In my opinion, a great way to make a small space feel larger is to create zones. Space planning is super important when trying to figure out where to allocate space and to what tasks to allocate to those spaces. In really small spaces, like small studio apartments, it’s probably best to have your one room have work as a multi-space. I’ll touch briefly on combining zones, but will dig deeper in a separate post. For now let’s concentrate more on creating separate zones for small spaces.

A good way to make your space feel bigger, is by creating as many functional zones (work, sleep, play, eat, etc.) as you can. Jot down all the things that you will need to do in your space and start planning to separate your room into areas to complete each of these tasks. Some areas can work double duty if needed, for example, eating and working can both be completed from the same small dining table.

There are many ways that you can section off each of these areas: with furniture, room dividers, curtain panels, rugs, empty floor space, etc.

Separate Zones in Small Spaces

Below are ways to create zones for your small space:

The Entry Zone

I think it’s a great idea to have a determined “entry” in a small space. When walking into a home with a defined entry area, it definitely gives the illusion that there is a lot more “space” left in the home. One way to define your entry is by adding a rug right at the inside of the door or having a different floor treatment in this space that’s different from the rest of the floor in the room. Although a rug may be less expensive than changing the floors, but if you’re planning to be there long term, having a beautiful, contrasting floor treatment in the entry area of a small space creates a bigger impact. Another way to define your entry is by placing a piece of furniture there that serves all the entry needs, like a tray to corral clutter and keys, a spot for mail, and space for cute accessories. You should also have some space to put dirty shoes and umbrellas, and hooks to hang jackets and purses. I love to see a vintage chest of drawers in a bright color at the entry of a small space, because it brings a big pop of color and character as soon as you walk through the door. I also think that the entry is a great spot to add cute knick-knack decorative accessories that don’t necessarily “fit” in with the rest of the space.

Make sure that there is sufficient lighting in your entry zone, too, like overhead lighting or a floor or table lamp.

 

The Dining Zone

To create your dining zone, you can use a small table and four chairs. There is an unlimited supply of apartment sized tables. You can go simple with your table and bring pizazz with cute chairs, or get a crazy good table and tone down the wow factor of the chairs. It depends on your style and budget. Or, you can go all willy-nilly good for both your table and chairs, just make sure that it’s a good fit for the space, style-wise and scale-wise. If you don’t have enough space for a small table and chairs, look into a fold-away table or think about combining your work and dining zones in one space. You can do your eat and work from your laptop from at the dining room table.

If possible, get a rug under your table and an overhead light fixture to furthur define the space.

The Living Zone

My favorite zone, and one of the easiest to define, in my opinion. It all starts with a great sofa. Make sure that it is the right size. You don’t want a huge sofa in a small space, especially if you’re trying to create other zones. It isn’t necessary that your sofa has to have two side tables and a cocktail table, but you MUST have atleast one flat surface for you and guests to be able to place stuff on, like drinks and books. In small spaces, I love to see two upholstered ottomans in the front of the sofa, because they work multiple purposes: they can be used as a table top surface and they can be used as extra seating. The best part is that they’re usually lightweight and easy to move all around the space.

Another important part of the living area is lighting. If you have a small studio apartment that has one really good overhead light, you may not NEED another light elsewhere in the space. Yep, I said it, I’m telling you that you can break a major “design no-no” rule and forgo the extra lighting if you need to. With that being said… it’s a really, really, good idea to have another light source where you’ll be reading, writing, and/or working. If those tasks are done in the living space, you should get at least a small task light. Table lamps and floor lamps are easy and affordable ways to bring in more light and help further define the space.

The Sleep Zone

In very small spaces, the sleep zone can consist of a daybed with a small dresser. That same daybed can function as a sofa. and that same dresser can function as an entertainment center, by housing a TV and other electronic components.If you have a small space, but it’s still big enough to separate your sleep and living zones, a good way to define the sleep zone and to give privacy is to curtain off the area. Ikea sells some great curtain panels that are track-mounted either to a wall or a ceiling.

Your sleep area should have at least a bed (or daybed) and a hard surface to put items on, like a lamp or books. If you can’t fit a nightstand next to the bed, maybe you can fit a dresser or tall chest somewhere across from it.If your space is really small, like I mentioned earlier, you may want to combine your sleep and living areas together. A tall armoire can hold clothes and things needed for your living room. The drawers of the armoire can be used for your folded clothes, while the section behind the doors can be used as bookcase (or even a bar), for example.

You may not want to use a curtain to hide your sleep area, if this is the case, and you still have enough room to separate your bedroom space, make sure you keep clutter at a minimum. You also want to make sure to find a neat way to store your shoes. If you have a closet, great, but if not, try using the cubby storage units.

The Work Zone

If you work from home (a job, business, or schoolwork), you’ll need a functional area to complete your work tasks. It’s a great idea to have a separate zone for this, but you can combine your work zone with your living, dining, or sleep area, if you need to. If you have enough space to have a separate work zone, I suggest going with a small desk and chair. A parsons’ desk is great for small spaces. Your desk can be placed on a wall if you have extra space, or behind a sofa if that works better. Your chair can work double duty by serving as extra seating in your living and/or dining areas.

So, there’s a lot of ways to create functional zones in a small space. Depending on how small your space is, you may not be able to have all your zones separate. You also don’t want your space to look “cluttered” with furniture. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least 3′ of clearance between all furniture in your space. If you want to have a separate living, dining, sleeping, and work zone, but don’t have good “movearound” space, you may need to think about combining your zones.


I hope none of this seems complicated, these zones are supposed to help create defined spaces in your home. As mentioned before, there will be times when you may need to have one zone multi-function and that’s OKAY. Make sure that you get rid of (or conceal) clutter and that there is ample space to move around your room(s) or that traffic isn’t blocked by your furniture plan.

What good tips do you have for creating separate zones in a small space? Do you prefer your zones do double/triple duty? Be sure to drop a comment and let me know!!

Till next time,

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14 comments on “Small Spaces & Creating Separate Zones”

  1. Whitney, these are some very inspired ideas and pictures of small, yet stricking (and useful) spaces. Thanks for sharing the tips, links and resources. Love seeing the bold use of paint color too. Small doesn’t have to be drab in anyway 🙂

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