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Decor Ideas For Your Small Apartment

Updated on May 19, 2013
Image used under a paid license
Image used under a paid license | Source

How to Make Your Apartment Your Home

Home is where the heart is. Home is where you hang your hat. Home sweet home. There are a thousand sentiments about homes that we've all heard many times. But most focus on a simple concept: that your home is a special and even sacred place. It is the place where you begin and end your day, where you rest, love, laugh, cry, and do much of the living that life is all about. Given the incredible importance of this place, making it suit your taste and your lifestyle is important, don't you think?

Apartments, condominiums, townhouses, duplexes, lofts-they're all places that millions of Americans call home. Hopefully, your apartment or house is a place you like to call home.

If you live in a place that doesn't feel right to you, we encourage you to look around, reflect on your space, and try to identify what's really bothering you about it. Is it the neighborhood, building, or apartment complex that troubles you? Is it the apartment itself, the floor plan, the colors of the walls, or the size of the rooms? There are many reasons why an apartment might fall short of your ideal, and some of them can't be changed. But some of them can.

When you have a little money to spend, you can make small investments go a long way. A tabletop grouping you're getting tired of can be refreshed with the addition of a few pillar candles in interesting hues. This change can be accomplished for just a few dollars per pillar, and you can even get the scented kind that come with an aromatic touch. A framed print that looks a little boring can take on a more exciting life with a new frame or even just a paint job on its original frame. Think small changes that create a big impact. I once changed the look of a very large living room wall by adding a single item above my sofa: a $30 piece of architectural salvage that was about three feet wide and a foot deep. The piece has so much character, it has become a conversation piece and focal point, and most friends who walk into the room immediately say, "Hey, something's different in here. What did you do?"

When you want a change and you have little to spend, focus on accessories. Hit the fabric store and get a few yards of a bright, funky ribbon, and make new curtain tiebacks for any room that needs a kick. Buy colored lightbulbs and change a room simply by refining the lighting. Get your grandmother's old quilt out of the closet and drape it over a boring sofa. Bring books off your bookshelves and use them to add height to displays. Look around, think, try things out. What have you really got to lose, anyway?

Small Room Decor Ideas

Apartment Bathroom Design

Sleek and functional, an apartment bathroom is designed to cope with limited space and busy lives. Choose simple shapes and gleaming plain surfaces for a modern look.

Creating a stylish, easy-care bathroom in a small space is a common problem for many people, and particularly for city dwellers, where space is at a premium. The newest bathroom designs are focused entirely on using the most up-to-date technology to meet these needs, with high-tech steel appliances, streamlined ceramics, and tough, durable surfaces. Decorative details are an unnecessary luxury - texture is more important; accentuate the differences between matte and shiny, and rough and smooth surfaces. The contrasts of steel, granite, wood, tiles, and glass create interest enough, combined with tough, industrial materials such as concrete, glass bricks, and studded rubber flooring.

The apartment bathroom is a good place to experiment with color, as the areas to be covered are never huge, and are generally seen for short periods only. Try unusual color combinations used in flat blocks rather than decorative patterns; or keep to cool, clinical white and steel, with small pools of concentrated color provided by towels and accessories.

Creating the Look

Aim for a simple, functional look, with sharp, straight edges contrasted with streamlined curves. If you are starting from scratch, plan the layout carefully for maximum space. You may even consider dispensing with a bath in favor of a roomy showering area with a folding seat.

Door and window frames are ideally plain and boxy, with a flush door and sleek fixtures. If you have a window, consider fitting frosted glass to avoid the necessity for any other window treatment.

Walls are best either tiled or painted in a flat vinyl latex or eggshell finish. Plain white or colored ceramic tiles are inexpensive and suit the look perfectly, as do small mosaic tiles. For a bolder look, use plain tiles in an unusual color - perhaps lilac or lemon. Granite, marble, sandstone, or slate tiles have a suitably apartment-style look, and set up satisfying contrasts with gleaming steel and fluffy soft towels.

For a seriously industrial look, cover the bath panel or cupboard doors in galvanized tin or aluminum; or experiment with metallic paint on woodwork for a similar look - a gunmetal, bronze, or silvery color would change the look of built-in louvered cupboards or an existing vanity unit.

For the floor, choose ceramic tiles, or sealed woodstrip or cork for a warmer feel on bare feet; linoleum or vinyl in plain or marbled effect would suit the look, or investigate tough rubber-studded flooring, which is available in a wide range of colors.

Style Pointers


Neutral or strong: latex paint in flat colors - either subtle stone, stark white, or bold combinations.

Wallpapers: imitation stone, paint lookalikes, or strong contemporary designs on limited areas.

Tiles: plain glazed ceramic tiles, white or strongly colored; sheet mosaic tiles in ceramic or glass; granite, sandstone, slate; sealed cork.


Frosted glass: replace plain glass with milky white, reeded, or other effects.

Blinds: narrow Venetians in metal or wood; plain roller, Roman, or pleated blind; simple eyeletted panel.


Smooth: pale woodstrip; large, plain white or black tiles, stone tiling; linoleum, vinyl, or rubber in plain or semi-plain designs.

Rugs: short pile cotton bathmat, wood-slat bathmat.


Contemporary: simple sculpted shapes in white ceramic or steel; bathtub with granite or wood surround and tiled, flush wood, or sheet metal panel.

Faucets: space-age, chrome, or nickel-plated.


Metal or wood: spindly metal chair or small stool; tub-shaped stool doubling as laundry basket, with a reinforced lid that you can sit on.


High-tech: recessed ceiling spotlights or simple modern central light fixture; plaster or metal wall torcheres; halogen lights in recesses.


Modern: gleaming, shiny, or satin steel for towel bars, toilet roll, and toothbrush holders; glass, metallic, or sleek blond wood shelves; simple mirror, unframed or with steel/wooden frame; plain white or colored towels.

Small Bedroom Decor Ideas

Designing Your Apartment Bedroom

Light, airy, and modern, the apartment style features streamlined furnishings, well-planned storage and bold, bright accent colors - it's a look guaranteed to make the most of small bedrooms.

The fresh and functional approach to decorating looks fun in any bedroom, but is especially suited to small bedrooms like those in modern apartments. It's a cost-effective look that relies more on a lively imagination and a confident approach than on a generous budget.

The look draws from many varied sources, which is part of its charm. For example, you can combine office-style, high-tech lighting with Scandinavian-style pale wood furniture and ethnic woven rugs. The aim is to create a lively, comfortable space that's practical, well organized, and easy to keep orderly, but with a youthful sense of fun.

Fresh, pale, solid-toned walls are the starting point for the apartment bedroom. As well as creating a restful ambience, they provide an unobtrusive backdrop for colorful accessories. Inexpensive, simple furniture available from home-decorating stores suits the style's streamlined look. Many pieces come in flat-pack, self-assembly form - practical when negotiating apartment elevators and narrow stairways. Where possible, opt for dual-purpose bedroom furniture, such as a dressing or bedside table, which doubles as a desk, and perhaps a sofa bed - you can then enjoy the room during the day as well as at night.

Creating the Look

Walls and ceiling: The smaller the room, the more important it is to use a light-reflective color. White walls are a good starting point and leave your choice of accent colors wide open. Continuing the wall color over the ceiling, especially in an attic bedroom, creates a sense of smooth-flowing space.

Though subtle paint effects such as colorwashing or sponging are suitable, avoid highly contrasting effects and fiercely patterned wallpapers - these can make an already small space seem claustrophobic. Larger bedrooms can take bold, solid but still light-reflective colors, such as rich yellow.

Windows: Window treatments continue the pale background theme or introduce bright color. Use streamlined, solid-colored or striped blinds on their own or combined with simple curtains or drapery, in pale or bright tones and plain or patterned, to soften the look.

Combine shades with net or muslin curtains for daytime privacy and to hide an unattractive view. Venetian blinds, with their razor-sharp, ruler-straight lines, add to the look; their adjustable slats give privacy and shade with a minimum loss of light. Plantation-style louvered shutters are equally suitable and could repeat the theme of louvered fitted wardrobes. To block out any traffic noises, make or purchase heavy, interlined curtains.

Floors: For a sleek, minimalist effect, go for stripped and polished pine floorboards or woodstrip flooring. Add colorful rugs, with bold geometric or otherwise large-scale patterns, for visual interest and comfort, especially near the bed. For safety, put rugs on polished wood floors with non-slip underlays.

If your budget can take it, opt for wall-to-wall carpet for a softer, more comfortable finish underfoot. Choose a solid-toned, neutral-colored one which, like a solid-toned wall, creates a sense of space - especially in a small room. Carpets can be white or a more practical neutral such as beige or gray, perhaps with one or more scatter rugs as focal points. Pale, plain natural-fiber floor covering is a less expensive option, and looks especially attractive combined with unpainted wicker furniture.

Lighting: Choose lighting to suit the room's streamlined, functional feel. Discreet, wall-mounted torcheres give good overall lighting, and are supplemented with simple, elegant, or chunky bedside lamps or portable office-style lamps that you can move about the room as necessary.

The Apartment Hall

Sophisticated simplicity sums up the look in apartment-style halls. Space may be at a premium, or the hall double as a living area, so features are both decorative and practical.

The apartment-style hallway offers a first glimpse of a home where a busy urban lifestyle is reflected in its pared-down, stylish decoration. Planned with creative flair, the furniture is streamlined, the storage practical, and the color scheme distinctive. Utilizing space in a visually pleasing and innovative way is a priority. Hallways can be small and narrow, or airy and open plan, with boundaries between the hall and the living or work areas not traditionally defined.

Color, shape, and texture create an essentially upbeat mood. Space-enhancing neutrals are balanced with vibrant color accents and simple furniture and accessories. These have sleek organic or geometric lines, in pale wood, metal, glass, or plastic, perhaps counter-balanced with high-tech industrial-look pieces, or flattered by textured natural fibers. Simple accessories, such as a plain table lamp, are in keeping with the pared-down look.

Creating the Look

Visual streamlining creates a sense of space, and minimizes less than perfect features. Use pale color or white to create a sense of light and space, and consider how the color choice will affect adjoining rooms - aim for a good tonal balance, using either color harmonies or contrasts. Use stronger color or interesting texture such as roughcast plaster, and glossy finishes, to accentuate structural features such as pillars, posts, alcoves, prominent walls, or sloping ceilings. In a narrow hall you can use mirrors or mirror tiles to open up the space or front a built-in cupboard.

In a larger space such as an open-plan hall/living room, create a visual break with a screen wall of glass bricks, or use a freestanding shelving unit as a divider between the entrance and the living area.

Counteract the effect of too many doors - or any other unwelcome details -by painting them a color to blend with the walls. Woodwork should match the wall color, or be painted a slightly lighter or darker shade in a matte finish. To suit the style, doors should be plain and flush with a wood veneer finish, glass paneled (with wired glass for a high-tech look), or painted as a color accent feature. Door furniture and handles should have a contemporary twist - in matte metallics or quirky resin shapes.

Style Pointers


Plain/color block: white, neutral, space/light-enhancing walls and ceilings: controlled contrast color areas, textural, rough-cast/mirrored/metallic/glass brick areas.

Wall coverings: graphic images, bold colorwash effects.


Simple blinds/curtains: natural or colored wood slatted Venetians, white, neutral, color accent Roman, or roller blinds; rod pocket/tab, eyelet-headed/tension wire curtains, panels; metal curtain rods.


Neutrals/striking color: natural heavy cotton/linen weaves; bold checks; stripes; bold, stylized abstract florals/graphic prints.


Sleek/space-defining: blond woodstrip/colored floorboards; natural fiber matting; linoleum/rubber flooring; contrast color tiles; plain wall-to-wall carpet; bold abstract/designer rugs.


Streamlined/space saving: clean lines, designer/architectural pieces, dual purpose, blond wood, steel/aluminum, console table/chest of drawers/desk, neutral/mirror fronted built-in cupboards; modular/free-standing shelf unit; color-accent occasional chair/seating.


Atmospheric/high-tech: wire tracking/halogen spotlights; sculptural effect pendant/avant-garde/quirky, designer chandelier; versatile task/atmospheric lamps; wall-mounted or free-standing torcheres, natural finish, metallic, glass; table lamps in molded plastic, metallics, glass, parchment.


Color accent/sculptural: designer style, avant-garde, bold, organic form/streamlined looks for: clothes/hat stand/hooks, umbrella stand in pale wood/brushed steel; sleek wood/metallic picture frames, graphic/modern art/photographic prints; plain/colored glass/plastic or brushed steel vases/containers, modern clock; specimen flowers/large plant/cacti; over-sized urns/twisted willow twigs.

Decor Ideas for A Small Living Room

Do You Have Any Small Apartment Decor Ideas To Share With Our Readers?

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    • profile image

      iron doors 

      7 years ago

      very good idea.Thank you for your information.

    • Joel McDonald profile image

      Joel McDonald 

      10 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thanks for sharing! In terms of paint, when you mentioned "flat" colors. One thing I've noticed is that although flat paint is great for covering up any blemishes on a wall such as tape-joints, or less-than-perfect patch jobs, it is very difficult to clean.

      In my experience flat is an absolute no-no for anyone with a child because it's impossible to clean the mess those little hands can leave behind. In that case, "eggshell" or "satin" are a better texture to go with. (This is the same reason most bathrooms/kitchens are painted in "semi-gloss")


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