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Big cities and small spaces are the dynamic duo of our time. They go hand in hand and are both impossible to understand from an outside perspective (and from inside, depending on your level of decorating expertise). It’s all well and good to read expert advice on mastering tiny-home living, but the reality of it is a whole different story. So when it comes to solving square footage–based style conundrums, we thought it best to turn straight to the source: Eight owners of objectively small living rooms that look anything but. Here are the ideas they employed to make them work. 

Start With a Blank Canvas 

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

This might not seem like the most cramped room in the world…until you take into account that three couples (that’s right—six people) share this Brooklyn Heights apartment. The secret? Coating everything, including fixtures that jut out, like the fireplace and heater, in the same color. It instantly makes them feel cohesive and calmer. Not to beat a dead horse here, but consider making that hue white to brighten the room up as much as possible; we love Benjamin Moore’s crisp Simply White.

Stick to One Palette

Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Speaking of cohesiveness, while a layered look is great in most cases, in smaller spaces, a bunch of unique pieces runs the risk of clashing and making the room come off cluttered. Here, repeating tones of orange and red unite a mini reading nook. 

Embellish the Architecture

Photography by Brittany Ambridge

If you can swing it while renovating, add built-ins. As is clear in this loft, they’re true miracles for keeping floors clear and knickknacks safely contained. 

Create Some Breathing Room

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

We’re not suggesting you forgo accessories altogether—just cut back. Break up a packed bookshelf with a bit of blank wall space or ditch the clunky coffee table for some cushy throw pillows à la this Brooklyn one-bedroom.

Go Low-Profile

Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Not only does a low-slung sofa like the one in this bright corner leave more wall space to adorn with colorful prints, but it accentuates the height of the ceilings. 

Take Creative Liberty With Mirrors

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

They don’t just belong in the bathroom or entryway. Hang a large one in your living space to reflect light and add depth. This townhouse measures around 1,000 square feet, so the owners employed a bit of visual trickery with a mirror situated between two large windows. 

Space It Out 

Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Your instinct might be to push everything against a wall to keep as much available floor space free as possible, but don’t be afraid to float items—the room will flow better. This Cobble Hill example proves that it can be done without overcrowding. 

See more small-space tips: Don’t Fall for These Small-Space Myths 8 Ways I Sneak Extra Storage Into My Small Studio Tiny Apartment Finds That Are Basically Genius