The Hacks That Finally Saved Our Tiny Bedrooms
Here’s how our editors style their small spaces.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:28 AM
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Living in New York City, we are blessed with many wonderful things. Crazy cool experiential pop-ups designed with photogeneity in mind; an abundance of eateries where the decor is as good as the food itself; a veritable wellness Mecca where you can try a spot of cryotherapy after your superfood smoothie. There’s a lot to love about living in the city, and pretty much all of it hinges on leaving your apartment and actually experiencing what it has to offer.
This is largely because one of the things we’re not so blessed with is real estate. Competition is tough. And more often than not, as a renter, you find yourself crammed in a minuscule walk-up apartment with a space that more resembles a closet than a bedroom in terms of square footage. Pair an uninspiring room with very real size restraints, and you’ve got yourself a less than ideal styling situation. If anyone can relate to your small space woes, it’s our editors.
Due to the nature of our jobs, we are privy to a lot of chic, innovative spaces from around the world. A good chunk of these dream homes reside on the smaller end of the square foot spectrum, and come with a bevy of genius tips and tricks. So between coming in contact with a steady stream of tiny bedroom design inspo on the regular and dealing with our own area-averse spaces, suffice it to say we’ve seen (and tried) it all.
From purchasing smart storage to testing out pared back approaches to design and everything in between, we’ve collectively attempted every tiny bedroom styling idea in the book. Over the years, necessity has become the mother of invention. And in the end, it looks like some of the most tried-and-true tropes about small space living have proven to be the most effective: Think minimal, opt for multifunctional items wherever possible, and remain intentional in your design. We’re here to tell you from personal experience that it works.
If you’ve exhausted all other avenues, read on. Here are the best layout tricks we learned and implemented, and the space-saving items we swear by.
Give everything a home by creating zones.
“For any small space, the most important thing I’ve found makes a difference in both design and day-to-day life is giving every item a home, a place where it belongs. When it comes to storage, especially in the bedroom, I like to have as much concealed as possible to keep clutter at bay. My hats and scarves are displayed on the wall next to an expanse of Ikea dressers that I use as an art ledge and vanity storage for things like tiny jewelry, lotions, perfumes, and lipsticks. Hiding all of my clothes and displaying my pretty little things, thereby creating kind of a storage ‘zone’ in my bedroom, makes it feel instantly more organized.” -Alyssa Clough, Social Media Editor
Tour Alyssa’s full apartment (and see how she makes 650 square feet look full of life) here!
Keep scale top of mind.
“Aside from stocking up on storage products that can pull double duty in the bedroom, I think it’s really important to keep proportion in mind when designing around a tiny space. Scale is everything.
When I moved from my parents’ house to New York, I made an effort to take a lot of my bedroom essentials with me. However, one thing that just didn’t make sense was my hamper. It’s a beautiful, big, woven hamper that I’ve had forever and I love and looks great in my bedroom at home, but it just didn’t make sense for my new place. I recently went to West Elm and snagged the smaller version of this basket (Round Weave Laundry Basket, $59) it’s honestly the perfect size for my room. It doesn’t hold nearly as much as I’m used to but it keeps me on top of my laundry duties!” -Lydia Geisel, Digital Editorial Assistant
Hang shelves (or get someone to do it for you).
“As someone who doesn’t really ‘get’ most modern art (there, I said it) and who can’t afford a Monet, I needed to find some way to cover my rental’s bedroom walls that didn’t involve investing in a hanging print. What I do have is a borderline unhealthy obsession with collecting ceramic bowls and various other storage vessels—terracotta urns, woven mini baskets… even an antique glass vinegar bottle, which several strands of dried lavender now call home. Which means I was in possession of tons of tiny storage solutions, and nowhere to stick them in my minuscule bedroom.
Enter: open shelving. I picked up a couple of simple-looking ledges from Pottery Barn (Menlo Wooden Shelves, $79), coerced a friend who owned a drill into coming to assist me on pain of our friendship, and got started. Now, a previously bare wall is suitably dressed and I have built-in storage for all the small knick-knacks like sunglasses and jewelry that can make a room look cluttered. Think of open shelving as a well-styled vignette with a purpose. They’ll rescue your tiny bedroom by making use of what tends to be a traditionally underused surface—your walls.” – Elly Leavitt, Associate Digital Editor
“Embracing minimalism (at least in your tiny bedroom) can be an easy way to make the space feel manageable. I think only keeping a few key pieces that have great storage options in your small space help it not feel too claustrophobic or cluttered.
We’ve profiled a few smaller bedrooms here on Domino that perfectly exemplify this—for example, Thea Hughes’ minimal home, which she keeps uncluttered by being very intentional with what she allows in her space. Everything has a story or a purpose. Or even Casey Zhang’s serene 600-square-foot apartment, which is a lesson in how to be efficient with your layout.” – Lahaina Alcantara, Photo Editor
Manage your hoarding.
“Okay, while I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder, others might… but I do it for you, dear readers! You see, my job is to literally find the beauty and wellness products and tips that will change your life. It’s an admittedly cool job, and in doing my research, I have to embrace the product-testing mayhem that is my reality.
How I manage it is sorting everything by categories. I have six of these sleek plastic Ikea bins (Kuggis Box, $14.99) in white that I stack in threes on the second shelf in my closet. I label one as ‘travel’ beauty products, one as ‘hair,’ one as ‘body,’ one as ‘makeup.’ one as ‘desk’ (for bills and things I don’t know what to do with), and one as ‘testing, testing 1, 2, 3.” It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done! In the meantime, will you come over and take some products off my hands?! My closet shelf and I would greatly appreciate it.” – Kristin Limoges, Beauty & Wellness Editor
Invest in clever storage solutions.
“My studio runs at under 300 square feet so finding clever storage solutions is paramount. As a minimalist, I can’t stand the mere sight of clutter, so for me, it was especially crucial to find effective storage solutions for all the random odds and ends I’ve acquired throughout the past few years. Enter my Ikea bed (Malm Storage Bed, $499)—it is, without a doubt, a fundamental element of my space, and I pretty much swear by it. The fact that it doubles as a storage solution is what truly sets it apart from the rest and the sheer number of items I can fit inside it is an added bonus.” –Anna Kocharian, Digital Editor
Check out the bed Anna swears by here!
Don’t forget to make the most of your ceiling, too.
“Use any and all ceiling height to your advantage! When you have a tiny room, the last thing you want to feel is like the walls are closing in on you. Floor space is limited, people. Avoid collecting all your clutter around eye-level and try to—literally—expand to new heights. We say it over and over again: Bringing your eye up will make the room look and feel bigger. You’re creating the illusion you stretched it out.
My bedroom in NYC will always be small, so I know to hang curtains well above the tops of windows to visually expand the room. I also love to run shelving (the same color as my walls) around the perimeter of my room, about a foot or so below the ceiling. I keep books, knick-knacks, and cute storage boxes up there full of stationery sets or winter accessories. When I’ve maxed out under-bed storage, this is my go-to hack!” –Amanda Johnson, Digital Content Strategy Manager
See more of our small space tips: Don’t Fall for Our Small Space Myths How to Live Your Best Maximalist Life in a Small Space What I Wish I Knew Before Living in a Small Space