Living in a closet at some point is basically a rite of passage in New York City—whether you’re speaking hyperbolically or whether you are, like one of my friends is at this point, literally sleeping in someone’s closet. But if realizing that you’re in good company doesn’t lessen the claustrophobia, here are a few ideas to make your space seem a bit more livable.
A) Reduce the clutter. This one’s a tough bullet to bite, but it will make a ton of difference. Take everything in your place that isn’t nailed down (all the stuff from shelves, countertops, tables, the floor, etc.) and put it in a big pile. Now separate out all the things you know you absolutely need and put the rest in a box, tape it up, and leave it for a week. Or a month. Didn’t really need that stuff? Get rid of it, or at least make your parents put it in their attic.
B) Cover it up. If you have open shelves with lots of stuff on them, try pinning a curtain to the front to create a covering. A clean, solid surface will go a long way toward making your place seem more peaceful and roomy. You can also create extra storage space by throwing a cloth over any tables you may have and stowing things under them, or making your bed so that the covers drape close to the floor on the visible side and keeping stuff under there.
C) Think vertically. You may not have a ton of storage space in your apartment, but you probably have some wall space that’s not up to much of anything right now. Using your walls as storage space can be as simple as going to the hardware store, tying a bunch of hooks into a rope, and hanging it up. Keep pots on it, or towels, or shoes tied together by the laces. Having something hanging vertically on your wall also makes your room look taller—you can get the same effect by hanging your window curtains from right by the ceiling instead of at the top of the actual window.
D) Make fake rooms. The instinct when you’re arranging furniture in a studio apartment is usually to line the walls with it, thinking that you’ll leave a lot of open space in the middle and the place will look bigger. But don’t immediately discard the idea of using the furniture as room partitions. You can back your sofa up against your bed in the middle of the room, for instance, and create a separate bedroom and living room area. Making separate “rooms” can make your place feel more accommodating and less like you’re living in a dorm room.
E) Use small furniture. This can be tough if, like me, you’re big into getting stuff for free. Still, it’s a good thing to keep in the back of your mind. You know how, when you have a garage sale and you take your entertainment center out into the driveway, it looks tiny? Think of that effect in reverse when you’re cruising the garage sales of others. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know the actual measurements of your space.)
Making do with a tiny apartment can be stifling at times, but things could be worse. And if none of these ideas work for you, just take a tip from the brokers and think of it as “cozy.”
OK advice. Try also getting plastic storage bins and separate your summer clothes from winter clothes and slide the bins under your bed. Keep CDs out of site. Of course it’s expensive but a plasma TV is great because, aside from the picture quality, it can go up on the wall and make the apartment just a tiny bit roomier. Don’t feel obligated to hang up EVERY picture you have. We tend to want to find a place for everything. Don’t be afraid to throw things out or put them into storage. Be very stark at first and then fill in the empty space.