Expert advice on ways to make your home look more spacious.
Living your best life in a smallish rented home is no mean feat - especially if you want to fit in all your clobber and make it look nice at the same time.
But don’t despair. Whether you live in a small house, a flat or a studio apartment, there are lots of ways to free up space, store your stuff and make it feel like home, no matter how bijou your pad...
1. Hide and seek
Your home has more space than you think - it’s just hiding from you. There are plenty of valuable voids that can be put to good use if you know where to look, says Joanna Thornhill, interiors stylist and author of Insta Style for your Living Space.
"Gaps above wardrobes and cupboards can always be put to good use, especially if you have high ceilings," she says. "And spaces under beds and sofas can also be useful spots for storage."
"Use baskets or even vintage suitcases to stash extra items away and pull out easily. Even if they’re visible, they’ll still look good so won’t compromise your style."
2. Float on
Whoever thought of these no-damage cute little shelves is a genius. Floating shelves make a room feel more spacious, and take up less space than floor-standing bookcases or units.
While they may not be able to store heavy items, they're the perfect place to pop plants, candles, books or things you want to display. And they look good too.
3. Divide and conquer
If you live in a studio flat or an open-plan space, using storage can be a brilliant trick to create the illusion of a divide between areas where walls may be lacking.
"A free-standing, open-backed shelving unit can be a great way to divide a space without preventing the flow of light," says Joanna.
"Alternatively, position a solid cupboard as a room divider and treat its back as a ‘wall’ by painting it or even using it to hang pictures or wallpaper (especially useful if you’re not allowed to decorate your space itself)."
4. Window wonders
Window sills are a little bit of prime real estate that often get overlooked; you could use a wide sill as a bookshelf, a bedside table or dressing table, for example.
And hanging shelves like these on your window for displaying collectables, houseplants, or bedroom or bathroom paraphernalia can also be a clever, creative way of making extra space.
5. Contain yourself
Clutter is your enemy when you need space - but baskets are your best friends. Storage baskets or containers can transform your kitchen, bedroom, lounge or hallway, creating subtle storage spots in a jiffy.
As if by magic, they free up counter tops, shelves and work surfaces. Stick them anywhere - under things, on top of things, next to things - you name it, you can shove a basket there. Be as inventive as you like with your chosen containers. Decorated boxes and crates are also fun to use.
For something unusual and inexpensive, Joanna suggests using old vintage fruit crates. "They can hide a multitude of sins, they’re sturdy and easy to move when required," she says.
6. Turn the tables
Who doesn’t love multipurpose furniture? There’s something strangely satisfying about knowing that your coffee table or hall bench has a secret life as a storage cupboard.
There are lots of lovely coffee tables on the market that have drawers or platforms underneath. The same can be said for side tables - opt for something with a drawer or a cupboard underneath to create precious extra storage space.
7. Behind closed doors
Shoe holders that hang on doors are inexpensive, and they’re also a very versatile storage solution.
"If you want to showcase a collection of favourite shoes in the bedroom, opt for clear pockets so it doubles as display," says Joanna.
"Otherwise, fabric pockets can hide a multitude of sins - maybe try some in the kitchen for extra baking tools or cookbooks. You could even convert one into a vertical garden for plants or herbs - just ensure it’s made from plastic-coated material, so it doesn’t rot."
8. Collapsible or stackable
No room for a banquet table? No problem. Invest in a drop-leaf table or collapsible trestle table, foldaway chairs and stackable stools and you’ll be issuing those dinner party invites before you can say "Where did I put my Ottolenghi cookbook?”.
When it’s not in use, you can store your foldable furniture flat against walls, under beds or behind sofas. A drop-leaf table can make a handy shelf behind a sofa, too.
9. It’s a drawer
Anyone who has lived in a small space knows that under-bed drawers are the greatest things since sliced bread. Abi Boura from Love Your Home says a storage bed is a brilliant choice for small bedrooms - but advises thinking carefully before you buy.
"Drawers in bed bases can look fun, but you need room around the bed to open and close them. A better solution may be a storage ottoman bed. Lifting the mattress reveals a huge area to hide unsightly clutter."
There’s a whole host of ottoman beds available, but we think this one from made.com is rather stylish.
10. Headboard happiness
If your small bedroom is too tight on space for much more than a bed, a headboard with shelves is a great space saver - it provides good storage space and banishes the need for bedside tables. This headboard from Wayfair has a glossy finish that helps create a feeling of space.
11. Statement piece
If you don’t have room for a lot of furniture pieces in your home, choose one big piece that will house everything in one place. A multipurpose dresser includes drawers, cupboards and display space, and takes up just one wall. Storing everything in one big cupboard can make the rest of the room feel much bigger and less cluttered.
12. Sofa so good
Sofa beds are another win-win for anyone needing to use their space for more than one thing. "Sofa beds are ideal for making multi-functional living spaces, and make studio living possible," says Abi.
"You can have the in-laws for a sleep over by simply converting the living room sofa into the perfect stop over," she says. Love Your Home has a range of luxury sofa beds including this rather gorgeous velvet one.
You may also be interested in...
- 9 cheap and cheerful ways to make your rental feel like home
- A furnished or unfurnished rental? Which is best for you?
- The joys of renting