Maximizing Chicago Small Living Spaces: Design Ideas & Advice


Living in a small space presents unique challenges and opportunities, and this especially rings true for the urban city-dwellers of Chicagoland. For homeowners navigating the intricate balance of functionality, style, and comfort within limited square footage, a creative approach can transform even the smallest area into a cozy haven. While small spaces can initially seem restrictive, they often inspire innovative solutions and efficient design strategies that larger spaces might not necessitate. Let’s explore some expert tips and ideas for maximizing every inch of your Chicago home, from the living room to the kitchen.

A compact home means confronting certain challenges head-on, such as limited storage, reduced living areas, and the need for multifunctional furniture. However, the benefits can be equally compelling. Smaller spaces often lead to simpler, more intentional living with less clutter and maintenance. Think Marie Kondo’s popularized “KonMari Method” of letting go of things that do not bring you joy within your space! They encourage a conscious approach to purchasing and decorating and can create a feeling of coziness and intimacy that larger spaces sometimes lack

One of the most frequented areas of any home, the living room, needs to serve multiple purposes, from a relaxation zone to an entertainment hub. Here are some tips to make the most of your living room space:

Multi-functional Furniture

Invest in pieces that serve more than one purpose. For instance, a sofa bed can accommodate overnight guests, while a storage ottoman can hide away blankets, magazines, or even kids’ toys. Coffee tables with shelving or nested tables can provide additional storage and flexibility. Consider furniture with built-in storage, such as a TV stand with drawers or a side table with compartments.

Smart Storage Solutions

Utilize built-in shelves, wall-mounted cabinets, and floating shelves to keep the floor area clear and make the room appear larger. Vertical storage is your best friend here. Think about using the space above doorways or installing high shelves to store less frequently used items. Decorative baskets and boxes can help keep open shelves tidy while adding a touch of style.

Furniture Arrangement

Consider scaling down your furniture to suit the size of your room better. Instead of a large sectional sofa, opt for a loveseat or a pair of comfortable armchairs. Arrange your furniture to create separate zones within the room, such as a reading nook or a small workspace. Place larger furniture pieces against the walls to open up the central area. Use area rugs to define different zones and add warmth to the space.



Good lighting can make a small living room feel more spacious and inviting. Combine ambient, task, and accent lighting to create a well-lit and flexible environment. Wall sconces, floor lamps, and table lamps can add layers of light without taking up much space. Opt for light fixtures that double as decor, such as a stylish chandelier or a unique pendant light. Learn more about choosing the right lighting for your space by watching this Q&A with our in-house design expert, Vasilka Todorovska.

The bedroom should be a serene and clutter-free sanctuary. Here’s how to make the most of a small sleeping area:

Utilizing Vertical Space

Take advantage of your walls by installing shelves or cabinets up high. Consider a loft bed if ceiling height allows, freeing up the space underneath for a desk or storage. A wall-mounted nightstand can provide a place for essentials without taking up floor space.

Hidden Storage

Beds with built-in drawers or storage underneath can be a game-changer. Use vacuum-sealed bags for off-season clothes and store them under the bed or on the top shelf of a closet. Nightstands with drawers can also double as storage spaces for personal items. Over-the-door organizers are perfect for shoes, accessories, or even small electronics.

Mirrors and Light Colors

Mirrors can create the illusion of more space and reflect light, making the room feel brighter and more open. Opt for light-colored bedding and walls to enhance this effect and create a tranquil atmosphere. Consider a mirrored wardrobe or a large mirror on one wall to amplify the sense of space.

Bedding and Accessories

Choose bedding that adds comfort without overwhelming the room. Layered textiles in light, airy fabrics can create a cozy yet uncluttered look. Limit decorative pillows and blankets

to avoid a crowded feel. Use coordinated but minimal decor to maintain a streamlined aesthetic.

A small kitchen doesn’t have to compromise on style or efficiency. Here are some techniques to maximize its potential:


Keep countertops clutter-free by making use of wall space for hanging pots and pans, utensils, and cutting boards. Pull-out pantry shelves and cabinet organizers can help you make the most of every inch of storage space. Magnetic knife strips, pegboards, and hooks can keep frequently used items within easy reach.

Small Appliances: Choose compact, high-quality appliances designed for small spaces. Look for multi-use gadgets, like a toaster oven that also functions as an air fryer or a microwave with convection cooking capabilities. Consider appliances that can be stored away when not in use, such as a foldable kitchen mixer or a collapsible dish rack.

Open Shelving

Consider replacing upper cabinets with open shelves to create a more open feel and make it easier to access everyday items. Display attractive dishware, glass jars with dry goods, or plants to add color and personality to the space. Be mindful of keeping open shelves organized and uncluttered.

Maximize Corners

Corner cabinets can be notoriously hard to access. Install a lazy Susan or pull-out shelves to make the most of these awkward spaces. Corner wall shelves can also provide additional storage and display space.

In today’s remote work environment, having a dedicated workspace is essential, even in a small home. Here are some tips to carve out an efficient work area:

Foldable Furniture

A wall-mounted, fold-down desk can be an excellent solution for a temporary workspace. When not in use, it folds back up against the wall, freeing up valuable floor space. Portable desks on wheels can also provide flexibility, allowing you to move your workspace as needed.

Nooks and Crannies

Look for underutilized areas within your home, such as under the stairs or a corner of the living room, to set up a small desk and chair. Use vertical space for shelves to store office supplies and keep the area organized. A compact rolling cart can hold office essentials and be tucked away when not in use.

Ergonomic Considerations

Even in a small workspace, ergonomics are crucial. Ensure your chair provides good support and that your desk height is appropriate to prevent strain. Use a laptop stand and external keyboard if necessary to maintain a comfortable posture. Consider a chair that can be easily stored or used in other parts of your home.

Personal Touches

Make your workspace inspiring and comfortable by adding personal touches like artwork, plants, or a cozy throw blanket. A small bulletin board or magnetic strip can help keep notes and important papers organized without taking up desk space.


Small bathrooms require clever design solutions to ensure they are both functional and comfortable:

Compact Fixtures

Choose compact, wall-mounted fixtures to save floor space. A pedestal sink or a corner sink can free up room for storage. Consider a shower with sliding doors instead of a bathtub to maximize space.

Storage Solutions

Use vertical space for storage by installing shelves or cabinets above the toilet or on empty walls. Over-the-door racks and suction-cup organizers can provide additional storage without drilling into walls. A vanity with drawers or shelves can offer much-needed storage space for toiletries and towels.

Light & Color

Bright, light colors can make a small bathroom feel larger. Use a consistent color scheme to create a cohesive look. Large mirrors and adequate lighting can enhance the sense of space and make the room feel more open.

Multi-functional Accessories

Choose accessories that serve multiple purposes, such as a mirror with built-in storage or a shower caddy with hooks and shelves. A foldable drying rack can be stored away when not in use, saving valuable space.

Even if your outdoor area is limited, you can create a cozy and functional space for relaxation and entertainment:

Compact Furniture

Choose foldable or stackable outdoor furniture that can be easily stored when not in use. A bistro table and chairs or a small bench with storage can provide seating without overwhelming the space.

Vertical Gardening

Use vertical gardening solutions like wall-mounted planters or hanging pots to maximize green space without taking up floor area. A trellis with climbing plants can add greenery and privacy to a small balcony or patio.

Outdoor Decor

Add outdoor rugs, cushions, and lighting to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. String lights, lanterns, and candles can provide ambient lighting for evening relaxation.

Contact The Chicago Home Design Team At Arete’ Renovators

Living in a small space doesn’t mean sacrificing style or comfort. By implementing these innovative design ideas and organizational strategies, you can transform your home into a functional and beautiful retreat. Creativity is key when it comes to maximizing limited square footage. Think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different configurations until you find what works best for you. If you’re looking to make the most of your small space, consider reaching out to Areté’s experts to curate the space perfectly fit for your needs!