Many artists are intimidated by a blank canvass. Often, inspiration is absent when one is confronted by a big white open space – and making that first paint stroke could be quite intimidating. This is how many people experience the challenge of decorating a new space. Add to this challenge the fact that the environment is much smaller than what one is used to, the task can be so much more overwhelming and intimidating. But there are a few essential tips to remember when decorating a smaller apartment space. Unlike a blank canvass, an empty apartment already gives a few clues as to the appropriate style, colour palette and interior theme that one could harness, to enhance the existing architecture. Also consider the lifestyle that needs to be achieved and how certain furnishings can add, or detract, from that overall goal.

Generally speaking, smaller spaces are cheaper to furnish than vast empty rooms. This also allows you to follow trends and take more risks – once a fad has passed it is much easier to redecorate the space and start afresh. View this as an exciting opportunity, as small adjustments could make a massive difference in the final product. Remember to give each and every item careful consideration before placing it within the space, as it is easy to clutter a tight environment with unwarranted furnishings. Whilst it is good to start by getting ideas from window-shopping, one should never purchase all of your items from one store. Rather opt to combine different items from different outlets to create a fresh new approach. Within a South African retail context, purchasers are spoilt for choice when it comes to home furnishings. Weylandts might be a good starting point for a few unique ‘conversation pieces’ and they also have stunning accessories, which will make the rest of your furnishings look more expensive. In our opinion, the store @Home and Loads of Living have mastered the recipe for apartment living with a variety of quality goods at really reasonable prices. For larger pieces, such as couches and beds, we highly recommend SHF Home. Soft furnishings, such as throws, carpets and cushions could be sourced from the vast ranges available at Hertex. These are the items that could add to the plushness of your interior space. Whilst those are premium brands, we would urge any homeowner not to discard the more affordable stores, such as Mr. Price Home where bargain hunting could provide numerous options for the interior. As smaller spaces bring with them the need to be clever about spacial planning, one should always consider having a few key-pieces custom-made. Block House, Cotton and Yarn and Landmarq are some of South Africa’s leading suppliers when it comes to bespoke furniture. These institutions also bring with them extremely valuable advice when planning and designing your own furniture.

In most instances, a lounge is the first area that you see when entering an apartment. It is important to establish your interior style and theme within this room. For apartment living, an “L-shaped” couch might be the most practical solution as it can comfortably accommodate a larger number of people. We would encourage people to rather stick to a neutral colour with their couch, and restrict embellishments and ornate patterns to the scatter cushions on the couch. Seeing as coffee tables are the centre of these spaces, this s the ideal opportunity to place a statement piece. Perhaps opt for more than one round tables at different heights, interlocking with one-another to create a sculptural artwork that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. This could also be dismantled to become separate smaller tables when the occasion requires more surface space. If the given space is really restricted, feel free to omit side tables as a central coffee table will negate the need. Ensure that the carpet that you select is large enough to go underneath your couches and chairs as this will bring all the different elements together into a single space, and it also breaks the floor finish, which we assume is standard throughout the entire apartment. A television is usually an unpopular focal point in the lounge, which requires counter balancing on the wall directly across from it. Perhaps paint this wall a feature colour, or use a really spectacular wallpaper. A wall-mounted television will free up space on the television unit, but take care to ensure all cabling is well hidden, as that could make a space seem cluttered. Curtains need to be as simple as possible and hung around 600mm higher than the top of the window to create a luxurious and opulent effect. Roller blinds are a fantastic way to create the illusion of space, providing that they are installed within the reveal, so that they are as hidden as possible. Soft furnishings like scatter cushions and throws could aid in bringing warmth to an interior space, whilst bringing all the different colours together. These elements should enhance and not compete with your feature walls.

In the bedroom, one should always try and create a feature wall behind the bed’s headboard. This can be done with wallpaper, a feature colour or even dramatic works of art. Try and repeat the same window treatment throughout the apartment to create a sense of continuity. White linen is always well received, and neutral colours are essential to bedding. One could always bring a sense of drama through different coloured throws and scatter-cushions, but be weary of cluttering the space. Do not be afraid to take risks with smaller furniture pieces – like bedside tables. A conventional approach would dictate identical bedside tables, but for the sake of visual interest in a compact space, one could easily have asymmetrical bedside tables to create a visually interesting effect, whilst adhering to the overall theme of the room. Soft lighting can be crucial in creating ambience within the bedroom, and side lamps with ‘warm’ lightbulbs is the easiest way to do so. Consider opting for a double bed in an apartment, as a king-sized bed might engulf the space and prevent you from having side tables.

When decorating a compact space, remember that each item needs to serve a purpose and that all items need to work together as a whole. It is a well-known fact that the Denon Alley in the Louvre museum houses some of the world’s largest and most impressive artworks. The Mona Lisa is by far the smallest painting in this grand hall, and yet it draws the most spectators. Through clever planning and simplified accessories, it is clear that even the smallest blank canvass could easily turn into the most impressive masterpiece.

Apartment Living: What we’ve learnt from decorating compact spaces