Apartment living is on the rise in Australia, especially in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. And it’s a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing. As the size of our living spaces shrinks, it becomes more important to pay attention to how we furnish them.

Small doesn’t have to mean cramped and cluttered. With a bit of planning, it can mean you have a well-organised and low-maintenance base. This leaves you free to do other things with your spare time.

Read on for key design tips to make your apartment look great and function well.

Look for dual purpose furniture

Interior design expert Whitney Leigh Morris, author of Small Space Style, says the right furniture and accessories are key to a great living space.

Dual-function furniture is worth the investment. Think sofa beds, benches and coffee tables with built-in storage (or use a vintage trunk as a coffee table, and keep your linen in it.)

Off-the-shelf modular storage systems are inexpensive and work well for apartment living as you can adapt them to fit your space perfectly. Check out IKEA’s Elvari range. This can be tailored to your measurements and gives you a choice of drawers or shelves, plus hanging space.

Chairs that can be stacked or folded are handy for when you have guests over, but won’t take up too much space. Chairs or stools that can double as small tables are also helpful in a small apartment.

Go big

While you may think you can only have small pieces of furniture in a small apartment, they can end up making a space look cluttered and disorganised.

Instead of having everything lots of petite pieces, focus on two key pieces of furniture in your living space: your couch and your table. These should both be as generous as the space allows. You will use them daily, and your table can double as a workspace.

An extendable table or one on wheels, will also add flexibility. You can extend it and move it to the centre of the room when you have people over, then push it back afterwards. Bench seating that tucks away is another good investment for a smaller dining area.

Another design trick for apartment living is to select just one oversized artwork for your wall, rather than lots of little trinkets. It will add a focal point and make your room seem ‘pulled together’.

The same goes for curtains – having floor to ceiling curtains, even over a small window, will add a feeling of luxury and height.

Let there be light

Dark apartments look smaller, so when space is limited, always focus on lighter colours. If you love darker shades, use them on smaller items such as cushions.

Always opt for white or light-coloured walls in your living room. If you can’t resist, using wallpaper or darker shades for your bedroom, where it doesn’t matter so much if the space looks cosy.

Mirrors and clear perspex furniture, such as chairs and coffee tables, will also make a space look bigger as you can see through them.

Create a drop zone

Designating an area close to your front door as a drop zone will soak up clutter. Add a shelf or small table with drawers or a bowl for your keys, wallet and phone (keep your charger here too). With some hooks for hanging coats and bags, a mirror and a shoe cupboard, you’ll find getting in and out of your apartment much faster.

Use your apartment walls

Your walls can become valuable real estate in a smaller space. Here’s how:

A fold-up desk is great in an apartment – just collapse when not in use.

Lamps fixed to walls will free up space on tabletops and bedside tables. Lighting can also make a space more versatile. Hang a pendant light with dimmer over your dining table so you can use it as a workspace or a relaxed dining area.

Pin-up boards and a calendar will keep surfaces clear but still keep your appointments and paperwork close to hand.

Add as much storage as you can

Storage is the absolute key to living happily in an apartment (along with regular decluttering.) Here are some suggestions for boosting your capacity.

Baskets will keep your living room clear while still providing lots of storage – plus they look great.

Trying dividing a room with bookshelves to create two living spaces. This will create the impression of added space because you have separate ‘zones.’

Look for second-hand vintage furniture in charity shops or on Gumtree. Good quality bookshelves, chests of drawers and blanket boxes will add character to your space as well as more storage.

Talk to us

We are always keen to talk to people living, selling or buying in inner Sydney. What are your tips for happy apartment living? Feel free to share!

6 design tips for smart apartment living

Tolga Ozer, Principal & LREA

Tolga Ozer, Principal & LREA

Hyde Park’s most highly acclaimed property expert, achieving record-breaking outcomes for owners and investors. Having become the most sought-after agency for Sydney’s inner suburbs and CBD, my team and I take pride in our ability to deliver outstanding results.

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