Interior Design

Small spaces pose many design challenges, not the least of which is how to style up your apartment and still make it functional.

Compact interiors can be fun to decorate; don’t automatically assume that a small room cannot look cool. Intelligent interior design for small spaces can turn a challenging space into a great design opportunity!



Most of us live in apartments, so we are all familiar with the challenges that come with small spaces. How can we store all our things? What can you do to make a small room look airy and inviting? How do you achieve a balance between showcasing your style and having a room that is useful?

In the post below, we answer all of these questions and more.  You will find lots of practical information on interior design for small spaces.

In Dubai, there are some lovely apartments in the Marina, JBR and more recently, the Sobha Hartland Greens in Meydan. These apartments deserve to have beautiful interiors. Read on to find out how to decorate your apartment, with do’s and don’ts for owners and renters.

Renting Vs Owning An Apartment

Many of us live in rented apartments. Just because you rent an apartment, doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own for the time that you’re in it.

Most people live in an apartment for an average of 3-5 years. This is a sizeable amount of time to enjoy a space. Why waste 3-5 years of your life living in a mediocre space when you can make smart design choices that are also good investments?



Renting An Apartment

Renting an apartment is a whole different ball game. Renters are very conscious that any big renovations will go towards improving a home that they do not own themselves. Hence, most renters opt for smaller design enhancements that they will be able to take with them at the end of their lease.

However, if you are planning on a long term rental stay, it makes sense to enjoy those years in a space that you are proud to live in.

A few smart design tips for renters are:

  • Flooring is one of the most visual contributors to home decor. If you hate the flooring in your rental apartment, there are many economical options to renovate flooring without making a huge dent in your wallet.
  • The color scheme of your home can completely alter its look. Most apartments come with neutral white or off-white wall paints.Think about adding a focus wall with a complimentary paint color that goes with your overall design theme. This will quickly enhance the look of a room at a reasonable cost.
  • Invest in statement pieces of furniture, accessories or artwork that can change an ordinary apartment into one that is glamorous.When you move, you can take these pieces with you, so they are worth the money invested.


Owning Your Apartment

If you are fortunate enough to own your home, your design choices will vary greatly than if you are a renter.

When you own your own apartment, especially  a new one, it is likely to have high quality interior finishes. Your main design investments will be in moveables such as furniture, acc    essories and artwork that can enhance these finishes and bring out the best in your living space.

Owners are also likely to spend on larger investments such as wall paint and flooring as the home improvements will increase the value of their home if they ever want to sell.

Tips On Interior Design For Small Spaces

Whether you’re an owner or a renter, there are many tips and tricks to help with decorating your space. Infuse your home with your personal style using colors, accents and accessories that give you ownership, whether you are renter or homeowner.

Dont’s – Mistakes To Avoid In Small Space Design

Let’s start with what NOT to do first. Here are a few design faux pas that can make a small space look even more cluttered.

Not Thinking Big Picture

This is one of the most common mistake most people make. Oftentimes, you set your heart on a piece of furniture or a color theme that you’ve seen in a magazine. We then try to design our space around these accessories.

Rather that designing around an accent piece, think carefully about the big picture first. What is your overall design theme? Are you looking for a casual, modern style that is more focused on comfort living or are you looking to jazz up your space to impress friends and family? What message do you want your home to convey?

The answer to this will then guide you in your choice of accent pieces and furniture, rather than the other way round.


Not Enough Storage

In all my years as a designer, I have never heard anyone complain about having too much storage!

In small apartments, storage is the key to making your home look organized and structured. After all, nothing makes a home look more tacky than clutter.

In compact spaces, planning adequate storage to accommodate all your clutter is extremely important. Creative choice of furniture can greatly help with this.

Opt for furniture pieces that have dual purpose – these save space and are also useful for a variety of other functions.



Over Designing Your Space

In smaller spaces, less is always more.

In interior design for small spaces, you need to be flexible and smart in your choices. We all have ideas that we are buzzing to incorporate into our homes. However, stuffing a small space with a host of different items can lead to over designing. Your home might look unplanned like a large storage space where different pieces have been forced together.

You want a space that looks layered over time – use the idiosyncrasies of a space to your advantage. If your apartment has an odd-shaped room, think about how this can be turned into a focal point to show it off rather than trying to hide it.  Think carefully about space usage for each room and prioritize things that are important to you.



Going Small In A Small Space

Going small scale in a small space seems like the logical thing to do. However, this is where the expertise of a professional designer comes in.

Design professionals know that having several smaller furniture pieces and accents actually makes the space seem more cluttered and therefore, smaller.

Contrary to popular belief, a few large pieces can make a big impact in interior design for small spaces. Take a critical look at your space and think about the scale of the collectibles you want in it.

Overlooking Lighting

Lighting is one of the most overlooked strategies when it comes to effective interior design for small spaces.

Multi-directional lighting can make a space look visually bigger by reflecting light from multiple sources. Don’t just rely on overhead lighting, which can look harsh and unflattering.

Use wall sconces, table lamps and floor lamps to supplement overhead lighting; the layered lighting makes the room glow and appear larger.

There are many sconces and fixtures that are specifically designed for narrow spaces. Rather than leave a strip of wall empty, incorporate a slim fixture for a layered lighting effect.


Do’s – What You Can Do To Add Flair To Your Interior Space

Now that we know what mistakes to avoid, here’s what you can do to make your apartment look visually larger, fresher and inviting.


Lighter walls make a room look big and spacious. Opt for a light, neutral background color for walls; ivory, whites and creams are my personal favorites as they act as a neutral canvas for a variety of decorative accents.

Lighter colors also reflect more light, making the space look bright and airy.

Today, we are spoilt for choice with an endless array of colors to choose from. Benjamin Moore, Jotun and Dulux all have a mind-boggling array of paint choices. Benjamin Moore even have an off-white color palette that would work wonderfully in compact spaces.

If you love color and definitely want some on your walls, there are ways to do this without compromising on visual aesthetics. You can choose an accent wall and paint it a different color to make it a focal point.



To add a little oomph to your space, you might also opt for wallpapers. Wallpapers are available in a variety of prints, colors and textures to suit every conceivable style. You can then reflect the color of your wallpaper or wall paint in some of your accessories to tie the entire design together.

Paint your doors and architraves white to expand the space and give your room a crisp, fresh vibe.

Light Color Scheme

Lighter colors on room surfaces make walls recede, giving the perception of a larger space. This does not mean that you cannot have color; it just means that lighter colors such as light greys, soft beiges and off-whites are ideal in interior design for small spaces.

You can add color through wall art, rugs, accessories and furniture to give the room depth and character.




Most new apartments come with wooden flooring, which is a lovely complement to light-colored walls.

However, if you are renting an older apartment and hate the look of generic ceramic tiles, don’t feel that you have to live with these. There are many tiles that can be stuck on the top of existing flooring to revamp the look of your apartment.

Indoor ceramic and porcelain tiles are available in a wide variety of colors and textures. You can also find large format tiles in a variety of sizes including 60 x 120cm, 75 x 75cm,  1m x 1m or 1m x 3m slabs. These make the space look bigger by reducing grout joints.

Be aware that you will need to shorten doors to accommodate the additional tile thickness.




Don’t overlook your ceiling which can increase the height perception in a small room.

Lighter ceilings draw the eye upwards, making a room look taller. Paint your ceilings the same color as the walls to enhance this perception.

If you are lucky enough to have high ceilings, retain these and avoid too many bulkheads, which can break up the space.

In an open-plan design, a slight dropped ceiling can be used to distinguish spaces with different functions, such as the kitchen or a seating nook. Use strip lights and cove lights to illuminate the ceiling. This will also increase the perception of space.



Furniture Choices

Furniture can add so much character to an interior space. Even though your space might be small, don’t be afraid to invest in a bold statement piece.

As a general rule, buy furniture that has a lighter visual profile. Forgo heavier, darker furniture; it might have been popular years ago, but will visually shrink the size of your room.

Compact chairs, marble tables or a dining table made of marble or light wood would be a pretty fit for a small space without compromising on function.

Investing in moveable furniture is a smart move as you can take it with you should you choose to move to a different home.


Opt for lower furniture that is closer to the ground. Furniture that has a lower profile makes a compact room look just a tad bit bigger.

The seat height of a sofa would remain at the optimal 45cm height, but go for sofas with a lower back. 70-75 cm height for the back of a sofa works best in small rooms.

Opt for light greys, beiges or cookie browns for your sofa color to open up the space. Add pops of color with cushions or throws.



Rugs and Carpets

A rug or carpet is like floor art and can bring the entire design of a room together. Carpets add another layer to a room decor, making it look sophisticated.

Opt for a neutral colored carpet that has a few flecks of your chosen accent color. A large carpet can visually bring individual elements of the room together and can also serve to define spaces within a room.




To increase the visual height of your room, hang curtains as close to the ceiling as possible.

Use minimal sheer curtains, in living rooms and dining areas, in pale colors to allow in as much natural light as possible. This also helps a room to look fresh and airy.

In bedrooms and TV lounges where you might want to block out light, blackout curtains can remain in the background, to be used when needed.


Source: Recent Milestone Project


Beds can eat up a room by their sheer size.

In a small bedroom, opt for a smaller 150cm x 190cm bed, which will occupy less space and still serve its function. We all love large, plush king size beds, but these would look out of scale in a small bedroom.

Splurge on a bedspread and cushions to layer your bed for a wow effect. Beds typically occupy almost 3.5 to 4 sqm of space, so the prettier your bed looks, the prettier the room will look.


Storage is a key element of interior design for any sized space.

In interior design for small spaces, finding creative solutions for planned and unplanned clutter becomes even more important. Therefore, purge your home of everything that you don’t use or need so you know how much storage you require.

Interior design for small spaces should provide storage not only for items such as suitcases, crockery, kitchen accessories and groceries, but also for items such as keys, handbags and worn clothes, which would otherwise clutter up any available space.

In small apartments, where floor space is a premium, go vertical. Utilize wall spaces with creative storage designs that are playful, great to look at and give you much needed additional space.

Storage In The Kitchen

Kitchens need lots of storage space. When you have a small kitchen, finding the space to store everything you need can be stressful. Utilize wall niches; these can provide a great design opportunity and need only be 15 – 20cm deep to store a 1kg bottle of spices, snacks or sundries.

You might think that having too many cabinets in a small kitchen will make the space claustrophobic, but that’s not necessarily so.

Conceal storage to make it look like wall panelling, rather than cabinets, for a more seamless look. Use light colored panelling with fewer decorative moldings for a cleaner, more modern look.

Use available wall space – storage can be designed vertically with open shelving, can be partly closed with solid doors or partly open with glass doors. Make the storage a feature of your kitchen with a creative customized storage design.

Bedroom Storage

With beds taking up most of the space in a small bedroom, there is little space left to do much else. However, with a little creativity, even a small bedroom can become a haven.

Utilize space above the bed to create a library or for concealed storage.

Built-in floor-to-ceiling wardrobes can be made to disappear by painting them the same color as the walls. They can be very useful for storing items, such as suitcases on the top-most shelves that are used less frequently.

If you don’t have built-in wardrobes, having a large, solid wardrobe in front of your bed is not ideal.

However, you can customize the design by including a combination of open shelving and closed cubbies to provide storage without it looking like a bulky wardrobe. You could even incorporate a compact study or dresser into the design to make it multi-functional.

Your bed itself can be a great way to conceal storage. It can be designed with pull out drawers to store bulky bed linens or can be lifted up to access storage below.

Multi-functional Storage

When you’re faced with a small room, but still need to store things, multifunctional furniture pieces are your best friend.

You can either customize furniture to fit your requirements or buy pieces of furniture that serve multiple uses. In interior design for small spaces, invest in furniture pieces that can double up as storage.

In your bedroom, a seat at the foot of your bed can also serve as a place to store pillows and linen.

A small window seat can conceal storage below the seat; a storage unit can serve as a partition to divide up spaces with different functions. There are many different ways of optimizing storage in your home.

Milestone – Specialists In Space Design

At Milestone, we are experts in interior design for small spaces. We have designed numerous apartments of all sizes.

Dubai has its fair share of small to mid-sized apartments in beautiful locales. We have designed many of these interiors for our clients, with a fresh approach to each design. Incorporating your design aesthetic into your home is one of our specialties.

Let us optimize your apartment to give you a space you will love coming home to and one you will be proud to show off to friends and family.

Please contact a member of our design team to set up your initial consultation.