We love Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest, not only for its gorgeous interior design inspiration, but also because it reminds us that you don’t need to live large to have a stunning home. These homes aren’t showcases or designed by famous decorators: They are the homes of real people, and they are really small. From stunning studios and luxurious lofts, we’ve picked out our top 20 faves and now we’re holding our breath to see who the winner will be (announced tomorrow, June 18th)!
1. Pocket of Mod: Feeling a bit 1960s futuristic, Kat’s modern apartment in Santa Fe embraces clean lines and gleaming surfaces. Her advice for living in small spaces is to make it shine with lots of reflective surfaces and not to be afraid to spray paint anything that looks a little “blah.” Instead of buying a new fridge, she just spray painted her fridge a vibrant shade of bright red. “Small homes can have limited sight lines, so amp up the ones you have. Notice where your eyes go when you do what you do at home — working, chilling, flossing — and put a thing you dig right there.”
2. The Color Lovers Home: We admire anyone who can embrace the statement wall, and that shade of indigo blue is fabulous! The owners both love color, and they tried to incorporate it into every room without a specific pattern or scheme. Because all the pieces are things they both love, it just works and makes for a wonderfully cozy and inspiring space.
3. Quirky Surprises: Living in a small space means constantly editing and rearranging, especially if there are two of you living in a teeny space. Remember that not everything is permanent and play around with arrangements of artwork and your collections until you’re really happy. There is always a way to display your treasures in a pleasing way without it looking cluttered.
4. Spacious Simplicity: Small spaces shouldn’t prevent you from adding large pieces. In fact, full size items serve as anchors to your home. These homeowners really embraced the idea of less = more, striving to only add pieces they love and absolutely need. While toeing the line between cozy and minimal can be a challenge, there is a sort of liberation in not feeling obligated to fill a larger space with non-essential possessions.
5. Bright And Beautiful: Lots of white walls make this home light and airy, while the colorful accent pieces make for a cheery and happy space. In a small space, there isn’t a lot of room to keep things you aren’t completely crazy about but if you stick to what you really love and build on that piece by piece, you’ll have a home that truly reflects you and your personal style.
6. Pretty Camouflage: In a small space, everything is visible, so hide unsightly things like cords with strategically placed decoration and invest in a good storage system. You can never have too many drawers and shelves! We love how this homeowner used complementary colors from the brick wall in the bedding to create an elegant color palette.
7. Unique Blend: This funky space in Chicago is a unique blend of vintage, mid-century modern and Scandinavian design with bold graphic patterns, typography, a neutral color palette and lots of plants. In a small space, plants can really enhance a home, making it feel cozy and welcoming, while also improving the air quality.
8. Perfect Balance: Even though the color palette is dark, the look is sophisticated and doesn’t make this small space look like a cave. The secret is to go low: furniture that is low to the ground looks smaller, and use lots of mirrors to reflect that natural light around the room.
9. San Diego Sunsets: Living small forces you to identify things that serve not only a functional purpose, but also an aesthetic one. Look at the value that each item, particularly furniture, brings into the equation. Do you really need two end tables? Is it necessary to have two nightstands? Asymmetry allows for more variety and the informal, comfortable aspect of living.
10. Off The Grid: At 210 sq ft, this space is teeny tiny, but manages to contain everything you need to live, without any compromises or clutter. The bed hides under a work platform, giving the owner a work space. When partially pulled out and locked, the bed also provides additional seating. Thanks to solar panels and a rain-filtration system, this little home is almost completely off the grid and is on a trailer bed so it can be moved if needed.
11. Nautical Studio: Built in the 1800s, this Brooklyn home was once the parlor of an old ship captain’s home, so it has a lot of rich history and architectural details like a working fireplace, high ceilings and lots of natural light. When living small, you can basically see every part of the home in one quick glance, so sometimes your eyes get tired of looking at the same thing. “Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit, from changing your duvet cover to a simple weekly switch up of fresh flowers!”
12. Perfectly Petite: Friends tried to talk these homeowners out of the bookshelf wall because they thought it would overwhelm the small space, but they stuck to their vision and now the walk-through bookshelf is one of their favorite features. It works as storage, an architectural feature and draws attention to the high ceilings.
13. Ultra High Ceilings: Even though the look is relatively modern and simple, the homeowner used warm and luxurious fabrics — linen, pure wool, cashmere for upholstery, curtains and cushions — to create a cozy and homey feel.
14. Open Concept: When you live in a small space, try working within a similar color palette, so that each area or room relates to the other parts of the space. When you paint the entire space white, the light bounces around and creates a great contrast with your furniture and art. Negative space is key, especially in small spaces, so leave room for your furniture to breathe and the space will look large and airy.
15. Unconventional Style: There is a mirror in every room to help add more light and sparkle to this eclectic apartment in Missouri — from a mirrored bedside table and desk in the bedroom, to full length mirrors in the living room.
16. Charming Details: We are in love with that gallery wall! The homeowner, Diane, gives some great advice for studio living: “Everything doesn’t have to be of a diminutive scale just because you live in a shoebox. Mix scales, sizes and patterns to create some interest. Add that ginormous conversation starter of an art piece if possible or that funky oversized light fixture.”
17. Great Bones: The exposed brick, huge windows and cement floors give this space a wonderfully industrial feel. When you are arranging furniture in a small space, remember not everything has to be pushed up against a wall. Pay attention to where and how you move and then make sure those pathways are unobstructed and the flow will feel effortless.
18. Beauty On A Budget: We love all the DIY details in this NY space; the homeowners created some amazing pieces when they couldn’t afford the “real” thing. Their advice to fellow small space dwellers? “Don’t skimp on style just because you’re short on space. Though clean neutrals may seem like a surefire way to make a tight apartment seem airy and open, we’ve always found that nothing opens up a room like more furniture! Plants, books, picture frames — all these details are what make a room extraordinary.”
19. Luxurious Little Space: To get a glamourous look on a budget, switch out boring light fixtures for cool modern mini chandeliers, an inexpensive way to add bling to the room and then put all the lighting on dimmers to truly add ambiance and style.
20. Laneway Home: A laneway house is a form of housing that is popular in Canada because they can be built in tiny lots, usually in the backyard. In this home, there is limited display space so these homeowners switch up their accessories to match the season, curating their collection of beloved photos.
Which of these homes do you hope wins the Small Cool Contest? Let us know in the comments below!