember that volume and height are important too. A sofa with bulky square side arms might not be the right fit for your space. You might prefer to have a sofa or chair with soft, round edges that better suits the proportions of your room.

A helpful tip for laying out a color scheme from one room to another is to use the main color from one room as an accent color in another. For example, if your sofa is a luxurious velvet blue, you could introduce a close shade of that blue color in the bedroom with an upholstered headboard or bench. This creates a harmonious flow between rooms and makes the color scheme feel cohesive.

7 – Combine Interior Design Style With The Color Scheme in Mind:

Mixing styles is, in my opinion, essential for adding a personal touch to your home and reflecting your individual style. When done well, your home will feel unique and won’t look like a generic showroom.While style combination ultimately comes down to personal taste, there is a general rule that can be followed to effortlessly blend two different styles. For example, if you want to mix Scandinavian and Boho Chic styles, you can divide your furniture into two major groups: the functional group and the accent group. The functional group includes items such as the sofa, dining table, dining chairs, and bed frame, which should be picked in the minimalistic, sleek Scandinavian style. The accent group includes items such as side tables, sideboards, rugs, cushions, and other decorative elements that can inject a touch of color with contrasting effects thanks to their earthy tones, bold patterns, and inviting fabrics in the Boho Chic style.

A side note: Mixing old and new can create a unique, interesting combination. e.g.: An antique sideboard would go well with a modern Scandinavian lamp along with contemporary artwork.

8 – Be Ready to Compromise and Optimise:

You may have already optimized the available space by combining different zones and planned to use hideaways and floating shelves to clear floor space. However, it can still be difficult to neatly store all your belongings without creating a claustrophobic clutter. When I faced similar issues, my solution was to rent a small storage space. These spaces are usually not expensive, have climate control, and are not too far from my place. I considered it almost as a tiny extension to my flat, keeping it tidy and organized. I used it regularly to store any item I didn’t use on a daily basis and to store my winter shoes and clothes during spring and summer, replacing them during winter. Whenever I needed something, a quick trip down to the storage box would do the trick. Photos: Cameron Ruppert Interiors & Lucy Doswell.

9 – Carefully Plan Walkways Measurements:

Planning for walkways or pathways inside the apartment is absolutely critical to guarantee smooth and easy traffic flow. This article provides good tips on some of the important rules of measurements. Here are a few highlights to keep in mind:

  • Distance between a coffee table and a sofa: 35-45 cm
  • Distance between side tables and chairs: close enough to set a drink
  • Distance between seating: no more than 300 cm and no less than 90 cm to favor intimate conversation while maintaining personal space.
  • Width of walkways: 80-100 cm.

Working with these measurements will help you determine the right furniture sizes for your space.

10 – Furniture Measurements Are Crucial For a Well-Proportioned Decor:

You might come across a sofa, chair, or dining table that you absolutely love. However, it is important to carefully consider furniture sizes to make sure they fit your space before making any purchases. You should check the length, depth, width, height, overall volume, and proportion of the furniture. For example, with a tape measure or a simple masking tape, you can trace the position of the sofa in your space and see if it fits. You should do the same for any piece of furniture you would like to buy. Please remember that volume and height are important too. A sofa with bulky square side arms might not be the right fit for your space. You might prefer to have a sofa or chair with soft, round edges that better suits the proportions of your room.

I hope these posts have helped shed some light on small apartment decorating rules. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, I would be happy to help.

featured image is by interior designer, Cameron Rupert.

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