Struggling with square footage? You’re not alone. Rentals tend to get the most heat for confined space, but no city home is going to award as much roominess as a single-family abode on the suburban outskirts. Apartments tend to be built with efficiency in mind while condos are units designed for growth and long-term livability, but finding something expansive near the city center is almost always difficult and costly.
Although the tiny home movement may still be going strong, there’s no shame in creating the illusion of more space. Consider these four key tactics to make your Chicago apartment or condo appear larger than its blueprint shows.
When choosing a color palette in a small condominium or apartment, opting for lighter hues helps alleviate feelings of restriction. This is especially important if your unit lacks a sufficient amount of natural light. Feel free to get funkier with smaller furnishings and décor items, but it’s best to keep wall paint, cabinetry and drapery as neutral as possible. Don’t worry about being bland – even neutrals have subtle nuances that set each shade apart. Homes with a more contemporary aesthetic can opt for cooler grays while traditional spaces tend to look best outfitted in warm neutrals.
Natural light is a key component to making a small space seem larger, but not every Chicago condo or apartment benefits from sun-drenched interiors – especially those with northern exposure. If you own your unit, consider installing canned recessed lights. These inconspicuous fixtures are installed above the ceiling line. Unlike floor and table lamps, or ceiling pendants, recessed lights are completely unobtrusive apart from a thin surrounding trim that blends into the ceiling almost seamlessly. In the future, house hunters may notice the lights themselves or feel drawn to the larger-looking layout, so this is a wise upgrade to attract more homebuyers and generate a potential return on investment. Keep in mind, a single recessed light only shines on the floor directly below and can actually have the opposite effect. On the other hand, several canned lights installed in groups will illuminate even the darkest corners, helping widen the space drastically. Experts recommend approximately 12 recessed lights for a 15’ by 20’ living space. If installing new fixtures is not an option, play around with decorative lamps and place wall mirrors strategically to bounce the light throughout your space.
Create visual height
One of the main draws of buying a loft condo in Chicago is the ceiling height. Even when the square footage itself is tight or narrow, tall timber or concrete ceilings tend to open up interiors dramatically. Fortunately, condo owners who don’t live in loft-style homes can still draw the eye upward to produce a similar expanding effect. First, ceilings look tallest when painted a flat white color, which is why this color is the gold standard for so many homes worldwide. You can also try a high gloss paint finish that helps reflect light more intensely, so long as you’re comfortable with a more modern or glamorous interior style. Bear in mind that a matte finish tends to hide imperfections while a glossy paint will highlight any blemishes and may require more frequent touch-ups. Lower furniture may also help the room appear taller, and thus, larger overall. Platform beds, sectionals with sleek lines and boxy tables lacking tall feet create more airspace in a condo or apartment. When it comes to window treatments, make sure to hang curtains above the top of the window so that the bar is almost flush with the ceiling. Unless you already have floor-to-ceiling windows in your home, placing the top of the curtains up high makes windows look loftier.
Clear out the clutter
Don’t let clutter cramp your style or your living room. Although storage in condos and apartments can be tricky, there are plenty of options to maximize your storage space without expanding the closets or moving to a larger home. In the kitchen, use your dishware or pots and pans as décor. Hanging mugs off floating shelves or using a ceiling-suspended pot rack for a more industrial vibe saves much-needed cabinet space for your less decorative items, like snacks and canned goods. Within your cabinets, use stackable wire racks to store dishes more neatly while maximizing vertical storage space. In the bathroom, mount metal organizers on the back side of vanity cabinet doors for hair tools, brushes and other toiletries.
Given the seasonally diverse climate, Chicago homeowners and renters have to keep a fairly large wardrobe to accommodate fluctuating temperatures. When the weather shifts, free up your more accessible closet space by keeping bulky sweaters, coats and outerwear in low-profile bins underneath the bed. Finally, remember that a fellow Chicagoan in need might be able to make use out of things collecting dust in your home. For clothes especially, donate any items that haven’t been worn in the past two years, unless the piece holds sentimental value. The Salvation Army has drop-off locations across the city and free truck pickups for clothing, toys, furniture (no mattresses) and other household goods.
Even with all the best strategies, sometimes it’s necessary to upgrade to a larger home, whether you are planning a new addition to the family or simply need space to spread out. Chicago first-time homebuyers, take note: two-bedroom condos in Chicago tend to be the most popular and typically best for resale, so keep size in mind when mapping out your next move.