NYC Living

Furniture Hacks and Other Small Apartment Ideas

Want to fall into a time-sucking Internet wormhole? Type “small space furniture” into Pinterest and start scrolling. What I’ve found could be filtered into a handful of subcategories. The two main ones are small-space hacks and multi-purpose furniture. Then there are pieces that are truly innovative, such as a rubber bathtub that folds up and onto the wall when not in use, a beautiful sofa that turns into a dining set and the pièce-de-résistance is a must-see 200-sq.-ft. studio that acts like a 600-sq.-ft. studio.

Small Space Furnishings on PinterestThe subcategory that I call “small-space friendly,” is the one I find most relevant these days. My husband, two kids, and dog make very efficient use of a smallish two-bedroom. At some point, we will need — and yes, want — more room. In the meantime, as we acquire furniture, we lean towards the forever pieces, those that work equally well in small and bigger spaces. Perhaps you’re in the same situation? Here are a few of my favorites:

Nelson wall sconce
Nelson Ball Wall Sconce

The Nelson Ball Wall Sconce: Thanks to more generous proportions, this classic is a good stand-in when you’re lacking space for a statement-making floor lamp, and/or prefer to use whatever tables you have for other things. We came across this sconce when searching for one with a power cord (most sconces require wiring, which is not ideal if you can’t do electrical work), and it’s one of the few sconces where the cord looks good and is part of the design.

This stylish file cabinet from Poppin can easily be used in many ways.
Poppin’s lockable file cabinet

You know what will make your small abode look even smaller? Random file boxes, stacks of mail, and surfaces covered with random office supplies. Even if you’re super-diligent about keeping this clutter out, you still need a place to stash important stuff. Poppin’s lockable file cabinet is nice enough to double as a side table or nightstand, has discreet casters to move it out of the way, and (as any parent of clumsy kiddos will notice) no sharp corners!

claremont set
Claremont dining set

Dedicated dining rooms in this city are a bit of a luxury, but dining sets to squeeze into a corner abound. My favorites are the ones where the chairs tuck right under the tabletop. Among the benefits, at least if you see clutter as the enemy of small spaces: those chairs won’t become de facto coat hangers. You could add something like this Hans Olsen set to your antiques shopping list, although the Claremont set from CB2 is readily available.

There are plenty of people that can make do without a desk. I’m not one of them. Thankfully there are so many wall-mount options. Wooden Mallet Fold-away Wall Desk is perfect for the price (although I’d probably jazz it up with a coat of bright paint) and could easily be repurposed later on as a craft center or mini workbench. But my top pick is this floating desk by Orange 22 (below), which works for both desktops and laptops, and understated enough to blend into any room as you move on.

Orange22's floating desk is sleek and minimal to help optimize space.
Orange 22’s floating desk

Bekvam step stoolIkea’s $14.99 Bekvam step stool wins a spot on this list because a)I’ve used one consistently for over nine years and b)it serves so many purposes that I’ll have one for about 39 more. Aside from being a reassuringly sturdy step stool, it also works as a side table, plant stand, and extra dining chair, which makes up for the fact that it doesn’t fold. Our four-year-old uses it every day for his breakfast table and as a helper stool. (Side note to parents of little ones: for the helper stool, you might want to get two stools and build something safer. You can find the directions here. Of course this demotes the Bekvam to single-purpose, but it’s temporary.)

The Paramount Sectional from Blu Dot: A sectional? In a small space? I’ve saved this one for last because it’s a maybe/maybe not. We first found it when searching for a sectional with plenty of seating for a smaller room (this one is 102” across, while most are about 10” wider). While other smaller ones were uncomfortable or looked too chunky, something about this one was just right. We liked it so much we purchased one for ourselves. And because you’re reading this far you likely don’t have a guest room. More good news: when cushions come off, overnight guests have a nice, not-at-all springy bed—and the kids have materials for an instant fort.

This is one sectional that might actually work in smaller spaces.
Paramount sectional from BluDot




Sofia Zimmerman

Sofia Zimmerman is a partner at Zimmerman Workshop Architecture + Design, a firm she runs with her husband, Adam Zimmerman, AIA. A native of Toronto, she lives in Brooklyn Heights, just down the street from her first apartment she found back in 2001 when she moved to New York City to pursue a career in magazine publishing. Even though her life as an editor is a happy, distant memory, her addiction to shelter magazines remains.

  • Trisha Pagliaro

    great piece!

  • Thank you for the very informative article. If your readers are interested in additional sources for small space furniture they may want to check out Simplicity Sofas.

    Simplicity Sofas is a High Point, North Carolina manufacturer selling direct to NYC consumers. The company has specialized exclusively in Furniture for Small Spaces and Tight Places for the past 9 years. features custom-built sofas, sleepers, sectionals and reclining furniture designed to fit through any door or stairway wider than 15 inches (less than half the width of a normal doorway.)

    All products are built with solid oak frames. Custom orders are built and shipped nationwide in 4 weeks or less.

    The company’s Total Satisfaction guarantee states: “If you do not like our furniture for any reason whatsoever you may return it for a full refund, including all shipping charges, for 1 year after purchase.”

    Disclaimer – I am the owner of Simplicity Sofas.