Apartment living is something that is becoming more and more common, however this is even more so for small apartment living.  Managing to fit your entire life into 30-50sqm is not an easy task, this especially if you want to make it spacious and uncluttered.  However this can be done with a few trick up your sleeve and a well structured plan.

This article is just for that purpose, how do we keep what we want and need but don’t feel like throwing it over the balcony everyday.

First things first, consider the three main points of apartment living.  The first being clutter, get rid of the things you haven’t used in one year.  The second is light, small spaces need light, this will reduce the claustrophobic feeling and the third is to make use of every inch you possible can.


1.  Clutter

Get rid of the clitter, everything that you are currently falling over, look at it and decide it you really need it.  Can you live with out all that figurines that only gather dust and are difficult to clean.  What about that coffee maker you haven’t used in two years or those clothing items you bought but never worn.

Get rid of these items, donate them to charity or sell them on ebay.  These items are not needed and if you have to keep those figurines get a floating shelf behind a glass door.  They will be out of your way and they will keep clean.

The most important thing with clutter is that everything in your home needs a dedicated space. The floor is not such a space, to reduce your clutter start by moving things of the floor, open your floor space, your apartment will get the big feeling it had when you walked into it the first time without any furniture.


2.  Loft Beds:  

Loft beds are great and they are not just for kids and students anymore.  You will be able to raise the bed and use the space below for a closet or study nook.  What ever the need may be.

If you however feel you’re to grown up for this, consider getting rid of the traditional base and go find those that you can place storage boxes underneath the bed.  I realise this is hard to find in South Africa, but maybe ask a local handyman to make you one out of wood or steel.  Using the space under your bed is essential, you can pack away all your sheeting, towels and big bulky jackets or even the camping equipment all South Africans’ have.

I can’t stress this fact enough, use the space your bed is taking up, its a massive space.


3.  Vertical garden:

Instead of filling the apartments with pots, fill your walls, especially if you have higher ceiling than usual.  It creates an amazing feature in your space, vertical gardens are also a great idea for a small cramped balconies.  It is important that you use your balcony if you have one, don’t think of it as wasted space, you most probably paid for it, so use it.


4.  Shelving:

Shelving of any kind is the most important thing in small spaces, without it you can’t get rid of the clutter and also can’t open your floors.  I realise that shelving is an expense, but its one big one that you will forever be grateful for.

There are several options when it comes to shelving, don’t just think old school, these shelving techniques are really pricy, thin hipster.  Go industrial, mix steel and wood.  Shelving gives you the opportunity to change the entire atmosphere of your apartment.  It is for this reason that I suggest you really look at your space, see where there are dead space, those nooks and crannies and what they can become.  What can you make to increase the purpose of the nook and cranny.

Open shelving forces you to see all your stuff, this way in order to keep everything clean and tidy you are force to have less.  This is essential in small spaces.  You don’t need 30 plates.  If its you, you need 4 plates.  I say one for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 1 more if you have a mate coming over.  After that you need to wash the dishes anyway, dirty dishes is not also unsightly, but they attract unwanted wildlife in small spaces.


Another shelving idea is to make use of your stair space.  This might be a bit of an expense, but consider putting in drawers between every step or closing up the stair space and making a big storage room.  This is perfect for those ironing boards and vacuum cleaners, everything you need but never want anyone to see.


5.  Become creative:  

You shouldn’t be afraid of paint, especially light colour paints.  Of course you need to check with your landlord, showing him the swatches first if you are renting.  They will use it as an excuse not to give you your deposit back.

You should also consider some art pieces, a funky abstract painting or marvel poster.  Whatever rocks your world.  If you don’t have the funds to buy what you want, why not make your own art.  We are all creative and if you are unsure go find some pin tutorials and ideas.  Pinterest is great to find inspiration for just about anything.

Considering your art, you also shouldn’t be afraid to go high with it.  The more you use your vertical space in your tiny space, the bigger the place will look.


6.  Getting serious

If you own your apartment or house, you can do a lot more just little things.  You can break out a wall to make your kitchen and dinning room one big space, put on windows or skylight to add light, built a massive bookcase against a tall big wall.  This can be used for more that just the books, but something like those figurines, your vases, photo frames.  What ever fits in the cap.  This being said, don’t try and fit your entire house into this bookcase, you will just be moving the clutter around.

Look at your existing bookcase as see what you haven’t read in three year and give it to an old age home.

If you can’t do permanent change, because of funds or that your lease won’t allow it, then consider lighting, the lighter the space the bigger it seems.  This can be done with rail lights and light colour paint choice.  Don’t just go for white though, you don’t want to live in a hospital, but something like a badge or sky blue for a wall here and there.

Colour can also be used to create sections in you space, this is something to be thought of where what section will be and also the purpose of it.  This is essential  for loft apartments and studio apartments.  By creating sections, you are creating organisation spaces.  Keeping things in place and off the floor and kitchen table is what is important.


7.  Curtains

Curtains are most probably the one thing we never think of, we just buy what we like, not actually thinking of what will be best for our space.  It is often worth the effort and money to make your own or have it made.  You should consider light material and colours, heavy materials adn colours will cramp a space. You should also consider, the same as with your art, to hang the curtains as high as you can. This will increase the perception that your ceilings are much higher, thus creating space in your mind.


8.  Dual Purpose

Similar to the bedding solution you should consider this with all your furniture.  No one furniture piece should only be this or that, it should be this and that.

Instead of a coffee table, consider an old trunk.  Clean it, paint it and fix it up.  It will look amazing, be creative and it will serve as a storage place for those dvds and cds.  Consider an island for your kitchen, this will be better than the traditional kitchen table, because you can still have dinner around it, but you can also store some kitchen items in it.  You should look at the outdoor furniture section for South Africa, they often have several of these wooden islands available.

Another favorite of mine is ottomans, but those that also function as a trunk.  They are slim in design and make a place feel like home in a jiffy.


9.  Being organised

This is something that I’m sure I’m focussing on with all of these suggestions, being organised will reduce the clutter and keep things of the floor.  Instal the shelves and drawers and make use of baskets or small containers.  THese are also perfect for your closet and pantry.  Organising your items will reduce you buying unnecessary things in the future.  In a short time you will realise you only needs so much socks and spice containers or cutlery.

Painting sections in your home and adding shelving will increase your chances of success greatly in becoming organised.


10.  Think what you buy

With small spaces we don’t have the luxury of just buying any old thing we see in the shops, no matter how pretty or shiny it may be. You will have to start taking the attitude by saying, “do I need this?”.  If the answer is no, then do buy it.  If its really (and I mean really) somtheing you want, you will have to consider where it will go.  This will however most probably mean that you will have to get rid of something else within your small space already.

So do you need it or do you REALLY want it is the question.  This is also a great money saving technique, I hardly spend any money in the shops these day, simply because I don’t need it and the things I need I have custom made, to fit my space perfectly.

I hope this article is helpful for those in Need of some inspiration.  Again if you need to find solutions and ideas, go look at pinterest, I think its the next best thing since slice bread 😛

 Written by Lizl Brink, Lizl is copywriter and designer based in Johannesburg, she is also a frequent contributor to the Mafadi blog, and as an Urban investor and rejuvenation shares a passion for urban regeneration, go check out her personal portfolio here


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