Our family lives in a 60 square meters, one-bedroom apartment in downtown Geneva, Switzerland. We have a toddler and a ten months old baby. Considering the impact of Covid-19 and my husband’s newly launched business, I’ve finally settled on the reality that a bigger apartment isn’t going to be an option for us in at least six months. 

However, I don’t want just to survive. I want to thrive along with my family, even though our apartment is small. I switched my focus from “what we don’t have” to “what we’ve got.” Once I started to train myself to see life this way, gratitude started to well up in my heart each day. I remembered what I took for granted: we live in an excellent neighborhood—- 5 mins walk to the best park in the city (with a well-equipped playground), 10 mins walk to the lake. Indeed, we are greatly blessed. 

Counting the blessings and giving thanks lifted me from the cage of self-pity and comparison game, opened up my horizon, and enabled me to think creatively about redesigning our home. Several interior design books, youtube videos, trials-and-errors later, I’m delighted with what my husband and I have accomplished. Still the same apartment, but it functions and looks so much better than before. 

If you think your home is too small, too cluttered, not functioning well, or beautiful enough, my friend, you can also make some changes! What matters is not what you will do when you have such and such one day, what matters is what you are doing with what you have today.

I’m going to share what I’ve learned and given you some simple tips on designing a small apartment. 

1. Identify the needs

Before you start to move the furniture around, you need to know what you need from each room. If you are single and live in a studio, it’s easy to identify the needs. You might need a space for a bed, a lounge /working area, a dining area. 

If you are like me, having a spouse and children, you will need to think through the needs not only for yourself but also for your spouse and children. 

Take our living room, for example, there, we need to have a working desk, for my husband and myself; a bookshelf for our many books; a dining area; a lounge; and storages for kids’ toys. Though it sounds a lot of functions asked for one room, thankfully, we have a relatively bigger rectangle-shaped living-room, which allows us to apply the following trick easily. 

2. Divide the room into sections 

When you need your room to be multifunctional, the best way to start is to divide them into several sections. 

I divided our living-room into three sections. When you enter the room through a small anteroom, you will come into the first area, the lounge. Then it’s the dining area and the working area by the window. 

For each area, you can imagine it as a room without walls and mindfully select furniture according to the function of the area, cohesive in style and color, and space-saving.

3. Define the purpose of each nook and cranny

When you pay your rent every month, you actually pay to have every inch of your apartment. Therefore, that cluttered corner of your home you’ve never touched for months is wasting your money. Trust me; you will feel so much happier if you would spend the time defining the purpose of each nook and cranny of your small apartment. 

When I was redesigning our living-room, one of the biggest changes I made was our TV nook in the lounge area. We don’t watch TV programs and only use the TV once a week as a screen for our movie night. The TV used to stand on a 180 cm long coffee table, and the space underneath was crammed with toys. Considering how little we use the TV, the previous setup just didn’t make sense (purposeless). So I replaced the TV stand with a 90 cm long one, which I found only for 15 fr on sale in Ikea. Surprisingly, I could even fit an armchair beside it! 

Now, look around your home (or think about it if you are not home), is there any clutter that needs to be sorted? Can you tell the purpose of each area? Can you name one thing you want your apartment to do to make your life better? Can you move items around and find a space for it?

4. Think out of the box for odd spaces 

Every apartment is different. You will likely find some odd spaces in your rental. Don’t be afraid to explore the usage of those spaces. Think out of the box. Identify some of your needs and see if that odd space could be of use for those needs.

In our case, the odd spaces are in the anteroom and the bathroom. We have this anteroom leading to the living room. Between them, there is a door. It usually serves as an entryway. Only it’s bigger. Before we had kids, we only put a mirror there, left it mostly empty, and let it be what it was—- an entryway. Now, we are making the full advantage of the space by putting a coat rack, a floating shelf, a small set of drawers, a chair and a small desk, transforming it into our second working area, with a door! 

Our bathroom is unusually big. We used to put a changing table there, but as our baby grows, we don’t use that changing table anymore. On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about a stationary bike for home exercising for a while, but I had to put down the idea because there was no space. As I was redesigning our apartment, I realized that there was no point in putting the changing table in the bathroom anymore. So I moved it out, and suddenly found a space for my stationary bike. Thus, we gave a new purpose for the extra space in our bathroom—-a gym. 


I used to think I would make our home so photogenic and Instagram worthy, ONCE WE MOVE TO A BIG APARTMENT! But I’ve learned that life doesn’t happen in the future; it happens here and now. Our home is far from my “dream home.” But I love what I have because we’ve put thoughts and effort into it to make it beautiful and serve us well in the season. 

Dear reader, I hope you will find at least one thing helpful from what I’ve shared with you. I hope you will apply it in your life, create a home you love right where you are, and live life to its fullest with gratitude. 

If you found this article helpful, would you consider sharing it so more people could find it? I’d also love to read your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂

6 Comments on “4 Tips for Designing a Small Apartment

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