Interior Decorating Ideas for a Small House, Condominium or Apartment

Some things to think about when decorating a small house, condominium or apartment.

Some things to think about when decorating a small house, condominium or apartment.

A lot of people live in small spaces. It might be a first apartment, a starter home, or the cost of housing in a large city might make a person, even with a large paycheck, have to reside in a place that has limited square feet of living space. Even with space limitations, I think a person/couple/family can live in a place that can look fabulous. In this blog post I’ve come up with 34 decorating ideas that I think will help you live with style, even in a small space.

Buying Living Room Furniture…Sofas and Chairs
(1) When picking upholstered living room furniture for your small house, try to find pieces with full sized seat cushions, but that have small, narrow, and not spreading arms. Don’t buy sofas or chairs that are on steroids, with overly padded arms, sides or backs; also avoid upholstered furniture with heavily carved wood trim.

(2) Look for sofas and chairs that have exposed legs. By being able to see under them, they will look visually smaller and lighter of weight.

(3) Buy upholstered chairs that have arms you can see through, like the Georgian Library Chair and occasional chair with its upholstered seat and back cushion, which are shown on the cover illustration for this post. Being armless, or with minimal arm upholstery, they will look less bulky in a small space.

(4) Consider buying the center part of a sectional sofa, it will be armless. By doing that, three or more people can sit on it; some even on the ends if you don’t flank it with end tables.

(5) Armless pieces from a modular or sectional sofa can be configured many ways to form living room seating. Three armless pieces from a modular sofa, put together, are the same size as a three cushion sofa. If you buy four modular units, you can group them together to form a three cushion sofa, and the fourth unit will be an upholstered chair. The four modular sections can also be put together to form two, two cushion love seats. If you buy five sections from a modular set, you can make a three cushion sofa, and a love seat. With six sections you can make two, three cushion sofas. If you want, and the armed units are not too bulky, buy one right and one left armed unit and you can will have more grouping options. You could put two armless sections with one of the sections with either a left or right arm and create a chaise lounge.

(6) When thinking about buying any upholstered furniture for you home, first get the exact height, width and depth measurements for those pieces, from the store where you are thinking about buying the furniture. Go home, and with newspapers and a measuring tape, make paper templates/patterns showing the exact depth and width of the furniture you are thinking about purchasing. Lay those templates on the floor where you will be placing the upholstered furniture. In one second you will know if they are right for size, or you will have to look for something smaller.

If you live in an apartment building, carefully consider the measurements of the furniture you are thinking about buying. Make sure that you can get the furniture in an elevator, through narrow doorways, around corners, up staircases, etc. You don’t want to pay for something you can’t even get into you place.

I’ve written many posts about arranging Living Room Furniture, they are Arranging Living Room furniture, so Sofas talk to Chairs, like the Pros do,
When buying Living Room Furniture, FORGET the LOVESEAT, buy TWO Wing, Club or Occasional Chairs instead,
Arranging Furniture around a Fireplace in the Corner of a Room,
Arranging Furniture in a 12 foot wide by 24 foot long Living Room and
Arranging furniture TWELVE different ways in the Same Room.

(7) When picking out lighting for a small house, you’ll find out that the floor lamp is your best friend. A sofa can be flanked by a table lamp with lamp on it on one side, and a floor lamp on the other. Floor lamps can be tucked into corners of rooms behind chairs and used throughout a house, where extra lighting is needed. I’ve written a post titled The answer to..”Can you put a Floor Lamp next to a Sofa?” it has a lot of illustrations and info that will inspire you.

(8) When picking the right shape of lamp base for a table lamp that would be used in a small house, I recommend one with a column, torch or inverted torch shape. Those styles are not too big for width or heavy-looking. My post titled Looking at the Different Shapes of Lamp Bases will show you them.

(9) Wall mounted swing arm lamps can be hung in a living room, dining room, den, bedroom, halls, etc. They can be hung where you don’t have permanently mounted electrical boxes. They can be hung above or along side a sofa, chair, etc, anywhere lighting is needed, and you don’t even have space for a floor lamp. The lamps come in a wide variety of price points and you (without a professional electrician), can easily mounted then to a wall. They have long cords that you plug into an ordinary electrical outlet.

End tables and Coffee Tables
(10) When picking an end table or coffee table for your house look for one with a full glass top, or one that has a frame made of wood or metal with an inserted glass panel in it. By being glass, you can see down through it, so it won’t look soo massive.

(11) Look for an end table or coffee table with an open base, not something that is solid to the floor (no box or chest shapes). Try to find tables with legs that are not too thick looking or have heavy carving, or large ornamental details. Heavy carving and excessive ornamentation would suggest weight and volume that would overpower a small space. An end table with one drawer and exposed legs is fine.

(12) When looking for end tables try to find ones that are as close as possible, in height, to the height of the arms of the sofa or chair it will be placed next to. I’ve written two posts that will really help when dealing with that issue. They are The Right height of Table Lamp for your End Table and
Matching the Right shape of End Table with a Table Lamp.

As with the upholstered pieces mentioned before, get the dimensions of the end table(s) or coffee table you are thinking about purchasing and make the paper templates, they will help you see how those items fit in your space.

Dining Room Furniture
(13) When buying dining room furniture look for an oval table. An oval table will look less massive than a rectangle table because its ends have been eliminated. Buy the narrowest oval table you can find and the shortest for length when it is set up without its leaves. Along with your table purchase two or three table leaves/extenders so you can open it up and sit eight, or twelve, for special occasions.

(14) Buy eight side chairs; don’t buy the armed host and hostess chairs, they take up too much space. Look for side chairs that have small but comfortable seats and backs (nothing to overly carved, heavy looking or on steroids), as you and your guests will be sitting on them for a while when dining.

Along with my eight side chair, I have four small side chairs that were my maternal grandmother’s. On the four ends/corners of my oval dining room table, I place one of those chairs, which allows twelve people to sit together for large dinners.

(15) When not in use compress your table to the smallest oval it can become. Put four side chairs with your table and scatter the other four chairs throughout your house. A dining room side chair, or two, can be put in a living room, hall or a bedroom. Buy side chairs with off white, gold or some other neutral colored cushion so they will work with other things in your house.

(16) If space allows, buy a buffet for your dining room. Never buy a china chest. A buffet can hold your stacked dishes, fancy glasses, flatware and other entertaining supplies; you can also use its top for your bar, the buffet meal you serve, or as a dessert cart. A china chest is just a big piece of furniture that takes up too much space in a room.

As with the upholstered furniture, end tables and coffee table, mentioned before, get the exact dimensions of the table, chairs and buffet you are thinking of purchasing and make the templates. Lay the templates on the floor to see if they fit. When laying down the templates also make sure there is enough space for guests to walk around your table and behind seated guests when entertaining.

Color for Rooms
(17) When picking colors for your small house, apartment or condominium, it’s best to use one color throughout your place; but do different rooms in different strengths of that one color. Doing one color will blur the lines between spaces so your home will look larger. Painting every room in a completely different color will compartmentalize your spaces and make it look choppier and possibly smaller.

(18) Pick a good neutral paint color for your walls like gold, gray or taupe (a gray-beige). If you are into white use that. Find/Pull your perfect neutral from an inspiration piece. An inspiration piece can be a printed fabric with many different colors on it, a patterned rug, upholstery fabrics, natural or man-made stone counters and fireplace surrounds, man-made or natural stone or ceramic floors, etc. Go to a paint store and get every paint color strip that you think will match your inspiration piece at home, if you can’t bring it to the paint store with you. Pass all of those different paint color strips by your inspiration piece and try to find the strip with the paint color sample on it that exactly matches the neutral in your inspiration piece. All of the different lighter and darker paint color samples, on that one paint color strip, will be perfectly with your inspiration piece because they are darker and lighter versions of what you already have. The lighter tones were made by adding different amounts of white to the darkest shade of that paint color strip.

I’ve written four different posts that will go more into the picking of a good neutral paint color for your home, they are Picking Paint colors for a Small House, Condominium or Apartment,
How to pick the perfect GRAY Paint, A popular Color Choice of the Moment,
ACCENT WALLS..Some Ideas for Painting or Wallpapering an Accent Wall in your Home, and
Pick (Use) four Colors when Decorating a Room.

Curtains and Drapes
(19) When picking window treatments for the small house, try to match the color of a solid colored drape to the color of the walls. If you pick, for example, a gold drape, paint the walls in that room the same color of gold as the drapes or a tone of gold that is a shade or two lighter or darker. Go to a paint store with one of your drapery panels and find a paint color strip with an exact match to the drapes. All of the lighter tints and darker tones of gold, on that one paint color strip, will perfectly work with your drapes (your inspiration piece) because they are all from the same paint color family.

(20) If you are using a patterned drape, find a drape with a neutral colored background and paint your walls exactly that color.

The reasoning for matching the drapes to the wall color, in a small space, is that the drapes don’t chop the walls into pieces. With drapes and walls a similar color, the eye moves across the space in one continuous sweep, which gives the illusion of more space than there really is.

I’ve written two articles about handing curtains and drapes, they are The Right Way to Hang Curtains and Drapes and
Hanging Valances, Curtains and Drapes on Different kinds of Windows.

Rugs and Carpets
(21) A wonderful way to jazz up any room is with a decorative area rug. A 4×6, 5×7, 6×9 or 8×10 foot area rug can be placed on hardwood floors or existing wall-to-wall carpeting and will instantaneously transform a space. If you are, for now, stuck with a carpet that has a color(s) which horrifies you, neutralize it with an inexpensive, solid colored area rug that covers up most of the carpeting you have to live with for the moment. Pick a neutral that works with your upholstered furniture

(22) When buying any kind of carpeting, look for tightly packed twisted strands of yarn. Take the carpet sample and bend / fold it in half. If you can see down to the base of the carpet, through the rug yarns, it is a poor quality piece. When folding a good quality carpet, all you can see are the threads. All of the strands of carpet yarn will closely stand up next to each other supporting each other, forming a dense mass of carpet pile.

(23) When it comes to artwork of a small home, I think it is better to have a few big pieces, versus a lot of little ones. A big picture (painting, print, drawing, photo, poster, etc) can be hung over a sofa. fireplace mantel, a dining room buffet, in a hallway space or behind a bed. If you already have a lot of small pieces, try to group them together so they become part of a larger presentation.

(24) When buying art works for a small space try to buy things that are taller than wide (vertical format). Pieces that are vertical format will direct the eye up to the ceiling, which gives the illusion that the room’s space is taller than it really is.

I’ve written a number of articles about hanging art works, they are Picking and Hanging the Right size Picture or Mirror over your Fireplace,
It’s easy to make a grouping of Pictures,
Making an Interesting Arrangement of Pictures,
It’s easy to Hang Pictures up on the Wall,
Hanging Pictures around a Room,
Hanging Pictures over a Sofa, and
It’s easy to decorate a room with a Tall/High Ceiling.

(25) The use of mirrors in a small space is a must! Mirrors reflect light and open up space, suggesting space that really is not there. Hang a mirror in a living room behind a sofa, or over a fireplace mantel. Hang / stack a few small mirrors with large frames, one above another, in corners of rooms. Run many mirrors, one after another, and also stacked one above another down an interior hallway. Hang a mirror at the end of a hall. Hang a mirror on the back of a bedroom door. Hang a mirrors over your toilet, and above the faucets and water-spout in your bathroom, if your tub does not have a shower. Hang a large mirror on the wall opposite your tub. Place a really tall mirror (door sized), in a living room or any place you want to give the illusion that you have more space. In the Kitchen mirror the back-splash under your kitchen cabinets. Hang a mirror at the end of a galley kitchen, it will give the illusion of more space.

(26) When it comes to mirrors, or any kind of art work, walk the piece around your house, trying it/them in many places until you find just the right spots to hang them. Have a friend or relative hold them up so you can step back and see how it/they look. Just make sure that what the mirror is reflecting is something pretty.

Follow my instructions for hanging artwork, just written about, they are the same for hanging mirrors.

(27) When picking a bed for a small house, try to find one that has under bed storage drawers. If you already have a conventional bed, look on-line for wooden or plastic containers on wheels that you can roll under your bed.

(28) If you are attracted to a grand styled bed, I say go for it, but buy one that has all of the grandness on the headboard only. Look for a bed that has plain side rails and minimal to no ornamentation on the foot board area. You just want the fanciness part up against the wall, not taking over the middle of the room. High foot boards and tall bed posts will be too visually overwhelming for a small space.

When it comes to bedside tables you can go two ways.

(29) Consider having a round skirted table alongside of your bed. You can hide a number of thing under the skirt, from a box of personal papers, a basket of folded clothes, to even a collection of wines and liquors if needed. A skirted table can also be used in a living room, as an end table if desired.

(30) For a small bedroom, pick a bed side table that has a drawer for some storage and exposed legs. The space between the table’s legs will have less visual weight than something that is solid-looking, so the table will not look too bulky in the small space.

(31) When picking a dresser or chest for a bedroom try to find one that has exposed legs, versus something with wood right to the floor. Being able to look under the dresser or chest will give the illusion of more space in the room and the pieces of furniture will not look overly bulky.

(32) Look for dressers and chests that have fewer, but deeper drawers, versus ones with many small ones; small drawers will provide minimal storage. Take a drawer out of the chest and look for “dove tail” joinery, which means the piece you are looking at is better made. Also make sure the drawers slide easily when opening and closing. Look to see if the piece you are thinking about is light or heavy if lifted. Furniture that is too light might be made of lesser quality products.

When picking out lighting for a small bedroom read numbers 7, 8, 9 and 12 which are above.

(33) When thinking about picking a comforter and other bedding for a small room, try to pick something in a solids, or with a small to medium-sized prints. Look for things that are light to medium toned. Try to limit really bright, bold or dark fabrics, as they could overpower the small space. If picking something in a solid fabric, try to find bedding with some kind of pronounced texture to it, or some kind of decorative sewing on it; that will give it visual appeal. If you want something in a large pattern, try to find something that is not bold of color, but has a color story of soft tones.

(34) The most important is last! Keep knackknacks and accessories to a minimum. Limit the amount of pillows on a sofa, the number of decorations you display on end tables, a coffee table, kitchen counters, chests, dressers, etc. Too many knickknacks can really junk up a place in no time. In a small house you want to give the illusion of space, and with too many things in a room it over stimulates the eye. When picking out decorations for a small home have fewer large pieces, versus a lot of little things. If you are shopping and you see something that you know you really don’t need for your home, but it attracts you, say to yourself “I’m right now looking at a pretty thing, I have good taste, but I’m going to leave it here for someone else to buy” Then be on your way.

So there you have it, thirty four things to think about when decorating your home, I hope they are inspiring. My companion posts will cover other parts of decorating that I think will work for the person who lives in a small home.

This my 150 post marks the Fourth Anniversary of Fred Gonsowski Garden

Companion Posts…
Interior Decorating is all about Equal Balance 3-7-2011,
When Decorating a Beige Room, think Tones, Texture and Sculptural Interest 3-16-2011,
Adding Color to a Beige Room 4-2-2011,
Paint a Room a Dark Color, then add Light Accents 3-27-2011,
Color Theory..When Interior Decorating a Room, Remember Wood is a color Too 3-9-2013,
The Color Blue, the Next Decorating Trend 3-30-2014,
A bridge unites Tablescapes and Wall Decor 6-1-2011,
Arranging Your Decorative Accessories (Knickknacks and Collectables) 6-7-2011,
Hanging a Collection of Plates / Dishes up on the Wall 1-19-2013,
Twelve Reasons to Buy White Dishes 4-12-2013,
Looking at Patterns used in Interior Decorating on Fabrics Drapes Wallpaper and Carpeting 3-10-2012,
Interior Decorating..Looking at the Different sizes of Patterns used on wallpaper and Fabrics 3-20-2012,
Mixing and Matching Fabric and Wallpaper Patterns 4-13-2012.


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
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4 Responses to Interior Decorating Ideas for a Small House, Condominium or Apartment

  1. MJ says:

    Happy Fourth Anniversary, Fred! And, congratulations! You’re pushing on toward 1,000,000 views/reads!

    I’ve been missing your posts; so, I was happy to see your new one. I hope you are feeling well and that life is being kind.

    • Hi there MJ as of 5:35AM today, 11-25-2014, I’m at 883,817 thousand page views/articles read. Even with a leave of absence from writing posts ( I have a family member that had a terrible health issue that took all of my time away from everything except her), I’ve had a lot of people still finding my blog and reading my articles. Now I’m having a lot of Christmas decorating articles read, along with the decorating topics. That is why I moved some of the more popular old Christmas posts up to the top of my web page. The happiest of Holidays to you MJ, and thanks for your comment ;-}

  2. teresa says:

    I had so much to say last night when I first read this I didn’t know where to begin! Congratulations on the milestone. I do hope you’re getting a bit of rest; I know how exhausting taking care of someone can be.
    All of these ideas are so great and not just for small spaces, but for creating rooms inside of rooms in larger ones. While a single colour (or similar shade of the same) is best for unity, sometimes I like a single small room, perhaps a powder room that’s separate, to be done in a more pronounced colour. It can actually make the space seem biggerI Same thing for an over-sized piece of furniture, but only one piece! I also like to put smaller beds along the wall “French” style. It doesn’t save on wall space, but does give a large interior space to use for yoga or floor exercises or projects. I hate to trip over furniture. My BF solved the bedside table issue by using a headboard with small built-in covered storage and pillar lamps on top. (It looks better than it sounds!) Now if only I could convince him to get a smaller sofa, chair and rug for his LR. 😦 I think I may have to have him read this post himself. 🙂 CTD

    • Hi there Teresa, I love all of your comments and I know you are thinking in a creative way. The things that I write about are just a starting point to get people thinking and to give them some rules to ponder. Rules are to be broken, but first you have to know something about the product. Just by reading your comment I know your probably one of those people who are self taught, and loves to know more about topics that interest you. Soo many people like the way something looks, but don’t really know why they like it. They don’t know the basic rules. Writing my blog, I try to tell the readers the rules of design, so they can grow as creative people. The Happiest of Holidays to you, and thanks for your comment!

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