Design Solutions for Small Spaces City Living

Real estate in the Big Apple like any large metropolis is expensive, and that often means making due with a small apartment. Small spaces present many functional and aesthetic problems—lack of storage, oppressive walls, etc. Fortunately, with a few design tricks from the experts, tenants can make their apartments cozy instead of cramped and even create the illusion that a space is larger that it really is.

Light and Space

Marjorie Hilton, of Marjorie Hilton Interiors in Manhattan, calls lighting the “stepchild of design.” According to the New York City-based designer, the most important function of an apartment, large or small, is that it gives you a positive feeling as soon as you walk in the door. “Even if you have no furniture, nothing, my money would go into lighting,” Hilton says. “The best lighting scenarios are a combination of things.”

There are three types of lighting in any good design scheme: general overhead, ambient and task. Overhead is your primary source of lighting, whereas ambient is used to set a mood. Task lighting, on the other hand, serves a concrete function, i.e. reading lamps, kitchen stove lights, etc.

For overhead and ambient lighting, Hilton claims to have had a great deal of success with track lighting in large part because it can light a room without taking up any floor or wall space. During cocktail parties, you can pull down the dimmer switch for a softer finish to the room.

Asked to give an example of a project she recently completed, Hilton says, “I used track lighting on the ceiling, and put little MR16 lights on the track.” MR16 bulbs deliver low intensity directional lighting. “You turned on the track and it was like little twinkle toes. You didn’t really need any other illumination.” She calls the track lighting “a very wise expenditure,” since it did exactly what you would want in a small apartment: provided great light while staying out of the way.


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