Published on February 9, 2020

Amber Lewis has essentially trademarked California-eclectic style, and it’s garnered her an army of loyal fans (whose ranks include Kristen Bell). The founder of a successful interior design firm, lifestyle blog, and online shop knows her stuff. So when we tapped her for tips on making tiny-apartment living work, she definitely delivered. The number-one mistake small-space decorators make? “They end up using furniture that’s too small.”

It’s a sentiment that echoes one Nate Berkus made on the importance of filling a room with larger pieces rather than cluttering it with a mélange of tiny ones. (A six-drawer dresser or that plush curved sofa you’ve been eyeing instantly bring character to a room in a way that a dainty table simply cannot.)  If two of our favorite celebrity designers feel strongly about a decor trick, we’re taking notes. Read on for Lewis’s other tips, guaranteed to revolutionize even the smallest of spaces. 

Take a Page From the KonMari Playbook

This one’s a no-brainer, and yet it’s easier said than done. When you live in a small space, all storage tends to be visible, which means that it must double as decor. “Declutter, declutter, declutter,” says Lewis. “I am loving this Marie Kondo era, even though I can be a bit of a hoarder myself.” She recommends storing things in baskets, which have the benefit of adding a touch of texture to any corner in which they’re placed. 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Perhaps the biggest small-space trope is that you can’t have bold, moody colors on the walls. If you want to paint your rental kitchen matte black, by all means do it—just remember to prime first. “I use dark paints in powder rooms, and I think it’s the perfect dramatic look,” says Lewis.

Look Up

Don’t ignore your lateral square footage. The walls and ceilings are two frequently overlooked surfaces prime for experimentation. “Instead of using a floor lamp, look into a hanging light or sconces,” suggests the designer. She also loves wall hooks, opting for chic options (like these leather straps) to keep things like throw blankets and jackets off the floor. 

If you have a bit more room to play with, consider shelves. Lewis’s styling trick: “I like to say ‘never put anything smaller than an apple on the shelf,’ as it’s too tiny and will look cluttered.”

Make Your Decor Work Overtime

Studio dwellers, in particular, will understand the importance of versatility. Ideally, your dining table can also be your desk—and kitchen prep station. Unfortunately, these multifunctional pieces can lack design chops. According to Lewis, the secret lies in seating.

She’s a big proponent of ottomans that double as coffee tables and poufs that can easily be moved around—if you have a sturdy cube, it can even be used as a nightstand. All it takes is a little creativity. 

See more small-space tips: 
11 Room Dividers That Are Perfect for Small Spaces
8 Ways I Sneak Extra Storage Space Into My Tiny Studio
A Small-Space Living Expert Puts a Stylish Spin on Sustainability

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