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To make it as spacious and airy as possible, it all came down to these three things.

| By Lauren Caruso | Interiors

How I Made My Small(ish) LA Apartment Feel Bigger

To make it as spacious and airy as possible, it all came down to these three things.

When I moved across the country from a 375-square-foot studio in New York’s Lower East Side to a 900-square-foot two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood, the last thing on my mind was making it look bigger. It was bigger–by nearly triple. At first, I didn’t know what I’d do with all the extra room I had, which included a spare bedroom and a spare bathroom–two things I never had growing up in a small ranch home or as a 10-year resident of NYC.

But in Los Angeles, I quickly found that the addition of a partner, plus a change in our lifestyle that included a new work-from-home set-up, meant that we were spending much more time at home. Instead of going out for dinner or drinks with friends like we did a few times a week in New York, we found ourselves mostly cooking at home or hosting dinner parties. Those hangouts inevitably spilled over to late-night Love Island watch sessions on the couch, which meant my space was quickly filled with people–and stuff.

Still, I was determined to make it feel as spacious and airy as I could. After all, that’s half the reason why I made the coastal switch in the middle of the pandemic.

Here are three easy ways to make your small space feel bigger–no demolition required.

1. Play With Height

I never really liked the look of bare windows, and blinds or Roman shades don’t appeal to my tastes. I knew curtains would be the best choice to let light in, but I’d never hung them before–at least not from start to finish.

I’d learned from an old issue of Architectural Digest that curtains should be hung between four to six inches above the window frame–a great rule of thumb for most interiors. But because this apartment hadn’t been remodeled since the ‘90s, it came with verticals, which were on a track that was hung a little higher than the standard. Instead of trying to fill in the holes, repaint, and then hang the curtains at the four-to-six-inch height, I decided to hang the curtains in each room as high as they could comfortably go, enough to hide any evidence of the verticals. I made sure each panel was as wide as my window and measured it out so there would be a few inches of slack at the floor, et voila! The optical illusion is no joke: My friends live in the apartment below me and it looks like their ceilings are at least a foot or two lower than mine, which isn’t the case).

If curtains aren’t your thing–or you’re not ready to spend the day DIY’ing–try to attract the eye upward with hanging plants or tall furniture, like an etagere.

2. Draw A Blank

It’s been a few years since the gallery wall hit peak saturation, and while they can look nice when done right, a smattering of photos and artwork in a concentrated area always looked too congested for my liking. Instead, I tried the reverse: Instead of packing my blank walls with memories and paintings, I left them blank.

It wasn’t actually by design: I spent a good two months looking for artwork to hang over my low-profile couch and came up empty. Because the wall faces the mirror above my mantle, I knew anything I picked would be reflected, so it was almost like filling both walls at once. Still, nothing I could find felt right–so I left it blank. A friend who moonlights as an interior designer commented on how intentional it felt, as well as how it opened up the room. (She doesn’t have to know the truth.)

Now, when I have a blank wall that I have the impetus to fill, I take stock of how that empty space serves the rest of the room first.

While my tips for making a small space feel bigger surround big decisions like furniture and artwork choices, know that it’s never too late to change it up. Take advantage of open marketplaces like Chairish, Facebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor to sell items that no longer suit you, and remember that many secondhand stores will hold onto purchased items for a few weeks while you make room for them.

In the meantime, take some time this weekend to give your small space an audit: Is it functioning the best way you can? Are there hot spots where items or dust seem to collect? Is there an area that you hate to look at? Not everything needs to be an ever-present race toward efficiency, but at the very least, your home should bring you peace–no matter its square footage.

For more from Lauren follow her at @laurencaruso_

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