Space-saving solutions for tiny apartments

Space-saving solutions for tiny apartments

So you took that exciting "entry level" job in the big city, but the only apartment you can afford is the size of your bathroom back home?

Not to worry – you just need some clever ideas on how to organize life in a tiny apartment. And if anyone knows life in a tiny apartment, it’s a New Yorker.

Need some inspiration? Check out these examples of how Big Apple residents made the most of their super small spaces.

1. The closet bedroom

Florence and Richie Davis turned their small closet into a sleeping space with a desk and loft bed.

As long time Manhattanites, Florence and Richie Davis know a thing or two about making the most of a small space. They've lived in their tiny, one-bedroom flat since they married 24 years ago. Their son, Jason, now 20 and in college, grew up there, and when he was a toddler, the savvy couple transformed their only large closet into a semi-private sleeping area with a loft bed and desk. "Since we couldn’t afford a two-bedroom apartment, this was the only way to save money while using existing space, and not having to knock down walls," Mr. Davis says.

The Davis’ say they never imagined they would still be living in the same place years later, or that their son would use the bed through his teens. The self-contained "room" features a comfortable twin-size bed, small TV and a desk with overhead shelving. "We even managed to squeeze in a wooden chest of drawers for additional storage space," Mrs. Davis says.

2. Space-saving solution for cyclists

Matt Mastrorocco, a respiratory therapist in Manhattan, moved from his family home in Long Island to an apartment in Queens so he would be closer to his job. An avid cyclist, Matt says he soon realized that he shared a universal problem with urban bike riders everywhere.

Besides maximizing floor space, Mastrorocco’s bike shelves can be used to hold books or display artwork. (Photo by Matt Mastrorocco)

For years, Matt and his father have been designing and creating handmade, all-wood custom products in their workshop. They decided to build several different dual-purpose bike shelves as a space-saving solution for Matt’s bikes. Before long, the project turned into a business called Urban City Bike Shelves, with orders coming in from all over the world.

The shelves - made of cherry or walnut - can be used to display photos and decorative objects, or provide an extra surface for books, plants and even hats. They also make great conversation pieces.

Matt says the unique concept is very logical: "When you run out of floor space, go vertical and use your wall space."

3. Unique renovation for tiny NYC bedroom

How do you create functional space for your clothes and TV when your bedroom is so small you can barely fit a bed into it? After moving into her Manhattan dwelling a couple of years ago, designer and plant lover Gina Stark started to panic when she realized her queen-size bed took up every inch of available space.

Stark's built-in TV stand has four drawers and an overhead shelf for additional storage. (Photo by Gina Stark)

The following day, Stark came up with plan to recess her TV into the wall. She designed a built-in unit featuring a TV shelf and four drawers below for her accessories, as well as an additional shelf above the TV.

"I found a local guy who came highly recommended," Stark says. "He gave me an estimate, we negotiated, and then he used a rough sketch I drew to get an idea of what I wanted." 

A few messy weeks later, her space-saving project was completed. Stark says she's happy with the results, and it was well worth the cost. "I see this project as a sound investment in a home I intend to stay in for a long time," she says.

4. Hidden laundry bin

For this mini bathroom renovation, Starks came up with an out-of-the-box idea for keeping her dirty clothes out of sight. "I designed a built-in laundry hamper with shelves and had the same contractor do the installation," she says.

Her built-in space is made of a mildew-resistant material, and it eliminates the need for messy laundry bins and baskets that take up valuable space. Plus, there's added room on the two shelves for folded towels, a toothbrush holder and beauty products.

5. Built-in kitchen table

New York artist Liza Fiorentinos and her husband love their Long Island City, Queens apartment, but note it had one major flaw. "The apartment didn’t have a dining room per se, and we love to have friends over for dinner and cocktails, so we had to be really creative," she says.

The Fiorentinos say installing their glass table was the best  home remodeling decision they ever made. (Photo by Liza Fiorentinos)

Fiorentinos' kitchen flows into her living room, and she noticed how guests always seemed to congregate in the kitchen. But in typical NYC fashion, her tiny kitchen didn’t accommodate a traditional dining table and chairs.

To solve her dinner-party dilemma, Fiorentinos hired Queens contractor Trieste Corp., to design and build a custom, 8-by-3 foot bar-height table that connects to the window sill. It's made of colored glass to match artwork she bought in Paris. She says the table now "sits eight [people] squeezed and seven very comfortably."

6. Brighten your space

If you've simply run out of options, there are a few tricks to make your apartment appear larger without actually creating new space. "Use light colors on the walls with a bold accent wall in a darker tone to draw the eye to it," says Rita Plush, an interior designer in Queens. "Use a few bold accessories, rather than a cluttered look that will distract the eye. Think about an over-sized, framed mirror leaning up against the wall to reflect the room."

Other tips to brighten a room:

  • Take advantage of natural light
  • Install accent, track or under-cabinet lighting
  • Cover a dark-colored floor with a light-colored rug
  • Paint the ceiling in a light color
  • Cover a dark sofa with a light slipcover
  • Make sure windows are not obscured by furniture

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