Particularly in NYC, where a 300 sq. ft. studio is often described as “spacious,” finding apartment furniture that fits in your small rooms can sometimes be challenging. But with some advanced planning, furnishing your apartment need not be a chore. Whether you have no furniture at all, or you just need to add a piece or two to what you already have, follow these tips to avoid headaches later.
Choosing an Apartment Sofa, Bed and other Large Pieces
Before you do anything, measure your space! If you don’t have a measuring tape, inexpensive ones can be found for around $5-$7, maybe less. Sketch out your room(s) on a piece of paper, and put in the dimensions. Don’t forget to mark where doors, archways, and windows are located. Unless you’re anal retentive, this doesn’t have to be a fancy blueprint… it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Even busy New Yorkers have time to do this.
Decide what pieces you want, and/or will be keeping (sofa, end table(s), chairs, bed, dresser(s), bookshelves, etc.), and sketch them on your floorplan where you would like them to be (hint… use a pencil, you will rarely NOT end up changing something). Then head out to the store, floorplan and dimensions in hand. If you’re old school, don’t forget to take a notepad and pen to the store to write down the dimensions of furniture that you are interested in. The rest of us will be taking pictures with our smartphones and typing in the information on a notepad app.
When looking for apartment sized furniture, of course you’re going to be looking at style (and price), but also consider function. If you can only fit one dresser, go for a taller one, or consider buying a wardrobe. And while a nice long sofa may be nice to stretch out on, you may have to settle for a shorter, apartment sized sofa, or a loveseat. Living in a studio? A sleeper sofa, daybed, or a futon might be in your future.
Once you pick out some furniture you think will work, don’t buy it yet! Unless it’s a clearance piece, and there’s only one left, it will still be there tomorrow. Go back to your apartment, and measure out where the furniture you chose will go. Mark the location on the floor with books, old shoes, whatever, and try to visualize the pieces. You may find that the furniture will take up more space than you thought, and everything will look too cluttered. Or that you can’t walk around both sides of the bed to “make it” (if you don’t “make your bed,” that’s a different blog post altogether).
One last thing to consider… will you be able to get the furniture in your apartment? Some older buildings have very narrow hallways and/or stairways leading to your apartment (we’ve seen hallways in the 30″-32″ range). You may get your new sofa to the door, but you might not have enough space to turn it and get it through the door. There’s no good way to tell if this is going to be a problem (unless you’re really good at geometry–I’m not), but if you are in this situation, talk with the furniture salespeople. Or a mathematician. This happens more than you might think in NYC, and they (salespeople, that is) probably have some tips and can point you in the right direction.
Other solutions to the narrow hallway problem… having a moving or delivery company hoist it through a window, or having the sofa disassembled, and reassembled in the apartment. Both of these options are expensive… but they are options, and you can find people in NYC who will do it for you.
If everything fits… congratulations! Now go buy it! If not, go back and find something else that will work in your space.
Choosing Accent Furniture
Particularly with accent furniture, you may have a battle between form and function. If you’re lucky enough to have room for things like a coffee table and/or end tables, consider that while a glass top version will look like it takes up less space in a small apartment (a designer’s visual trick), if you are really short on storage you may decide that function is more important than form. In that case, look for one with a lower shelf, or even drawers, for additional storage. And while overstuffed chairs may be comfortable, they take up a lot of space compared to other styles.
Another great trick for more storage is using a dresser in the living room. Yes, you heard me right. I was skeptical when I first heard this, but it actually works quite well. Instead of buying a TV stand, buy a dresser that you can fit your TV on. If you have a fairly small TV, you may even have space to stack some books, etc. next to it. Voila! You now have a TV stand with extra storage.
Where to Buy Apartment Sized Furniture
Where does one shop for apartment sized furniture in NYC? Ikea is a good place for those on a budget, and they have a lot of pieces designed with apartments in mind. Target is another good place to look for the stylish, but budget conscious shopper. West Elm was originally started (by the same people who own Pottery Barn) as an urban only concept store that catered exclusively to apartment dwellars. There are many local stores such as Downtown Furniture and Jensen-Lewis (a personal favorite) that have many pieces designed with apartments in mind. Other chains such as Room & Board, Pier One, CB2 and Crate & Barrel have a mix of furniture for apartments and larger homes.
No matter what your budget, there is apartment sized furniture out there to meet your needs. If you follow the tips above, you’ll save yourself from surprises when your new furniture arrives at your door.