Here’s How You Can Use Color to Make Your Small Space Feel Much Bigger

Here’s How You Can Use Color to Make Your Small Space Feel Much Bigger

When it comes to trying to make a small apartment feel, well, not small, there are the go-to design tricks you’ve probably heard before: adding mirrors to create more light and depth, hanging oversized art that pulls a room together, and using double-duty furniture to prevent clutter, to name a few. But one overlooked yet very accessible tactic is utilizing light and dark colors to create designated spaces within your limited space — and the team at Clodagh Design is spreading their knowledge on that very principle.

Clodagh, founder of Clodagh Design, and Jose Achi, Director of Design Development, recently spoke with Apartment Therapy inside the Miraval Berkshires, a wellness resort in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. They designed the resort to have both compressive corners for individual or intimate gatherings as well as spacious areas for mingling, creating intentional spaces within one large space. And while it seems impossible to replicate a similar dynamic in a tiny apartment, they reassure that by using dark and light colors in a correct manner, you can create similar, intentional sections, no matter the square footage.

“Dark color compresses, and you don’t realize it, [until] you open up into a lighter area,” Achi said. And while small apartments are restricted with square footage, Achi explains that entryways are a great way to infuse compression and expansion with color. Paint your entryway a dark, moody shade, and then allow for the connecting living space to be a light color, which makes it feel much more expansive with the contrast.

In addition to color, Clodagh mentions that directional lighting can also create a feeling of compression and expansion, which is good to keep in mind so you don’t unintentionally make your space feel smaller when adding lighting fixtures. “The lighter expands, the darker compresses — down lights are compressive, up light are expansive. So you’ve got to balance your light very carefully when creating space through lights,” Clodaugh said.

Since mostly everything is easily visible in tiny apartments, Achi recommends utilizing indirect sources of lighting so you can create a glow versus dots on the ceiling, not only for design but functional purposes (aka all corners are lit equally).

So the next time you’re looking to lean into tips for making your small space feel larger, think color and light. Those small shifts between dark and light contrasts can go a long way.

Nicoletta Richardson

Entertainment Editor

In her spare time, Nicoletta loves marathoning the latest Netflix show, doing at-home workouts, and nurturing her plant babies. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, AFAR, Tasting Table, and Travel + Leisure, among others. A graduate from Fairfield University, Nicoletta majored in English and minored in Art History and Anthropology, and she not-so-secretly dreams of exploring her family lineage in Greece one day.

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This Smart Solution Adds Way More Kitchen Storage — and Takes Up No Extra Space

This Smart Solution Adds Way More Kitchen Storage — and Takes Up No Extra Space

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It feels like there’s never enough room in the kitchen, especially when you live in a small apartment. Cabinets seem like they are thisclose to bursting open due to a plethora of dishes and appliances stacked on top of each other, plus a hodgepodge of ingredients for recipes you’ll get around to making one day. Of course, the counters are crowded, too, with the coffee maker, your cookbooks, a drying rack, and more. 

Sourya Venumbaka of Sové Home ran into this issue when she moved into a Philadelphia apartment with her husband, Franklin Burg. “I had to make all 600 square feet of this apartment work hard to cater to our new needs,” Venumbaka told Apartment Therapy when we published her House Tour.

What was their main issue? “Storage! There never seems to be enough. We actually got a storage unit so the [apartment] wouldn’t feel so cluttered,” Venumbaka said.

Of course, Venumbaka needed a place to store things inside her home, as well. And to do so, she thought up a super creative solution: Instead of taking up space with kitchen stools, she added two cabinets under her breakfast bar to function as a pantry. (See her full kitchen Before and After here!)

Sacrificing this sitting area wasn’t a huge loss to Venumbaka, as she and her husband usually didn’t sit down in the kitchen to eat. “It made sense to use that space for a pantry since storage was at a premium in our small kitchen. We didn’t need counter stools since we always ended up eating on the couch anyway,” she said.

Before purchasing a cabinet to go under your own counter, be sure to carefully measure the area. After calculating the dimensions of her space, Venumbaka purchased IVAR cabinets from IKEA, and to make the cabinets a perfect fit, she added legs so the cabinets would be flush with the bottom of the counter. 

A skilled DIYer who knows her way around power tools, Venumbaka personalized her cabinets by removing part of the doors and adding cane webbing and cabinets pullers. For simple ways to add character to cabinets like these, you could go with stylish knobs or paint or stain the cabinets. 

Venumbaka said these cabinets are great for storing items you don’t use every day.  They’re also ideal for storing snacks, she said — since it’s easy to access them from the living room while you’re binge-watching TV. 

Designing a Laundry Room? Don’t Forget These 9 Things

Designing a Laundry Room? Don’t Forget These 9 Things

I spent 10 years living in New York City, during which time the idea of being able to do my own laundry felt like a luxurious pipe dream. It may seem silly to put a chore up on a pedestal like that, but to me, loading up a washing machine with laundry whenever I wanted became a beacon of suburban freedom. No more carrying my laundry blocks only to find all the washers were taken; no more sending out a load only to have it return with other people’s unmentionables inside; no more worrying about how badly the harsh detergent and high heat of my local laundromat were going to ruin my winter sweaters. 

In 2020, I became the proud owner of a home — and my very own washer and dryer! And, now, I have a new golden goose to chase: a laundry room. At the moment, my units are housed in the (kind of creepy) basement of our 200-year-old house and, while they definitely get the job done, I’d love to be able to do my laundry somewhere where there’s daylight and a lower chance of spotting a spider. 

While I now spend time dreaming up all the ways in which a true laundry room would better my life, I also decided to go straight to the pros — that is, people who design, launder, and organize for a living — to get their takes on the essentials for any laundry room space. You know: in the name of research and all. Here are their nine modern laundry room must-haves.

Even if you love to do laundry, it will sometimes feel like a hassle — probably more often than not. So, when designing a dedicated laundry room space, Rozit Arditi, founder and designer at Arditi Design, recommends focusing on making it both functional and fun, melding its utilitarian needs with decor that gets you happy to spend time in that room. “I love adding color to rooms where my clients do the most repetitive chores,” says Arditi. “The addition of colorful cabinetry or a fun wallpaper can go a long way in making all those loads of laundry seem easier.” 

Your goal when putting together a laundry room is to design a space that helps you tackle all of your laundry needs, and that includes folding. Countertops are a crucial part of that equation, and a great way to streamline your washing and drying chores. “Counter space is an essential addition to any laundry room,” says Mel Bean, interior designer and founder of Mel Bean Interiors. “If the area is small, consider installing a countertop over a side-by-side washer and dryer to use as a folding area.” 

Workspace is the most important thing after the actual machines,” seconds Gwen Whiting, cofounder of The Laundress. “If you don’t have a proper counter or space to fold, pretreat, and organize, your clean items may not stay so clean.” If your laundry room is especially teeny or closet-sized, Whiting suggests opting for a hamper with a worktop.

If you have the room, traditional cabinetry is bound to be one of the best things you can add to your laundry space. “Cabinets are a great way to increase not only the aesthetic of your laundry room but also the functionality,” explains Kenika Williams, organizing expert and owner of Tidied by K. “Laundry rooms are often neglected spaces in the home and they quickly build up with clutter — open shelving can aid in that. When you’re intentional about cutting down on clutter, the cabinets help you to define the space and keep things out of sight.”

Furthermore, “laundry room cabinets are vital for storing products so they’re out of sight and safely away from children,” says Jessica Ek, spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute. “If you want to use trendy things like clear glass jars as decoration, fill them with things like clothespins, never cleaning products.” 

Sometimes also referred to as a utility sink, slop sinks are basically smaller-scale basins that are perfect for utilitarian spots like laundry rooms. They’re one of those things that many people think is extra “fluff” — until they actually install one and realize how truly game-changing it is. 

“Not all fabrics are created equal,” says Jonathan Propper, founder and CEO of Dropps. “For delicate fibers like wool, silk, and lace, embracing the lost art of handwashing will be your best option. By installing a sink in your laundry room, you can cut down on time spent walking back and forth to the kitchen or bathroom to handwash these delicate items. Not to mention, laundry can be a messy task. Having a sink in the laundry room can help clean up spills and messes much more quickly and efficiently.”

It’s very easy to get into the habit of just tossing all your dirty clothes into the laundry room and then shutting the door, but that’s a no-no according to organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal, owner of Rachel and Company. As it turns out, having a laundry room does not negate the fact that you still need a laundry organization system. 

“Invest in a couple of laundry bins or baskets that help you create a system that keeps things off the floor,” suggests Rosenthal. “That might mean you have one basket for dirty clothes that are ready to be washed and one for clean clothes that need to be put away. Or you have three: one for whites, one for darks, and one for delicates. Whatever you choose, it’s important to determine a system that works best for you and your family’s washing routine.”

If you’re short on room, organizational expert Naeemah Ford Goldson of Restore Order suggests collapsible baskets. “[They make] for easy storage, and you don’t have to figure out how to store bulky laundry baskets that take up space,” she says.

Versatile Storage for Extras

Williams recommends also nabbing a rolling cart for your room to act as your laundry “command station” and keep you organized. “I love to maximize all the space in the laundry room, and space in between the washer and dryer, or between the washer and dryer and the wall, is prime real estate,” she says. “Make the most of it with a slim rolling cart that houses your frequently used items like detergent, dryer sheets, and more.”

Of course, chances are your laundry room will end up being home to more than just your dirty clothes and detergent essentials — everything from household cleaning supplies to cold weather gear and maybe even extra paper goods could also end up making their base here. You can keep these other things organized, too, by purchasing a few sets of matching boxes that will help to easily corral all your extras. “It’s a great idea to invest in a few large, matching boxes that go with the style of your laundry room,” says Ek, who adds that these can also “be used for sorting laundry or prepping chores for kids, like putting all the socks in a basket to be paired up.” 

“Choose organizing products that can be easily wiped down or rinsed,” suggests Rosenthal. “There is a lot of water and things like detergent or softener in laundry rooms that can get messy quick. By selecting something like a plastic or acrylic bin, you will be able to clean versus replace if there is a spill.” 

A lesson most people have learned the hard way after shrinking one too many pairs of jeans: not everything is meant to be thrown in the dryer. For those items that are better off drying naturally, spring for a drying rack. While built-in drying racks exist, collapsible styles offer versatility and mobility. “I love my folding drying rack,” says Katrina Green, home organizer, interior stylist, and owner of Badass Home Life. “Collapsible styles are helpful because you can keep them stowed away inside a cabinet or behind your washer and dryer when not in use — they don’t have to take up space.”

Give yourself an easy place to hang formal clothes (like button-down shirts, pants, and dresses) with a clever hack: a butler’s hook. “I like a wall-mounted arm better than a hanging rod,” says Whiting. “They can often ‘disappear’ when not in use and are a great place to hang clothes before putting them away or storing pieces that will eventually need steaming or ironing.” 

“For many households,” says Propper, “dedicated laundry rooms are located adjacent to backyards or garages, and even double as mudrooms, storing not only dirty laundry but also boots, shoes, and tools.” A rug both helps prevent dirt from tracking into the rest of the house and adds a design moment to a primarily utilitarian room, he says. “Plus, when [a machine-washable rug] does get dirty (which it inevitably will), it doesn’t require a heavy lift to wash, as it’s right there in the laundry room already.”

Apartment Therapy’s Laundry, Sorted vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Samsung.

The 8 Best Summer Flea Market Shopping Tips

The 8 Best Summer Flea Market Shopping Tips

Like a lot of people, I look forward to summer for many reasons: more daylight, fresh produce, the grand total of maybe a week’s worth of perfect 74 degree temperatures —you get my drift. While most people had to go without some of summer’s perks last year, this year it’s possible to make up for it safely. One of the things I’m so happy is back in action? Flea markets.

To me, flea markets are synonymous with summer and early fall; there’s nothing I love more than treasure-hunting my way through rows and rows of merchandise, finding lots of things I need and even more that I probably don’t. From Round Top in Texas to Brimfield in Massachusetts (and all the markets big and small in between), flea markets are having a total renaissance this year. Another bonus: With so many delays affecting the design industry, buying something secondhand is a great way to furnish or update your home right now.

Still, I recognize flea market hunting may be intimidating. With so many vendors and so much stuff, where do you even start? How are you supposed to know if you actually have a good deal on your hands? Fun fact: I bought a “vintage French pitcher” once that I was convinced was a one-of-a-kind antique, only to see it on the West Elm website days later. It’s happened to all of us, but to help it happen less to you, I’ve tapped some of my favorite vintage pros to share their flea market tips. Happy hunting!

Do your research ahead of time

One of the key ways to make a flea market visit a grand ol’ success is to put in a little work ahead of time (the fun kind… I promise). Before you hit the fields or pavement, prep a list of everything you’re on the hunt for, as well as must-have info like dimensions. “Flea markets can be overwhelming for beginners, so I think it’s nice to have a list on hand to help drive your search,” says Eddie Ross, a design curator, prop stylist, and vintage expert. He recommends shoppers make note of items they really want (like the perfect pair of nightstands you’ve been hunting down forever) versus things that would be nice-to-haves (like a style of picture frame you like to collect). “Personally, I have a really hard time passing up great little chairs,” says Ross. “I feel like you can put little chairs everywhere, so I’ll always buy one up if I see them out.”

It can also be helpful to know the “going rate” of a piece you’re looking for. If a 19th century sideboard is on your wishlist, check out mainstream vintage sides like 1stDibs, Charish, Etsy, and even eBay to see the average going rate. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but purposely choosing a less-than-stellar day for your shopping can actually work out in your favor. “Don’t get disheartened if the weather is bad — it could be a great shopping opportunity,” says Natasha Francis, vintage expert, and owner of The Urban Vintage Affair. “Dealers are keen to make some profit towards the middle of the day; they just want the stuff gone so they don’t have to pack it up in the rain.” Competition in the form of other vintage hunters will also be less, so you’re more likely to have your pick of the best-of-the-best instead of leftovers.

Think of flea market shopping as a marathon — not a sprint. The days are usually long, especially if you’re hitting up one of the more popular markets, which can include several football fields’ worth of goodies. You want to make sure you can hang for the whole day and easily collect any buys without breaking them. Rock your most comfy sneakers, clip on a fanny pack (seriously — it’s much easier than holding a purse or backpack), and consider bringing along one of those foldable shopping carts to tote your wares. Don’t forget snacks or drinks, either!

Another thing you can’t forget? Cash. “Cash is king at flea markets,” says Natalie Papier, a vintage expert and founder of Home EC, a vintage-focused interior design company. “It’s a super helpful ‘tool’ to have when negotiating and will save you (and vendors) a ton on electronic processing fees or ATM service charges.” 

Like… really early. Hate to break it to you, but this is not a hobby that is going to grant you extra sleep. Flea markets are an early bird’s game, and you’ll want to plan to get there right at the start to score all the goodies vendors have to offer. “Some of the most serious pickers are there before things get busy, so make sure you are too!” says Papier. “The good stuff tends to go fast.” Another perk of being an early bird: An early arrival time will likely score you a better parking spot, meaning you won’t have to hoof it 20 minutes in a field with the potentially heavy goods you may buy. 

Pull one over on all the other flea market patrons by starting your hunt in the back, not the front, of the field. “When I go to the Elephant’s Trunk flea market — which I call my church — everyone starts off in the beginning in row one,” explains Ross. “I like to walk all the way to the back then work my way to the front. For starters, it’s less crowded that way, but by hitting up the dealers in the back, I have a better chance of getting something I like rather than battling it out alongside other people.”

Another tip? Don’t just breeze past a vendor and take what’s in the front of their booth at face value. “I love to look towards the back of a stand, inside closed boxes or inside cases and underneath pieces,” says Francis of her preferred method of scouring booths. “You never know what kind of gems you might find buried.”

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Flea market shopping takes a good bit of imagination. You have to be able to picture the potential of an item and what it could look like in your space or with a little TLC via new paint or stain. Sometimes the best finds are items that don’t look prize-worthy at all upon first glance. “When flea market shopping — especially for furniture — you have to look past the way things look in a booth,” says Ross. “Sometimes the fabric on a chair, sofa, or dining chair is so ugly, it can make your eyes bleed, and that can really distract you from the true beauty of what it can be. When shopping for furniture, focus on shape, size, and quality —practically everything else can be fixed.” 

While there are certainly some things you can look past with a given item, other aspects you shouldn’t — namely, anything that indicates poor quality, major repairs, or excessive use. “You can’t go wrong with good bones,” says Papier. “Vintage furniture and decor pieces that are still in good solid quality are always a good bet. Steer clear of stinky upholstered pieces unless you intend to reupholster completely.”

Feel free to pick up an item, test it out, and turn it around to look for signs of quality. “Most of the time, if you flip over a cushion or a chair, or look on the back of a piece, you can see a maker’s mark,” explains Ross. “Anything that’s Made in America, in big furniture places like High Point (North Carolina) or Michigan, you know you’re gonna get a good quality piece.”

“Speak to dealers when researching shopping,” adds Francis. “Most have a story to tell and love to speak about their products, so take the opportunity to have a conversation and learn more about what you are purchasing. A good back story could add value to an item.”

Negotiate smartly and respectively 

Ah, the dreaded haggle. If you’re allergic to a confrontation of any kind like me, this is probably your least favorite part about flea market shopping. However, in order to get a deal, negotiating the purchase price of an item is often a necessary evil. “The whole game is for them to win and for you to win,” explains Ross. “Dealers definitely build in some wiggle room, but the absolute worst thing you can do is walk in and insult somebody. If a piece is priced at $300 and you offer $125, they’re just going to tell you to get out. The key is knowing what you want, how much you want to pay for it, how much the item is priced at traditionally and then being fair in your offer.” 

“I always assess the value of the piece to me,” says design influencer and vintage-lover Joanna Hawley-McBride. “Is the piece something I absolutely love and have to have? And does the price feel appropriate for how much I want the item? I also factor in the shop itself — I’m OK with paying a little more if it helps to support a small business I love.”

It’s also a good idea to factor in any fixes you may need to make to an item such as reupholstery, resurfacing, or replacing hardware. If you need to sink $3,000 worth of work into a piece, it may not be the right pick for you unless it’s super special and unique.