living big in small apartments

Small apartments are the norm when living in a big city like San Francisco or New York. It's funny when a friend moves into a new spot and I go to see it and end up describing a 1 bedroom, ~600 sq. ft. apartment as "huge." I really have to take a step back and laugh at myself. But that's just how it is in San Francisco! This is the necessary evil that you must live with to choose life in the city... and it's so worth it! Although our apartments are small, the size issue isn't all evil.

Small living spaces pose their upsides as well. For example, something I benefit from is that it gets me out and about more often, which means seeing friends, exploring the city, new restaurants and bars, etc. You can't really "host" too many people, so you're forced to explore! I think that's great. Another way I benefit from living in a small space is that it's less expensive to decorate it. More money in my pocket to eat, drink, travel, etc. Finally, I love how cozy and minimalist my little jr. one bedroom apartment is. I'm very particular about ambiance. Whether it's a restaurant, coffee shop, bedroom, etc., I don't like to stay in places with a bad ambiance for extended periods of time. I pick the coffee shops I'll work from based on lighting, decor, or workspace -- all things ambiance related. You should feel the same about your apartment. If you're going to be spending the time in there, it's worth it to make sure you feel great about being in it!

Below you'll find my advice that I've used to decorate my own tiny apartment, which I think helps to most efficiently utilize your (limited) space!


This is probably the most important piece of the post. It's best to find things that kill two birds with one stone! (Please don't really kill any birds with any stones!!) So, many things in my apartment have two uses: fashion and function! (Read more about fashion and function in terms of accessories here.) My favorite item for this is my shelving unit from Ikea.

Shelving Unit: It comes in tons of sizes and colors, and with tons of different bins that fit perfectly in them. I put my swim suits, electronic cords, scarfs, medicine, etc. in them. A place to both store all this stuff AND separate the room to both a living room and bedroom all in one. Not to mention, it looks cute!

Shelving Unit: Ikea (comes in all different sizes) || Similar cute ones from Dot & Bo, here and here, and from Sprout, here and here.

Storage Bed: This bed is the perfect bed for a small apartment. Giving me drawer space and under the bed space where I can keep clothes or other items.

Bed: Custom from my dad, using this Ana White design 😊 and these etsy handles || Similar from Modus Furniture here, West Elm here, and Target here.

Trunk Seating + Storage: This is another great piece for my tiny apartment. Not only does it work as linen storage, but it also provides a table top (to put my record player!) and can double as another seat when lots of guests are over!

Trunk: Custom from my dad. (He really is the best!) || Similar from Crate & Barrel here, Pottery Barn here, and Wayfair here.

Kitchen Storage: One good thing about our small SF apartments is that they have these old fashioned built-in cabinets often times (and often in more rooms than the kitchen too!) Many of the remodels leave these in, because they are absolutely efficient and useful in such small spaces! It's a great place to store or display cook books, glassware, alcohol, etc. The drawers are great because you can hide what you're storing in there so it doesn't have to be displayed as nicely.😊

Cabinets: Built in! || If you're apartment doesn't have it, you can add one! Cute ones from Amazon here, Target here, and Wayfair here.

Mason jar wall storage: You can do this easy DIY project with a piece of wood, wood stain, mason jars, and hose clamps. You'll also need a drill and hammer. Trust me, if I can do it on my own, anyone can! You can use this mason jar organizer to store makeup brushes, cotton balls, cue tips, ets. It really comes in handy and saves a lot of bathroom space!

Mason Jar Organizer: DIY project made by me; instructions here. || Similar premade for sale on Etsy here or Target here.

Storage bins: Find ways to build storage into your closet when they don't come with it. I repurposed a small shelving unit and a bench seat as storage in my closet for shelves to put my sweaters on. I also use shoe racks. Crate bins are great too. I bought some wood stain to make them look cuter, and it took about 5 minutes to stain. I get compliments on them often! Each one is for a different thing; brown boots in one, black boots in another, laundry stuff, random sports gear, costumes, etc. I also use some plastic storage bins to organize my bathroom items under my sink!

Closet storage crates: Michaels or Home Depot || Stain: Home Depot

If you're on the hunt for better storage pieces, Domino is having a big storage sale right now, with everything 20% off. Shop it here!


The walls are so finicky here, since they are typically either dry wall or, if you live on the end unit of a building, sometimes even concrete. BUT, if you know someone handy, or are willing to hire someone, it's possible. Hang your TV to save space! Hang your lights on your wall or ceiling if they aren't already built in. Hang your wine on wine racks! Build up since you can't expand out. Doing so will save you lots of counter space that can be used for decor or floor space to just keep things looking minimalistic and clean!

Mail Organizer: This is a great way to make sure your countertops don't get too cluttered after you come home from a long day at work and are too lazy to go through the mail. It keeps things filed nicely and you can use it as an announcement board for invitations or photos as well.

Mail Organizer: Michaels (old) || Similar at Etsy here, Target here, or build your own components from Pottery Barn here.

TV: This was nearly impossible to hang, even with my dad and brother helping. Drilling through a concrete wall, or hanging something heavy on a dry wall is very difficult thanks to the old buildings we have in San Francisco. I definitely recommend hiring a pro!

Floating night stand: I love my little floating shelf next to my bed to keep my essentials like water, chapstick, and a book on, in addition to my bedside owl lamp (because I absolutely love owls!)

Floating shelf: Target || Lamp: Target

Hanging plants: I love plants in my apartment. They keep it nice and fresh, and give the apartment some character and spark of outdoors while we're tucked away inside. There's lots of ways to do indoor terrariums too, so you can get creative!

Hooks: Anthropologie || Hanging terrariums: World Market here and here

Hanging wine rack: This is a great way to hang both wine bottles and wine glasses! There are tons of DIY projects for this online, or you can buy them as well.

Wine rack: Etsy || Similar from Bed Bath and Beyond here and Wayfair here


You're already spending so much money on rent, you might as well just face the fact that you're not going to save as much living in the city as you would elsewhere (but it's still so worth it!!) So, I think it's worthwhile to fork over an extra hundred or two here or there to find the perfect furniture pieces if need be. Find the perfect couch to maximize space. The one I have fits perfectly into the corner in which I envisioned it, and I couldn't be happier. Treat your apartment like a puzzle, and don't settle for anything that doesn't fit perfectly if you don't have much extra space to work with! Never try to put a square peg in a circle hole!

If you'd like to read more about decorating small apartments, check out an interview with Chloe Towersey from December, as she shares her home decor and inspiration.

What are your favorite pieces in your little city apartment? I'd love to hear your ideas, so feel free to share below!

#crafts #decor #organize #DIY #sanfrancisco


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