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Small Apartment Living: How to Turn Small Apartments Into Sustainable Spaces

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

How to Turn Small Apartment Into Sustainable Space

As our population continues to grow and as we are faced with dwindling resources, we must begin to rethink the way we live. One solution is to adopt a more modest lifestyle to support a sustainable, enriched lifestyle. And what better way to do this than by living in a small apartment?

While many people may think that small apartments are cramped and uncomfortable, there is no need for them to be that way. It's true that many individuals see this as a challenge, there are a few tricks (partnered with a bit of creativity) to make even the smallest spaces work for you.

This blog post will discuss some best tips and practices to help you turn your small apartment into a comfortable yet sustainable sanctuary.

Table of Contents:

Micro and Modular Apartments: The New Sustainability Solution

As cities continue to grow and populations continue to increase, the need for sustainable living solutions becomes more and more pressing. And while there are many different approaches to sustainability, one of the most promising is the use of micro and modular apartments.

A Brief Introduction to Micro and Modular Apartments

These days, space comes at a premium - especially in bustling cities. That's why micro and modular apartments are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer a more efficient and affordable option not just for city-dwellers but for all individuals facing the challenge of housing affordability.

Micro apartments are just what they sound like - small sustainable apartments that offer a minimal amount of living space. They are typically around 200-400 square feet in size and are popular in dense urban areas where real estate is expensive, and larger spaces come with higher price tags. Modular apartments, on the other hand, are built off-site in a factory setting and then transported to their final location.

Both types of apartments are designed to make the most of limited space, with clever storage solutions and creative layouts. It's seen as the best solution that we have (for now) to address the big sustainability issue most economies are facing. Not only does it address the need for more space, but it also minimizes carbon footprints, reducing the waste that goes into the construction and fosters reuse/recycling.

In addition, micro and modular apartments often come equipped with features conducive to sustainable living. Smaller spaces mean smaller waste, water, and energy footprints.

There has been a renewed interest in micro and modular apartments as a sustainable way to live in recent years. These housing solutions first began appearing in Europe and Asia in the early 2000s as a response to rising housing costs and shrinking living spaces.

Interior Design Styles for the Micro-Dweller

For many city-dwellers, the dream of owning a home seems out of reach. Cramped apartments and tiny living spaces are the norms, and sustainability can feel like a luxury.

However, it is possible to create a sustainable, stylish micro-apartment that meets all your needs. The key is to focus on efficient design and maximize the use of space.

One way to make your small apartment more sustainable is to choose furniture that serves multiple purposes. A sofa that doubles as a guest bed or a coffee table that also provides storage will help you make the most of your limited square footage.

When it comes to decor less is more. Select a few key pieces that reflect your personal style and let them take centre stage. Here are a few interior design styles that work well in small spaces:


For city dwellers who want to live in stylish, sophisticated spaces, minimalism is the perfect interior design style. This clean and modern aesthetic is characterized by sparse furnishings, simple lines, and an emphasis on functionality.

In a small space, minimalism can help to create a sense of order and calm, making it the perfect choice for those who want to feel relaxed and comfortable in their homes.

Additionally, this interior decor idea can be cost-effective as it doesn't require a lot of accessories or furniture. Simply select a few high-quality pieces and keep the clutter to a minimum. At the end of the day, it's all about functionality.

Read more about Minimalist design and how to make it work in our previous blog post.


When it comes to interior design styles that fit well with "micro" living, Japandi is a clear standout. This style combines the best of both Japanese and Scandinavian design, resulting in an enviable emphasis on comfort, light, airy spaces, calming tones, and hues.

In terms of solving the challenges of tiny / micro-apartments in urban environments, Japandi offers a number of key solutions. For one, its focus on minimalism ensures that even the smallest space feels open and airy.

Additionally, its use of neutral colors and natural materials helps to create a sense of calm - an important consideration for those who live in fast-paced cities. Finally, the focus on functionality means that every element serves a purpose, making it a great choice for those who want to make the most of their living space.

Learn more about Japandi Style and how to incorporate into your home in our previous article.


Interior design styles that work well with micro-living can be divided into two broad categories: those that rely on the playful use of scale, and those that focus on soft furnishings. Modern styles tend to fall into the former category, making use of clean lines and simple forms to create a sense of space. In contrast, more traditional styles often make use of excess fabric and ornate details to create a cosier feel.

However, both approaches can be effective in small spaces, it simply depends on your personal preferences.

Those who prefer a more modern aesthetic will find that sleek lines and minimal furnishings help to open up a space and make it feel larger than it is. In addition, modern styles are often easier to keep clean and require less upkeep than more traditional designs.

If you're looking for a style that will make your small apartment feel like a luxury retreat, then modern is the way to go.


In a micro-apartment, where space is limited, the biophilic style emphasizes the connection between humans and nature and introduces elements of the natural world into the home. Plants and botanicals can be used to create a sense of organic elegance, while subtle continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces helps to blur the lines between inside and out. Biophilic design can also create a sense of escape in a small area, offering a breath of fresh air in the middle of an urban environment.

Learn more about Biophilic Design and how to incorporate into your home here.

Helpful Tips for Maximizing Space in a Small Apartment

Creating the impression of more space in a small apartment can be a challenge, but it's not impossible. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your living situation:

Use Reflective Materials

Using reflective surfaces is a great way to create the illusion of more space. Mirrors, chrome, and other shiny materials can help to bounce light around a room, making it feel larger and brighter. In a small apartment, every little bit of light counts!

Resourceful Use of Furniture

There's no need to go out and buy all new furniture when you're downsizing to a small apartment. Instead, use what you have and get creative with storage solutions. Ottomans that double as storage bins, shelves that attach to the wall, and even beds with built-in drawers are all great ways to maximize your space.

Go Neutral

Neutral, even-toned decors not only provide an aesthetic appeal but also make a small space feel larger. By avoiding busy patterns and bright colours, you can help to create an airy and open feel in even the tightest of quarters. It also gives a calm and relaxing feeling that can be beneficial in a small living space.

Find our how colours can affect your mood in previous article.

Optimized Storage Solutions

In a small apartment, storage is critical. Make use of every nook and cranny to store away your belongings. Closet organizers, shelving units, and under-the-bed storage containers can all be helpful in creating more space.

If you're really tight on space, try getting creative with hanging baskets or installing hooks on the walls to store your belongings. For any awkward empty corners check out our 3 favourite ways to fill an empty space.

Vertical Space

When you design a room, consider ways to draw the eye upward. Vertical spaces are often overlooked, but they can be a powerful tool in maximizing the space in your home. When you design a room, consider ways to draw the eye upward.

Tall shelves can be used to display your favourite books or artwork while hanging curtains and drapery can add a sense of height to a room.

Additionally, tall plants and light fixtures can add height and drama to any space, instantly transforming a small apartment into a more spacious living area.

Don't Forget The Lighting

Good lighting is key to creating the illusion of more space. By adding bright, well-placed light fixtures, you can make a small room feel larger and more open. Sunlight is the best source of light, so try to take advantage of it by keeping windows clean and uncluttered.

When choosing artificial lighting, look for fixtures that emit a soft, diffused light. These will help to create a warm and inviting atmosphere without overwhelming the space. You can also use mirrors to reflect light and make the room appear brighter and more spacious.

Partial or Glass Walls

While most people still want to enjoy a bit of privacy in their homes, don't be afraid to use partial or glass walls to help open up a space. By allowing light and natural views to flow into your apartment, you can help to make it feel larger and more inviting.

These types of walls are also great for creating an airy and open feeling in a small living area.

Forgo Bulky Pieces

When you're trying to conserve space, bulky furniture can be a real hindrance. Opt for thin and streamlined furniture that feels airy, instead of opting for pieces that take up a lot of room. This will help to make the most of the space you have available.

Custom-Designed Smart Furniture for Multi-Use Spaces

When you're short on space, every piece of furniture needs to serve more than one purpose. This is where smart furniture can come in handy. By opting for pieces that can be used for multiple activities, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and space. Here are some examples:

Floating Bedside Tables

Bedside tables that double as storage units or even desks can be a lifesaver in a small apartment. This way, you can keep your essentials within easy reach without taking up valuable floor space.

Folding Desks

If you don't have a lot of room for a traditional desk, try opting for a folding desk instead. These pieces can be easily tucked away when not in use, freeing up valuable space.

Portable Laptop Desks

If you're often on the go, a portable laptop desk can be a real lifesaver. This way, you can work from anywhere in your apartment without taking up space on the table.

Ladder Desks

Ladder desks are a great way to use vertical space in a small apartment. By using a desk elevated off the ground, you can create more storage or display space underneath. Additionally, ladders are often lightweight and easy to move around.

Wall-Mounted Desks

If you're tight on floor space, consider using a wall-mounted desk. These desks can be fitted to nearly any wall, and they take up very little space. Plus, they can be easily hidden away when not in use.

Murphy Beds

Murphy beds are a great way to save space in a small apartment. These beds fold up into the wall, giving you more room to work and play during the day.

Ceiling Hoisted Beds

Ceiling hoisted beds offer a unique and stylish solution for those who want to make the most of their vertical space. They have a sleek and modern look that can complement any decor.

Multi-Function Storage Units

The Living Cube by Till Könneker is one of the most popular multi-function storage units on the market. This piece can be used as a desk, a wardrobe, or even a bookshelf, allowing a wide range of versatility and customizability.

Multi-Purpose Sofa

The multi-purpose sofa is the ultimate piece of furniture for the modern home. By day, it provides a comfortable place to relax or entertain guests. By night, it transforms into a luxurious bed, providing a restful night's sleep.

Some models may also have an option for extra storage, making it the perfect all-in-one solution for a small apartment.

Famous Designers, Creators, and Manufacturers Following Sustainable Practices

Designers, creators, and manufacturers who follow sustainable practices whose target demographic is the urban, outgoing, and eco-conscious customer

Many well-known designers, creators, and manufacturers are now incorporating sustainable practices into their businesses. This is likely due to a growing awareness of the need to protect our environment and resources. Some of these companies include but are not limited to:


IKEA is a popular furniture store that is known for its stylish and affordable products. However, what many shoppers may not realize is that IKEA is also committed to sustainable practices.

The company sources its wood from responsibly managed forests, and it uses recycled materials whenever possible. Additionally, IKEA has a number of initiatives that promote energy conservation and waste reduction.

Futon Company

The Futon Company is a UK-based company that specializes in sustainable furniture. Multi-functional and made from sustainable materials, their furniture is perfect for people who want to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. All of their products are made in the UK using traditional woodworking techniques.

Silje Nesdal

The Norwegian designer Silje Nesdal is known for her unique and sustainable furniture designs. Working primarily with wood, Nesdal's pieces are inspired by the natural world and feature a minimalist aesthetic.


URBANIZE is a company that specializes in sustainable living solutions and furniture, particularly for small spaces. Their products are designed to be efficient and stylish, making it easy for people to live more sustainably. Some of their most popular items include the U-Box storage unit and the L-Shaped Desk.


This French furniture company is dedicated to sustainability and quality. Every piece of furniture is made from reclaimed materials, and the company uses a variety of sustainable production techniques, including upcycling and 3D printing.

Their designs are modern and minimalist, making them perfect for people who want to live a sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing style.

Till Könneker

Till Koenneker is a designer and manufacturer known for his innovative furniture designs. His pieces are made from various sustainable materials, including bamboo, cork, and recycled wood. They are also designed to be multi-functional, providing a variety of uses in a small space.

Resource Furniture

Resource Furniture is a sustainable furniture manufacturer that creates high-quality, modern furniture, with the main focus on offering space-saving solutions for apartments and offices.

They believe in redefining the way people think about furniture, making it possible for more people to live sustainably. Some of their most popular items include the Multi-Purpose Sofa featuring a storage underneath.


For more than two decades, DizzConcept has been creating innovative, sustainable furniture. They believe in creating furniture that individuals need, and they do so by observing and understanding each person's daily habits.

Their designs are modern and minimalist, and they use a variety of sustainable materials, including bamboo, cork, and recycled wood.


A top Japanese furniture and product design company, Nendo is known for its playful and innovative designs. They use various sustainable materials in their pieces, including paper, cardboard, and bamboo. Nendo's designs are perfect for people who want to add a touch of whimsy to their homes.

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Make Your Home Work for You With Micro Spaces

More and more, people are opting for micro spaces that make the most of every square inch. This type of housing is not only more affordable overall, but it also allows for high levels of quality and significantly reduces waste.

In addition, micro spaces often offer greater access to inner-city amenities, further reducing commute times and improving quality of life. The beautiful gated villages may have been people's dream homes in the past, but let's be practical.

These communities are becoming increasingly expensive, and they often come with a long list of rules and regulations, not to mention are almost away from the urban buzz.

In contrast, micro spaces can be tailored to your own needs and offer a high degree of flexibility. You can choose the size, layout, and features that work best for you, giving you more control over your life.

These spaces are often situated near or in the city, so you can easily enjoy all that urban life has to offer, minimizing commute time, allowing you to live close to work, so you can spend your time on other more important things.

What's more, micro spaces are often designed with sustainability in mind. From furniture to appliances, everything is chosen with efficiency and longevity in mind.

Challenges You May Face With Micro Spaces

Of course, there are some challenges that come with living in a micro space. For one, you need to be highly organized and efficient with your use of space. Everything needs to have a designated place, and you need to be mindful of the amount of furniture and appliances you bring into the home.

Additionally, since every piece of furniture you have at home has a designated use and function, changing your mind about something can be difficult. You can't just buy a new piece of furniture to fill a space; you need to think long and hard about what you already have and how you can repurpose it.

Moreover, lifestyle changes may not be easy. If you're used to hosting large gatherings or having overnight guests, the shift from large spaces to micro spaces can be difficult.

Final Thoughts

Micro apartments and spaces are becoming more and more popular, and for a good reason. They offer a high degree of flexibility, sustainability, and affordability. If you're considering downsizing or moving into a micro space, be sure to consider the challenges you may face.

The good thing is that it has worked for other people, and while it may take a few adjustments, choosing this lifestyle can be a significant step toward a more sustainable future.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you organise the clutter in a small space?
  • Only keep what really matters. Small spaces are often not the issue but all the stuff we collect and keep as we live in them. To tackle this problem, declutter frequently. Initially, removing items from your life can get mentally taxing, but remember that it will feel 'freeing' once you are done.

  • Create 'zones' in your home. For example, if your living room also serves as a dining room - divide the space visually and functionally into two separate areas.

  • Maximise space in existing storage units with creative solutions like drawer dividers, storage hangers for your wardrobe etc.

  • Go vertical to utilise otherwise empty wall space with cabinets and shelving. Items on the floor get messy quickly, so make sure everything has its place (and remember step one). Finally, once the hard work is done, in order to maintain it, be very selective and pay attention to what you allow to come into your life and living space.

Our previous blog post will give you more ideas on effectively organising the clutter in a small space.

How do you design a small apartment layout?
  • If the space allows you, leave it as open as possible. Avoid using too many different materials in one room. Pick two to three primary materials and incorporate them throughout the whole apartment.

  • Colours matter, small spaces can be significantly improved by using very light, white colours but adding a splash of bright touches here and there can be a tool to define areas in multipurpose rooms.

  • Mirrors, multi-use furniture, and custom-made finishing allow you to expand the living space visually and functionally.

What size bed is suitable for a small bedroom?

There is no one size fits all answer to this because it will depend a lot on your personal preferences too, but in general, here are some tips for figuring out what sizes you should be looking at:

  • A standard double bed is 135cm/4ft 6in, which gives each person just 2ft 3in or about 68cm of space. No wonder an upgrade in size is often sought out.

  • 160cm/5ft 3in by 200cm/6ft 7in is the preferred choice of many couples. We spend, on average, a third of our life in bed so picking the right size that suits us well is a decision that should not be taken lightly.

Top reasons why small spaces are great for living

Small spaces feel cosy, allow for a financially and environmentally more sustainable way of living, and promote minimalism. Suppose you are part of our Green community - in that case, you should have a few ideas by now on how a small apartment can be more organised and allow you more time for what really matters by reducing the need for the time spent on cleaning and maintaining.

And finally, with careful planning, they can be a lot easier to personalise. Find out top 5 reasons why downsizing is a good idea.

How does living in a small space affect mental health

Small, crowded, downsized spaces can negatively affect your happiness and mental health. That is why design, aesthetics, and the amenities you select are so important - not all tiny living spaces are created equal.

In the past, studies on small space living were often based on crowded, low-income units in areas where housing instability has a strong presence. Under these circumstances, well-being was not a priority or occasionally even taken into account.

Sleek, well-designed and functional, but small spaces have a very different impact and will often have positive benefits and contribute to a healthy overall mental state.

But what is most important to remember is that only you can decide whether a micro-apartment or a house would serve your needs well or not; it is not for everyone. If you choose to or already live in one, make sure to make the most of it and use it to your advantage.

Here are some examples on how small space can enhance your wellbeing and mental health.

What is transformable furniture?

Also known as multifunctional or multipurpose furniture started to gain a more dominant market share as the increasingly urbanised population's needs changed. More and more innovative solutions and designs are required to accommodate the requirements of city dwellers in ever-shrinking living spaces.

These items, sometimes referred to as smart or clever furniture, don't just serve as aesthetic units but are adaptive, versatile, and transform to different situations well.

Whether it's a multifunctional table, a sofa bed that serves as an extra bed or a storage solution, these can help you overcome small spaces constraints. Our article should give you plenty of ideas.

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