How to Maximize Space in a Small Apartment

When strapped for cash, dreams of living in the heart of a bustling megalopolis don't have to be crushed.

Although you may not be able to afford an airy TriBeCa loft, your 200-square-foot studio could turn into a trendy and spacious spread, just follow our experts' space-maximizing tips.

Take Measurements

Before shopping for any furniture, it's important to measure the apartment. Draw a sketch of the space with dimensions. This will help you decide which furniture you can buy and/or take with you from your old pad. Don't forget to measure the furniture also. You don't want to purchase a new piece, only to find out that it doesn't fit through your doorway.

Cheap Frills

When looking for apartment bargain-buys, Tiffany Stakem, interior designer and architect for Robert Frear Architects, recommends searching on Craigslist. "It has never let me down," she says. "If you keep your eye out, you can find some really good stuff on there. Everyone that I've recommended it to has come back to thank me: from a boyfriend in New York City, to a sister in North Carolina."

Some other reasonably priced places to consider are IKEA, HomeGoods, Bed Bath & Beyond and CB2, a Crate & Barrel spin-off specializing in affordable, contemporary designs.

Think Storage

Stakem recommends buying decorative boxes from The Container Store or Bed Bath & Beyond to stack in fun, asymmetrical groupings on floating shelves. Using them to store items not needed on a regular basis will help de-clutter the apartment.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Mirrors create an illusion of space and increase natural light. For rooms with limited sunlight, Charlie Brokate, lighting expert and custom lamp designer for Charliedoes, suggests hanging a mirror near a window to maximize the amount of daylight in the apartment.

"From a health standpoint, we need to absorb a certain amount of natural light daily to keep our internal clock on track, and also, natural light is therapeutic," says Brokate. "Any space with little natural light is depressing, but small spaces more so because they feel like a cell."

Find a Balance

Unless you're trying to make a statement with an over-sized piece as a focal point, scale down your furniture to fit the space.

"A small space will generally feel better with moderately-sized or slightly-smaller furnishings," says interior designer Deirdre Martin. But for drama, she says, "go ahead and use a full-size sofa, but pair it with a chair that has longer legs on it -- as opposed to one that goes to the ground or has a skirt on it; or use a sliver of a coffee or cocktail table to complement." Balance is what makes a room work.

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