Interior Design For A Small Space, According To A Designer


Living in a space on the smaller side, be it a compact studio apartment or a tiny house, poses a decorating challenge. However, the constraints of limited space don’t necessitate compromising on good design.

Mariah Burton, the Interior Designer and co-founder of the boutique styling studio, Folk Studio, shares her expertise and invaluable insights on the art of decorating petite, compact spaces. With a rich background in design and a discerning eye for aesthetics, Burton unveils the secrets to maximizing style and functionality in confined living environments. 

Read on to discover Burton’s expert tips and unlock the potential for chic and purposeful interior design for a small space.

Image: Supplied.

Choose furniture that sits off the ground 

Striving for a sense of spaciousness in your petite living space? According to Mariah, the secret is to focus on the floor space. “Aim to have the majority of the furniture sit off the floor.” she tells marie claire

“This way it gives the illusion of more floor space and, thus, a more spacious room.”

Opt for furniture that predominantly sits off the floor, creating the illusion of more expansive floor space. This design strategy not only imparts a contemporary and light aesthetic but also contributes to the perception of a roomier environment. 

By elevating furniture above the floor, you open up the visual landscape, allowing the eye to roam freely and creating an airy atmosphere.

This clever approach not only enhances the overall aesthetics but also fosters an inviting and uncluttered ambiance, making your room feel more spacious and welcoming. 

Don’t have too many plants 

When it comes to incorporating greenery into your living space, less is often more.

Resist the temptation to overpopulate your surroundings with an abundance of plants, as this can lead to a cluttered and crowded feel within your apartment. 

“Don’t overcomplicate the space with plants,” Burton explains. Strive for a balanced and curated approach by selecting a few well-placed plants that complement the overall aesthetic of your space. 

Burton adds: “Often, we see people include too many plants in their apartments and it makes the apartment feel cluttered and crowded. This not only maintains an uncluttered and harmonious ambiance but also allows each plant to shine individually, becoming a deliberate and integral part of the décor. By exercising restraint in the number of plants, you can ensure that your apartment remains a tranquil and inviting sanctuary, where the beauty of nature seamlessly enhances the overall aesthetic without overwhelming the senses.

Embrace zoning 

Establishing distinct zones within an apartment is a pivotal aspect of effective interior design, Burton confirms. “Creating zones in an apartment is crucial. To achieve this, you can separate the living space from the dining space by using rugs,” Burton tells marie claire.

“Rugs successfully zone a large open space, helping create a better flow from one area to another.”

Not only do floor decorations add a layer of visual interest, but they also serve as effective boundary markers, creating well-defined areas within a large, open space. 

When choosing the right rug or mat, opt for a non-obstructive design, in neutral tones to pick up your existing pieces. 

By strategically placing rugs in these specific zones, you not only enhance the overall aesthetic but also contribute to a more organised and harmonious flow, ensuring a balanced and well-orchestrated layout.

Be strategic with your wall space

Striking a balance between showcasing treasured items and maintaining a sense of openness is crucial when dealing with limited wall space in a small apartment. While it may be tempting to utilize every inch for open shelving and storage, consider dedicating just 1-2 specific areas for this purpose.

“Don’t use all of your wall space,” Burton explains.  “Limit the amount of open shelving and storage you have in a small apartment.”

“Dedicate one or two areas that display your treasured items, like a small bookcase or floating shelves, but don’t utilise all the wall space for this purpose, it makes the apartment feel cluttered.”

Opt for a small bookcase or floating shelves to display your cherished items, creating curated focal points within the space. This intentional approach not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but also ensures that each displayed item becomes a deliberate and appreciated part of the overall décor.

Mood Lighting 

The ultimate interior design hack Burton goes by? “Include mood lighting where you can,” she states.

“Pendant lights, floor lamps, and table lamps will create a beautiful ambient light in the areas you want lit, as opposed to having all the LED downlights on at the same time, highlighting the whole apartment.

By introducing a variety of lighting elements, you can significantly enhance the ambiance of specific areas in your living space. This curated approach to lighting creates a more nuanced and inviting atmosphere, allowing you to illuminate particular zones as needed. 

Pendant lights gracefully define dining or seating areas, floor lamps add a warm glow to corners, and table lamps provide focused illumination where it’s desired. This thoughtful integration of diverse lighting sources not only elevates the overall visual appeal but also allows for greater flexibility in setting the mood and functionality of different spaces within your home.

The Best Homewares For A Small Space

Boucle chair.

This white boucle chair doesn’t just sit off the floor but also lets light through its open sides, making it the perfect piece of furniture to open up a small space.

Key features:

  • 3-leg design
  • Plush boucle fabric
  • Robust rubberwood frame
Kalmar Table Lamp

Lexi Lighting Kalmar Table Lamp in Gold

from $121 at Myer

Embrace mood lighting with this cool scallop lamp from Lexi Lighting.

Key features:

  • Scallop shade
  • Wavy metal stem
  • Wooden base

Available at:

Natural jute rug

This round jute rug will help zone a living room without overwhelming the space.

Key features:

  • 100% Jute
  • Hand spun and braided
  • Round shape


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