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Small-Space Living Hacks for Your New York City Shoebox Apartment

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at New School chapter.

Making a shoebox of an apartment feel like home is no easy feat. The less-than-ideal square footage combined with an often awkward layout (ie. radiators that stick out in legitimately the least convenient places imaginable) certainly doesn’t leave us much to work with, but a little creativity goes a long way! I’m about to move into my third New York City apartment, and though it’s thankfully a bit larger than my prior living spaces, I still have some master Tetris-ing to do before it feels as open and airy as can be. However, I’ve learned some tips and tricks that have helped me make my tiny bedrooms into functional, cozy dens I look forward to coming home to, and with summer apartment leases starting anew, I thought right now couldn’t be a more perfect time to share! Remember: your small space has big potential, you just have to get a bit thrifty– especially while on a college budget. Let’s begin. 

Make use of your vertical space.

Small space, high ceilings? Use that height to your advantage! Displaying artwork and posters high on the walls leads the eye along with them, naturally opening up your space and adding to it some much-needed personality. And for your leftover wall space, hooks are a must. Whether you use them as a floating coat rack by your entryway or purse display by your bed, they’re a space-saving solution for anything that won’t fit in a closet– and let’s be real, in New York, nothing does! (I’m only kind of kidding.)

Keep your space breathable. 

One of the most crucial ways to create the illusion of a larger space is to design it with pieces that allow as much airflow as possible. Avoid clunky bed frames, couches, and coffee tables that sit flat on the floor. The lack of visibility under these pieces shrinks your field of vision to only the areas around your furniture. Instead, try to select furniture propped up with legs, a subtle detail that yields the not-so-subtle result of a space that feels larger than the parameters of its square footage. This hack applies to decor pieces as well, like vases or wall hangings! The more your decor encourages airflow, the more of your space there is visible to the eye.

Baskets, baskets, baskets!

I consider myself a relatively organized person, but there are always those random pesky items (like all the half-empty journals I’ve been meaning to finish or my growing nail polish collection) that I can never seem to find a home for. In comes my home decor hero: baskets! Cute baskets serve as both a decorative and functional catch-all for the pieces you would otherwise have no idea what to do with. With your clutter-prone knick-knacks tucked away in a basket or two, your small space will feel as fresh and airy as ever.

Embrace versatility. 

To keep a space feeling open and inviting, I like to design with select decor pieces that serve multiple purposes. I have a faux white sheepskin rug, for example, that keeps me warm as I hop out of bed in the morning, can be a cozy throw over my office chair as I work during the day, and adds some warm texture to my couch as I wind down with a book at night. I’m also super into a decorative tray! I keep mine on my coffee table to hold small trinkets, but I also use it as a flat surface on my couch to hold snacks or as a serving dish for small bites at dinner.

Here’s to hoping you all get to decorate the shoebox apartments of your dreams. Good luck!


Sabrina is a third-year student at Parsons School of Design studying Strategic Design and Management. She enjoys writing about beauty, lifestyle, and fashion, obviously. When she's not catching up with friends over a cappuccino, she's probably journaling or cutting up old magazines for her latest collage.
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