We Asked the Experts How to Work With—and Maximize—Every Inch of Space In Your Home

We Asked the Experts How to Work With—and Maximize—Every Inch of Space In Your Home

Interior designers and architects agree: if you’re short on square footage, your furniture needs to work overtime.
Photos by

Recently, I moved into an approximately 550-square-foot apartment in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles. We picked the apartment for its excellent location, modern fixtures, and expansive patio. While the outdoor patio is a great size, the indoor space is a bit tight, especially the bedroom. There's just enough space for my bed, bedside tables and a dresser. Working within these constraints, I quickly learned the importance of maximizing every inch of space. If you’re in a similar situation, you’re in the right place. An aesthetically pleasing home is possible, even if you don’t have that much physical space to work with, thanks to the advice of some experts in the field.

The Living Room

A compact living room will only have just enough space for the basics—a sofa, a coffee table, a credenza for the TV unit, and maybe a side table. The challenge here is in the furniture selection—you want sleek yet cozy furniture pieces that can also pull double duty as storage for blankets and pillows when not in use. Before spending money on furnishings, it’s crucial to determine how the living area will be used—whether it's for hosting gatherings, accommodating daily activities, or serving as a combined work and living area.

"One significant consideration is the placement of the television wall, prompting reflection on the necessity of a TV in the room and its impact on available space," says Vikrant Sharma, principal architect of Hivemind Design. In a space-constrained living area, if you would like to incorporate a TV, it's best to wall mount it, to save on any floor space a credenza may take.

To make the most of your compact living room, incorporate multi-functional furniture. Saba Kapoor, co-founder of Nivasa, stresses the importance of furniture that does double duty: "Embrace the convenience of a sofa-cum-bed, offering dual functionality to effortlessly accommodate guests without compromising space," she says. "Lift-up center tables provide additional storage while doubling as a study desk or dining area."

Another idea that you may already be doing in your home is an easy way to make small spaces feel larger. If you blur the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors, your living room can feel (and look) bigger. According to Marissa Feddema, director of ALA Studio, "integrating interior plants, opening up windows with breezy drapery, and even arranging living spaces so they ‘spill out’ to the outdoors," really goes a long way in making a smaller space feel more expansive. And if you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space that can accommodate seating, you’re ahead of the game. "It’s a great way to make compact interior rooms feel larger while also incorporating biophilic design in your space!" says Feddema.

The Dining Room

If you're lucky enough to have a designated dining room, there are some easy ways you can make the most of the space, however small it may be. "My number one piece of advice here is to go for an expandable, drop-leaf style or storage dining table," says Michelle Fahmy, principal designer of Haus of Meeshie. "These options will allow the flexibility of fitting a dining table in an otherwise small area but allow the room to have the dining table serve as a work area when needed, accommodate more guests when you want to entertain or just need more surface area!"

Additionally, choose dining benches that can be slid under the table when not in use instead of bulky chairs. "A dining bench is always an ingenious way to save space as it can be neatly tucked under a dining table in compact homes," add ​​Huzefa Rangwala and Jasem Pirani, co-founders of MuseLAB.

The Bedroom

In a tiny bedroom, less is often more. A cohesive color scheme and simple, streamlined furniture can create a clean, uncluttered look. Choose a light color palette for your walls, bedding, and furniture to create the illusion of a larger space. Neutral hues reflect light, making the room feel more open and airy. "Embracing neutral colors for wall treatments or furniture help reflect light around the room, creating an illusion of more space," says Vineeta Singhania Sharma, founder and partner at Confluence.

You should include only the essential furniture pieces. "Selecting the right bed is crucial, especially when space is limited," says Kuntal Vyas Aggarwal, founder of Resaiki Interiors & Architecture. "Consider a platform bed with built-in storage drawers to eliminate the need for a separate dresser. Murphy beds, also known as wall beds, have also gained popularity for their ability to fold up against the wall when not in use." To maximize space in a bedroom, keep pathways clear and avoid overcrowding the room with too much furniture. "Position the bed against a long wall to free up floor space. Aim to leave about 2-3 feet of space between the bed, wardrobe, and desk to ensure easy navigation," says Rachna Agarwal, founder of Studio IAAD.

Furthermore, invest in bedroom furnishings that work double-duty. "The perfect adaptable piece is a stool used as a bedside table," adds Frederick Tang, founder of Frederick Tang Architecture. "It can be the perfect spot for a glass of water, a novel, and a pair of reading glasses. But it can also be pulled into different roles, such as a place to perch for a Zoom meeting with your laptop on a window sill or drafted into use as a dining chair for the extra guest."

The Bathroom

In a tiny apartment, the bathroom often ends up being the smallest space. Compact bathrooms can feel cramped, but with some clever design tricks, you can maximize the space and make it appear bigger than it is. "Consider opting for a small vanity or pedestal sink to free up floor space," says Tushar Mistry, founder of Tushar Mistry Design Studio. "Also, install storage shelves or cabinets above the toilet or sink to store toiletries and towels, keeping the floor clear."

In addition, strategically placed mirrors reflect light and craft the illusion of a larger space. "Mirrors are a staple feature within any bathroom. They act as space amplifiers via angling and placement to drive a sense of depth," says interior designer Maya Salfati. "Marrying an oversized mirror with a natural light source boosts the beams that scatter the space whilst allowing room for an audacious wall palette." Choose clear shower curtains to let in more light, and opt for sliding shower doors over swinging doors as they take up less space.

The Kitchen

A lot of people living in cities tend to have combined living rooms and kitchens. "In order to gain a sense of separation and to make those spaces seem larger, consider using partitions, or a large rug to clearly define the zones," says Benni Allan, founder of EBBA. "This helps to break up the room and create areas that enhance and make for more intimate spaces."

To make a small kitchen work for you, use all the vertical space available by adding hanging shelves, cabinets and pegboards for storage. "When it comes to kitchens, make sure to utilize every last inch of space on your walls," says Sarah Sham, principal designer of Essajees Atelier. Also, incorporate furnishings with fold-away elements that can be tucked away when not in use. Design consultant Eleanor Taylor-Roberts says: "Opt for multi-purpose pieces that provide storage alongside their principal function, such as a window niche offering seating above a pantry or a pull-out countertop." Consider installing drawer dividers and pull-out shelves to compartmentalize deep cabinets, to take advantage of space that would be otherwise unused.

Personally, these tips have helped me in my new home, as small as it is—especially in my compact bedroom. I painted the walls a calming, neutral color and purchased a bed with plenty of storage, which has been super helpful. And even when I move to a bigger place, I’ll still keep them in mind to make the space feel and appear larger, no matter the square footage.

Related Reading:

Retrain Your Brain and Repurpose Your Furniture

It’s Time to Mount Your Television

Pallavi Mehra
Freelance Writer
Pallavi Mehra is a Los Angeles and Mumbai-based freelance journalist. She studied Economics and English and currently writes about architecture, design, culture and lifestyle for leading publications.