4 Tips to Make the Most Out of a Unique Apartment

A typical apartment has corners that all form 90 degree angles. The bedrooms have been sized to fit a bed and a bureau, the living space accommodates a couch with a corresponding blank wall for your tv, and the kitchen fits a small table and chairs…but what if it doesn’t?

Architecture students are taught to embrace the limits of an existing structure, as the biggest constraints can become the most incredible opportunities. If the unique apartment you’re considering has everything else – safe neighborhood, pleasant neighbors, the amenities you need in your everyday schedule – and the quirky floorplan is the only thing holding you back, let go of your comfort in right angles. Consider these ideas to embrace unconventional usage of space for extraordinary apartments:

1. A weirdly shaped/sized nook:

Evaluate the light coming into the nook. Can you fit in a desk and make this a workspace? Maybe you can add a few big floor pillows to create a “nest” for reading? Perhaps there’s space for a daybed where you can take a nap mid-afternoon, guilt –free, because you’re not really in bed! It could also be the perfect meditation space. Nooks are probably the most fun of all the quirky elements that you find in an apartment and, once you figure out what to do with it, it will likely be your go-to personal space.

2. A narrow bathroom:

Think about the items that you want in a bathroom. Now, pare down the essentials you need in the bathroom. With these items in mind, sketch out a plan for adding shelves to help store them in a small bathroom. Shelves above the toilet or high above the bathroom door can be excellent for those often-but-not-everyday-items, like extra toilet paper and soap. Mirrors that provide storage are great for dual-purpose use. Without much floor space, consider adding a row of hooks or pegs on the wall or over-the-top-of-the-door to help keep towels, clothes, and washcloths tidy and dry.  

If you’re facing the smallest shower you’ve ever seen, fear not. There are a multitude of in-shower storage options that can help keep shampoo and conditioner off the floor of the shower, like a shower-head caddy, or a wall-suctioned shelf. One tip for maximizing these shelves is to buy uniform empty bottles (easily found at your local drugstore or dollar store) and pour in shampoo, conditioner and body washes.

3. A cramped bedroom:

Some small bedrooms seem to barely fit a full size mattress, so what do you do?!

Fortunately, there are a number of styles of beds that come in various sizes. If you’re not adverse to a twin bed, that may be the best option for having the most space in the room while being able to walk around the bed. If you’re a dedicated spread-eagle sleeper, there are other hacks for making more space in a smaller bedroom:

  • You can build a loft if the ceilings are high enough, which would allow for considerable storage and movement underneath your bed. It’s like a bunk bed, except you always get the bunk you want and never have to fight over it.
  • Buy a futon, or adapt your bed (if it’s a pliable mattress). This allows you to sleep on a full mattress without committing to taking up the space all the time.
  • Build a platform bed or raisers to add a foot or two of usable space under your bed. It might seem like a dorm trick, but steady raisers and impeccable taste will make the room seem like anything but a dorm
  • You can make a true Bed Room and accept that your bed will fill the space. The biggest challenge will be entering/exiting from the foot of the bed.

Clothing storage will be your next hurdle. Crates or shelves can hold your tops and pants, baskets or totes can hold socks, underwear and even rolled tees. If the area under the bed is accessible, long, flat bins can help cycle seasonal clothing options in and out of your wardrobe.

Painting the walls a light color will make your bedroom – or any room – feel bigger. Darker colors tend to make a space feel more intimate aka small. If the room has a weird nook, consider installing a closet rod to hang clothes or stack shoes from a hanging rack. Jewelry and accessories can be hung on hooks or a wire tray affixed to the wall which, if done artistically, can add some flair to your room. And don’t forget another over-the-top-of-the-door set of hooks for storing jackets, belts or anything that can hang!

4. A modest kitchen:

A kitchen without a table might seem worthless. The reality of not having a table can actually free up valuable kitchen space. If you have counter space, think about creating a dining area at the counter. A pair of barstools provide seating that then can easily tuck out of the way when the meal is over. Another tip for an apartment with a small kitchen is to find a drop-leaf table. These ingenious space savers fold out when you need extra serving space, and sometimes have a shelf or two for additional storage.

Cabinet space shortages can also pose a problem. Instead of eating out for every meal, stick to your budget and instead invest in adding storage to the kitchen decor. Shelves are more cost-effective than cabinetry, so consider adding a few rows of shelves and incorporate storage tins and bins. Storage tins can be an awesome excuse to get out and explore a new corner of the city. Local thrift and vintage stores, Goodwill and other bargain home goods stores have a selection just waiting to be discovered. Various styles can introduce a theme into your kitchen and help it really feel like it’s your home. Mix and match and find the look and feel for you!

And, in the worst case scenario of an awkward floorplan – a strange, tight corner, or wide expanse of wall too cramped for furniture — buy a magnificent plant and stick it in that corner. Clever plant stands can add floral accents to your decor without taking up a lot of floor space. Make your own for a fun project in your quirky apartment!

Once you’ve found a source of inspiration to fit shelves into a small bathroom or added a drop-leaf table to your kitchen, you will marvel at the opportunities that appear elsewhere in the apartment. In any case, a floor plan with character might at first seem like a gambit, but in the end you’ve created a space that is unique to you and the way you live.

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