Making the Most of Your Space

Apartment living in the city comes with a lot of advantages—not just a shorter commute, but a more vibrant social scene, better dining, walkability, etc. On the flipside, finding a central location for the right price may mean you’ll get less space than you would further out where there is a slower pace. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to use the space you have more effectively, giving you a more spacious feel, more storage, and more room to move.

Plan for socializing

It’s good to be excited about moving into your new apartment. But it’s also easy to get carried away imagining a future lifestyle that doesn’t fit with who you really are. This is especially common with entertaining and socializing. For example, you might decide you want a large dining room and a well-equipped kitchen because you envision throwing large, elaborate dinner parties, when in reality you dislike cooking and usually prefer to meet up with friends at a bar.

When looking for apartments, think about your life over the past year. Did you entertain guests at your home? How many? How often? Did you have a few friends over to watch a football game, or did you throw a large formal dinner party? If you expect your social life to change significantly—for example, you’re used to dorm life because you just graduated from college—think realistically about how you plan to socialize and spend your free time.

If you want to entertain but expect your space to be limited, you still have options. Some apartment communities offer private entertaining spaces with kitchens or outdoor grills that you can use for occasional parties or events. You can also get creative with the space you have. For example, you could invest in furniture that is easier to move around if you want to entertain more frequently — there are a lot of attractive, modern options available.

Before claiming a corner in one of your rooms and calling it an office, make a detailed list of your most basic needs for a home office or a “critical needs” list. Your needs list should include a desk, computer, printer, and telephone.

If you are a graphic artist, for example, you may need both a small desk for your computer and a larger table or workspace for your artwork.

Plan your workspace

If you often work from home, it is important to plan your workspace. If you occasionally log in to check your work email, sitting on the couch in front of your TV may be fine. But if you telecommute on a regular basis, you work full-time from home, or you’re serious about projects of your own, you should definitely think ahead when it comes to your workspace at home. This is especially true if you live with other people who may be using common living areas at the same time.

If an entire spare room devoted to a home office isn’t a practical option, think creatively to optimize your space. Find a desk or worktable just large enough to suit your needs. Arrange furniture to create visual separation between your workstation and the rest of the room, for example, use a bookshelf to block off a small desk from the rest of the room. Use floating shelves above your desk to add convenient, out-of-the-way storage.

Some apartment communities now offer business centers or study areas with comfortable seating, as well as coffee and free Wifi.

Less is more

The more stuff you have in a room, the smaller it feels. This may seem counterintuitive, especially when it comes to furniture, which is why people often cram as many couches and chairs into a living room as possible. However, when a room is so crowded with furniture that you have to squeeze to get around, it definitely makes the room feel smaller.

If you’re moving into a smaller space, carefully assess what you can fit in your apartment—and what you’ll actually use—before you move. This may seem obvious, but in the chaos of a move, it’s often forgotten. Measure your furniture. Decide whether you really need that second couch. Weed out clothes you never wear and books you’ll never read again. Put the stuff you’re getting rid of on Craigslist, or if you’re in a hurry, donate it. If you have a lot of items or large furniture to donate, many charities will pick them up for you.

In the same vein, if you’ll be picking out new furniture, decorative accents, kitchenware, etc., consider buying just the basics to begin with, and then spend a few weeks getting to know your new apartment before adding more.

Keep your space organized and uncluttered. If you have a lot of electronics, keep cords out of sight if possible, or keep them neat with cord/cable organizers. Keep as much storage out-of-sight as possible. Use a coffee table with a hidden storage compartment, sliding under-bed boxes for shoes, wardrobes for extra closet space, etc.