7 ways to maximize your shoebox apartment

· Interior Design

Designing A Shoebox Apartment

A Guide

The supply of these compact dwellings – defined as being 500 sq. ft. or less – is expected to peak this year. If you’re single or a young couple, there’s a high chance that a shoebox unit will be on your radar, given the ubiquity of such apartments. ​ 

So you’re in the market for a starter home. For those accustomed to larger living spaces, a shoebox unit might seem like a compromise. But with a few simple interior design hacks, you could dramatically enhance the available space.

Tiny homes aren’t just about sizing down, they’re about sustainable living. Less space means less chance to accumulate unnecessary clutter. Maintenance is also a breeze – you can clean your home from top to bottom in much less time. 

That said, here are some tips on how to live large in a small space. 

1. Use multifunctional furniture

With space at a premium, carefully consider every piece of furniture you introduce into the unit. The best kinds are those that perform double duty. For example, a sofa that transforms into a bed for overnight guests. Also handy are retractable furniture, such as chairs and tables that fold or slide into a wall or shelf. In the kitchen, an induction cooktop can double up as prepping surface when not in use. 

2. Bespoke is the way to go

To maximise the square footage, consider engaging an architect, interior designer or contractor to customise every inch of your home. A professional will be able to advise you how best to configure the space to your specific needs. This is true even if the unit is brand new, because everything is interdependent. If a piece of furniture is an inch too large, it could throw off the entire space. 

3. Storage, storage everywhere

Clutter inevitably tends to build up over time, unless you’re a disciplined minimalist. Built-in cabinets, drawers and shelves are the best solution in a tiny home. If you’re blessed with a high ceiling, take advantage by building floor-to-ceiling cabinets. If you have a mezzanine loft, conceal drawers underneath the stairs. Opt for beds and banquette seats with storage spaces in the base.

4. Embrace strong colors

Conventional wisdom has it that painting your walls white will make the space seem bigger. While this is true, it’s not to say that you have to shy away from bold or dark colors. On the contrary, a moody palette consisting of peacock green, royal blue, aubergine or burgundy can create a jewel box-like effect, enhancing cosiness. Meanwhile, splashing out in jaunty tones like canary, tangerine, teal or fuchsia is an instant mood-lifter. 

5. Mirror, mirror on the wall

Again, conventional wisdom proves correct: mirroring a wall creates the illusion of a much larger room. But don’t restrict yourself to walls or wardrobe doors; corners, beams and ceilings can also be mirrored. By bending light around the space, the eye is tricked into thinking that spatial boundaries have dissolved. If your unit overlooks greenery or the sea, mirror the surfaces opposite the view to bring a touch of the outdoors in. 

6. Think about the floors and ceilings

If the floor plan is squarish, boxy or regular-shaped, opt for large-format tiles. If it’s a narrow or rectangular layout you’re working with, laying the tiles or floorboards vertically (following the lines of the room) will visually lengthen the space. Similarly, if you’re installing track lights, make sure to run the tracks in the same direction as the lines of the room. 

7. Don’t be afraid to upsize

Just because you live in a small space doesn’t mean everything in it has to be diminutive. Play with scale: for instance, anchor your sleeping quarters with an oversized bed, or dominate your dining area with a super-scaled pendant lamp. You could even hang an outsized artwork or mirror, or let it rest against the wall. The idea is to distract the senses with whimsical flourishes. As a bonus, they become talking pieces when guests come over.


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