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How-To: Simple & Inventive Tips for Apartment Living

A cozy apartment with a built-in bookshelf.

One of the most rewarding parts of moving into a new home is making the space your own. But for many of us, actually owning property comes after a substantial amount of time, if ever. Thankfully, we’ve learned over the years that gratitude follows contentment. And that living a full, thoughtful life is about enjoying simple pleasures and taking stock in the little things.

This week, we caught up with Jenny, the talented stylist behind many of our store displays, for her simple tricks on making the most out of apartment living. 


room with a fan and a table

1. Prioritize Function in a Small Space 

Prioritizing function is a given. Utilizing color and finding homes for my favorite pieces come next. For instance, I love color, but I also love change. I’ve learned that if I stick to neutral grounding pieces, (especially things that I’m investing more money into) like rugs and furniture, I will be less likely to tire of those pieces. I incorporate my love for color in small pops and move bright pillows and decorative objects around to keep things fresh. I can move my treasures from room to room if I choose while still maintaining that sense of cohesion because my foundation is so versatile. 

I also focus on my favorite pieces. These are items that make me happy when I see them, so I want to make sure that they're focal. Sometimes that means positioning a piece of furniture so that it’s the first thing I see when I walk into a room or making sure my favorite Japanese vases aren’t getting lost on the mantel with other objects. Highlighting my favorite items helps me get the most visual impact out of my small space.

 picture on a wall

stool with a stack of colorful round pillows on it

bed with a blue blanket and pillows 

2. Ambient Lights are Essential

First and foremost, plug-in lighting! Floor and table lamps are essential, but plug-in wall sconces allow you to achieve the finished look of installed lighting and free up much-needed floor space. Not only can you put them anywhere to completely transform a room, but you can also easily take them with you when you move.

Large floor pillows are another must. Overall, they’re a great space-saving alternative for apartment seating – tuck them under a table or store them in a closet. I keep my pillows stacked near our fireplace and use them regularly when we eat at our coffee table. They’re also super useful when we have guests over (and allow me to indulge in my textile addiction). 

Accent wall in an apartment bedroom.

3. Invest in the Everyday

I’m a huge fan of investing in utilitarian items like beautiful towels and cleaning tools. It may not be your first instinct to do so, but these are items that you interact with daily (and chances are you may be looking at them more frequently than you use them). Why not make them beautiful? There’s a lot of value in elevating your everyday. Doing so will make your apartment feel that much more special.

bathroom with a sink and a mirror

shelf with a few bottles and cups on it


4. Make Your Space Feel Open

I arrange furniture so that when I’m seated, I am facing the window. For instance, instead of putting my bed under our bedroom window, I put the bed on an adjacent wall so that I have a clear outside view. Utilizing mirrors is also essential. They make a space feel bigger and can also brighten up a dark wall or nook by reflecting natural light. Finally, if you can use vertical space, do it!  For example, hanging a plant will make your room feel more dynamic, and also free up floor and surface space.


Globe pendant in an apartment dining nook.

5. Design With Your Landlord in Mind  

This is always the hardest part. Will your landlord allow you to make any upgrades? Is it worth the investment because you don’t own it? For me, the one investment worth making in any temporary space is painting. Painting makes the biggest difference, especially if you are in an older apartment. I’ve had several landlords in the past allow me to paint because I’ve sold the idea as an upgrade to their unit.  My current landlord even split the cost with me! It never hurts to ask.

I’ve already mentioned the importance of plug-in lighting, but for existing fixtures that you are stuck with, try upgrading the shade. Most shades have standard fitter sizes making it an easy and affordable swap. Swapping hardware can also play a huge part in creating a finished and cohesive look. This can be a highly satisfying project with relatively little work involved.


dining room with a table and chairs and drinks and food

kitchen with white cabinets and a bowl of fruit on the counter  

6. Arrange Furniture to Maximize Function

I think it’s important to think unconventionally in small spaces to maximize function. We have a kitchen nook that was originally meant to house a dining table., but it was being underutilized because we always end up eating in our living room at the coffee table. My partner was having a hard time finding room to study in our small apartment, so I turned the nook into an office. It feels so much better to be getting daily use out of it.


room with a blue chair and a rug and hooks

7. Overcome Spatial Limitations 

Lack of space for both people and storage. I love to entertain, but it can be hard to do in a small apartment. I try to fulfill my desire to entertain in the warmer months when I can use outdoor areas. As far as storage is concerned, I’ve gotten very good at maximizing capacity. 

I’ve put floor-to-ceiling shelving in any closet that has space for it, and all of my closet doors have multiple hooks on the interior. Also, having limited space is a blessing in disguise. It makes me think twice about purchasing anything. I wait to find the perfect item to avoid purchasing something that will only add clutter. On top of that, I regularly go through my drawers and closets to stay on top of purging.

chair and plant and a black floor lamp in a room

pictures on shelves

Record player in an apartment.


I’ve always treated my apartment with the love and care I would if it were my own home because for the time being it is! I’m a natural nester, so I would be depriving myself of great joy if I waited to invest in my space until I bought a home.


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