May 19, 2024


The layout of our house

An Interior Designer Told Me How to Make My Apartment Look Bigger, Better

  • I live in a 650-square-foot one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend in Chicago. 
  • An interior designer suggested we add color to our space with extra seating, artwork, and rugs. 
  • She also suggested we rearrange our furniture to utilize empty spaces.

I moved into my boyfriend’s apartment months ago but I have yet to make it my own. 

To see how I could improve my space, I had interior designer Ashley McLendon from House of June Interiors virtually review the 650-square foot Chicago apartment.

Here’s what she thought about my space and how to make it better: 

My living area feels tight and incohesive 

An apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows, a gray couch, and big coffee table

The space feels kind of cramped and plain.

Lara Walsh for Insider

Our main space is the living room, where I relax and entertain guests.

I recently added the decorative lantern in the corner and the sequined throw pillows on the couch to make the area seem homey. The rest is my boyfriend’s furniture from his last apartment.

He has a sleek and minimalistic style, which aligns with the overall look and feel of the apartment, but I’m hoping to add some personality and color to the space.

My main concern is the apartment’s long, narrow layout that makes it tricky to space out furniture and keep any one area from looking crowded. 

McLendon said I should break up the neutrals with colorful statement pieces

McLendon immediately suggested I add color to my living room. 

“I think some really cool abstract art would be great above the sofa. It’ll add some color and make the space feel more complete,” she said.

She also said a rug — perhaps featuring a color from the artwork —would tie the area together and give it a cohesive feel.

The designer also recommended a smaller coffee table, since the large one doesn’t fit the narrow space.

The writer's TV on top of a black TV stand and next to a mirror.

My coffee table doesn’t fit the space perfectly at the moment.

Lara Walsh for Insider

She also suggested I swap out my gray sofa for a more modern one with metal accents. 

“I think incorporating either a silver, gold, or brass would be great to add some depth to the space,” she added.

There are a few issues with the layout of the room, plus some underutilized spaces 

The writer's large, potted plant.

Right now, a large plant is in the corner of our living room.

Lara Walsh for Insider

The right side of the room is cluttered with the entrance to the balcony, a lamp, TV stand, and mirror. The other side has two pretty significant gaps on each side of the couch.

The writer's plant in the corner.

I added a plant to try to make my space cozier.

Lara Walsh for Insider

On the left of the couch, I have a lantern and autumnal decor. On the right, I have an herb garden and weights. 

The writer's plant and some weights next to her couch.

One side of my couch has weights and an herb garden.

Lara Walsh for Insider

To get more out of my space and add color I need compact additional seating 

To make my space more functional and vibrant, McLendon suggested adding ottomans or poufs for extra seating and color.

“They can move from room to room as needed and the perfect color, texture, or pattern could add the extra pop you need in your decor,” she said. 

She also suggested I get furniture with doors or cute baskets from Target or Ikea for the left corner of the space to hide clutter. 

The writer's plant next to floor-to-ceiling windows.

I love my view of the city.

Lara Walsh for Insider

To balance the room, she recommended moving the mirror to the left side of the sofa and tucking it behind the snake plant. She also suggested moving my lamp to the right of the couch. 

My outdoor space is simple and could benefit from some color 

The writer's outdoor space

My balcony could use some upgraded furniture.

Lara Walsh for Insider

To improve our balcony, she suggested I get rid of my old green camping chairs.

She said I could make the space an outdoor oasis with a few small additions, including a rug and cool patio chairs. 

My shower needs a caddy where products can be stored 

The writer's bathroom with a glass-walled shower and beige vanity.

The bathroom has a lot of light colors.

Lara Walsh for Insider

Our bathroom has a decent amount of storage in the mirrors and under the sink. Unfortunately, the shower has no storage so I keep my shampoo and other essentials on the floor. 

McLendon’s suggested fix is “a really cool corner shower caddy” that matches the silver finish of the showerhead and faucet. It can store my stuff and add a design element to the space.

Design-wise, the bedroom is probably my least favorite part of the apartment

The writer's bed with a beige, quilted headboard and simple ocean painting next to it.

My bedroom is simply decorated.

Lara Walsh for Insider

I like a nautical theme, so I have a painting of sailboats and a driftwood steering wheel on the wall. 

The room is tiny so my TV is on top of a dresser at the foot of the bed. 

The main problem is the right side of the room, which has a bunch of boxes and a broken bedside table that I use for storage.

The writer's white door.

Some of my room is empty.

Lara Walsh for Insider

McLendon suggested I keep the TV on the dresser because it means I don’t need another piece of furniture to use as a stand. 

She said I could put a small chair and accent table in the corner where the boxes are to upgrade the space without cluttering it. 

Our walk-in closet is large but doesn’t feel fully functional

The writer's closet.

My closet is pretty cluttered.

Lara Walsh for Insider

Currently, the “shoe wall” is large but doesn’t have much practical storage for my many pairs. 

The designer said I could turn the plain wall on the left side of my room into an accent wall of my favorite shoes, a trick for fashionistas who need extra storage. 

“Depending on the amount of space near that wall you can add some display pegs or wall-mounted boxes,” she said. “Or you could do a simple Ikea shelf and find some really cool shoe boxes to display.”

For the closet, she said, I should adjust the height of my existing shelves and add more since the flat shoes don’t need all of the space they currently take up.

Our kitchen has storage and counter space, but it feels too plain 

The writer's kitchen, which is mostly beige.

The kitchen has a long island.

Lara Walsh for Insider

The space feels too neutral and bare to me but the lack of empty wall space means I can’t use artwork to spice it up. 

So far, I’ve tried to add personality with a floral dish towel and colorful spoon rest.

The writer's cabinet and kitchen island with dark stools.

My kitchen is nice, but the colors don’t pop.

Lara Walsh for Insider

Ashley suggested I swap out my dark bar stools for lower ones that better suit the counter height.

To keep cohesiveness in my space and brighten it, she said, I need colorful stools that pull shades from whatever rug or artwork I end up adding to my living room. 

She also said I could add warmth with a rug or runner in front of the sink and a larger, bolder floral arrangement on the island.

The writer's modern kitchen with beige cabinets.

I added a kitchen towel to add some color.

Lara Walsh for Insider

In her parting advice, McLendon suggested multifunctional pieces and removable wallpaper 

When decorating a small space, McLendon said, the easiest way to make a statement is with pops of color and patterns. 

She recommended I try removable, peel-and-stick wallpaper since it’s an easy way to make an accent wall in a rental. 

McLendon also told me to keep maximizing my space by utilizing pieces in a multifunctional way, like how I used my dresser as a TV stand.