10 Great Design Ideas for Small Apartment Living

There are lots of ways to achieve good functional design in small apartment living.  With the evolution of technology and the development of commerce come high rise buildings and urban living spaces.

Just because these apartments are compact does not mean one cannot have good functional design.  With a little bit of creativity and thinking out of the box, tiny homes can be made to look stylish without compromising lifestyle. 

The biggest issue about small apartment living is the lack of storage space. Ideally this can be solved at the onset while doing the architectural plans so that storage can be incorporated into the design.  In rental units, this usually isn’t the case as most of them come bare except for a few wardrobes and the usual kitchen cupboards.  This is when creativity and ingenuity come to play.  Here are ten useful design ideas to make small apartment living look fabulous and purposeful.

  1. Raise your floor and add a platform.

(Interior Designed by Silvana's Innovative Interior)

Most modern apartment come with a high ceiling and this will allow you to raise your floor so that you can use the space below as storage.  We’ve seen bedroom areas placed on platforms allowing you to stow away essentials like beddings pillows or even an extra mattress.

  1. Use the space around your doorway to build extra storage ledges.

(Ledges from West Elm)

Adding an eight to ten- inch ledge all around your door or hallway opening will give you enough space to store things like books and small boxes of home supplies.  Think of things you don’t need on a regular basis like batteries, cables and small tools in a decorative box.  DVDs or office supplies can go in another and even some photo albums or a box filled with your children’s art work are examples of things you can stow away in this area above you. 

  1. Build a loft and use the living space below you.

(Loft Building project by Skeppsholmen)

The old bunk bed concept was a fabulous one and reinventing it a step further by making it larger is a great way of gaining more living area.  Think about putting some drawers around your usual bed space on top or even adding a twelve to sixteen- inch ledge around your bed space which can be used as a work desk area.  The space below can then be used as a living room, dining area or a whole wardrobe closet.

  1. Utilize corners and build a desk or extra cabinet.

Ambient Lounge Twin Couch Sofa in Lime Citrus

There are lots of things you can do with corner space.  You can build a floor to ceiling cabinet to store long things like brooms and cleaning mops or sports equipment like your golf set or tennis rackets.  If you want to make things simpler use the corner to build a small ledge with a drawer to use as a simple work station for your laptop of phone.

  1. Build a ledge on top of your sofa to put decorative items, photos frames and art work.

Ambient Lounge Twin Couch Sofa in Luscious Grey

Making your apartment look well- designed and beautiful is still important for one to feel relaxed and at home.  Adding decorative elements can be a problem with the lack of surfaces to put them on, so building a ledge can be the solution.  Small vases, memorabilia, photo frames and the like are some things that will go well on a ledge on top of a sofa. 

  1. Add open shelves on blank walls of your kitchen area.

(Kitchen Shelves Designed by Liz Kamarul)

There are often one or two wall spaces in small kitchen with nothing on it that can hold some shelves for you to use a storage space for small plates, mugs and food jars.  With just a few brackets, angle bars and some elbow grease, you could have a pretty functional shelf area.

  1. Invest in decorative boxes for extra storage that look great around the house.

(Photo from Mad About The House and Metal Storage Boxes Product from Cox & Cox)

The key to making small apartment living neat and tidy is to make sure all the small stuff has a “home”.  Investing in decorative boxes or pretty basket to store all the small stuff and placing these beside furniture or arranging them in a row along one side of your apartment will make your space look spic and span.

  1. Use multi- functional furniture.

Ambient Lounge Versa Table and Butterfly Sofa  in Luscious Grey

When buying furniture always try to pick those with storage and look for pieces that you can use in more than just one way.  A good example is using a desk with drawers as a dining table so you can store placemats and cutlery underneath it.  Sofa beds are great examples of multi- functional furniture.  A rather brilliant invention, there are some sofa bed designs that have evolved and are now very stylish and sophisticated.  Items such as the Ambient Lounge versa table can also be either a table or a spare seat – adding versatility to your space.


  1. Go for small accent furniture that are comfortable & stylish instead of bulky pieces. 

When decorating small spaces, big bulky arm chairs no longer fit.  They take up too much floor area, are heavy and can be quite a bore in terms of design.  Go for organic shaped pieces that are comfortable like pretty sleek accent chairs or tactile, stylish structured bean bag furniture. The Ambient Lounge Butterfly Sofa & Wing Ottoman combo for instance are a great choice for any cozy corner and can be moved around the apartment with ease.


Love a movie? ... enjoy Gold Class luxury every night with our quilted and (elastic) structured bean bag furniture

A post shared by Ambient Lounge (@ambientlounge) on


Butterfly Sofa in Tundra Spring
  1. Stack some vintage suitcases or wooden trunks to create more storage. 

Ambient Lounge Twin Couch Sofa in Eco Weave

There are a couple of neat looking wooden chests or vintage luggage you can find at flea markets that can be useful to store things like linen, beddings and other personal items.  If you think they may be too bulky, think about stacking them to create a vertical looking storage space and minimize the consumption of floor area. 

About the Author - Marilen Faustino Montenegro is a blogger & interior stylist; now based in Hong Kong. Marilen has designed and co-ordinated numerous residential and commercial projects in her 10 years of practice in Asia. She is also renowned as a model and TV host in the Philippines. Follow her on Instagram @marilenstyles | Twitter @marilenmonte And visit her interior design and lifestyle blog at www.marilenstyles.com for inspiration on design and home.
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