With any space, it’s tricky to figure out the perfect layout. But when it’s your first apartment? That takes tricky to a whole new level. Chances are you don’t have much experience to glean from, nor do you have the square footage of your dreams (yet!). On the bright side, there’s plenty of opportunity to experiment and get creative with how you want to set up your space. And it’s important: Being intentional about designing an apartment you love will help you feel at home before you know it.
One of our favorite places to take inspiration from is, of course, Apartment Therapy’s home tours. We’ve seen some ingenious layout hacks that have blown us away when it comes to maximizing space and joy. Ahead, find eight favorites that will make laying out your first apartment a total breeze.
This might be the oldest trick in the book, but it really does work wonders. Blogger and designer Erika Carlock opted for a small rug to create a dining nook in her Los Angeles rental since there was no formal eating area. You can also use rugs to section off a living area or bedroom. It allows for a more cohesive look in that part of your apartment — and, as a bonus, adds softness and texture for a more grounded aesthetic.
If you’ve got a spare closet but not much room elsewhere, converting it into an office might be your best bet, like lingerie brand founder Maddie Flanigan did in her approximately 500-square-foot Philadelphia home. Just add in some removable wallpaper and you can set a whole new vibe for your WFH setup. It actually feels a lot more private than just placing a desk in your living area or bedroom, so you can have a clearer separation between your work and home life.
An open concept can be wonderful — but sometimes in a small space it can feel like everything is blending together. So, a Brooklyn couple separated their 600-square-foot abode with a minimal, airy shelf that doubles as decor. Because it’s not as chunky as a traditional divider, it offers an open-concept feel while still acting as a boundary. Bonus: It means a chance to showcase (and store away) all those extra trinkets.
Pushing your furniture against the walls of a small space can actually make it appear even smaller. So, try out some different placements with your couch, even if it seems wacky at first. For instance, this Brooklyn resident placed an emerald loveseat smack in the middle of her 400-square-foot apartment, and it totally works. She shows that having a couch in the “middle” of a space can actually act as a boundary between different sections of your apartment — and make the room appear larger than it is.
If you, too, will take any excuse to add a plant to your space, use one (or several) to corner off an area. In this 700-square-foot apartment, a Québec City renter did just that, designating her work space by surrounding it with plants. It’s a great way to seamlessly create a separate section of your apartment. Plus, it adds life and brightness, which can help boost visual appeal and mood.
If you’re a collector — whether of paintings, plants, or skateboards — hang your treasures on a decorative wall instead of letting them take up valuable square footage. That’s exactly what communications professional Nicole Cueto did with a hat collection in her one-bedroom apartment. The hack clears up room for pieces that actually need ground space, delineates an area of your home, and allows you to enjoy the artistry of your hobby — a win-win-win situation.
Not a bunk bed, but a bed loft! Elevating your bed frees up a ton of space — enough for music teacher Kirsten Lindberg to have a “walk-in closet” in her eensy, 219-square-foot apartment. If you’re up for a good DIY project, this hack’s options are endless: Tuck a work desk, art studio, or storage solution underneath. It’s smart, convenient, and certainly creative.