Sapphire Howell: How to Upgrade Your Living Space… Even if it’s Small!

living area in townhouse interior modern natural style 3d rendering

Living in LA, there are tons of huge, sprawling mansions at every turn. Like you, I live somewhere a little cozier–but just because your home or apartment is small doesn’t mean it can’t feel more luxurious and spacious than it seems. The key is making design and furniture choices that keep each room as clutter-free as possible. It’s also about choosing items that might look expensive but are more affordable than you’d think. Even subtle changes can make a noticeable difference and give your home an instant upgrade. 

Spring is here, so now is the time to refresh your living space. Here are my home makeover tips that won’t cost you the price of a down payment! 

Move Everything Possible Off the Floor

floating shelves room
wall mounted shelves pull items off the floor

To make a room look bigger, you’ve got to create more floor space. That means anything that doesn’t have to stand alone should go. For starters, ditch your entertainment unit and hang your flatscreen TVs on the wall. A big standing bookshelf? No, thank you. Have shelves mounted on the wall instead. These days, lots of sophisticated-looking, affordable beds come with built-in storage units, which can help you downsize from a huge dresser to a smaller one. 

Find Furniture Brands That Make Great Dupes

I promise there’s a budget-friendly dupe for every high-end, to-die-for piece of furniture out there! This is especially true for big-ticket items like sofas or bedroom furniture. If you find something you love but it’s out of your budget, Google it along with the term “high-end dupe,” and voila, you’ll likely get a bunch of more affordable options on websites like Wayfair and Amazon or smaller furniture companies that charge hundreds–even thousands–less than pricey home brands for the same style. 

Lose the Paper Trail

mail clutter
go digital to eliminate paper waste

One of the biggest sources of clutter is unnecessary paper goods like mail, shopping receipts, and magazines. We hold onto them “just in case,” but instead of actually coming in handy, they usually just pile up and look messy. These days, almost all bills are payable online, and receipts are emailed, so there’s no need for paper. If you’re still getting magazines or other subscriptions (again, most are now available online), give yourself a two-month rule. Unless it’s an issue you really want to save for a special reason, chuck anything over two months old.

Switch up your Kitchen

Little differences in the right places can upgrade any room, especially the kitchen. Anything that doesn’t need to be on the counter should go in a drawer or cabinet. Speaking of drawers and cabinets, one relatively low-cost makeover trick is replacing old knobs and handles with shinier new ones, which you can do without spending a lot. For larger items you don’t use daily (blenders, air fryers), put them away until you need them again. For appliances you keep on the counter–like a coffee maker, toaster, or microwave –it’s worth investing in newer models with polished designs.

Add Small Touches That Elevate 

Accents are everything, and there are lots of easy swaps that enhance any room. Replace an old carpet with a sexy new shag rug. If your photos are pinned to the wall or in cheap frames, exchange them for glossier ones. Sofa cushions, placemat settings, interesting artwork, and new bedding are decorative items you can find at all different price points that instantly add elegance. Adding a fresh coat of paint in a lighter color, like eggshell or off-white, is another way to spruce up and brighten a room. 

Store Seasonal Items

Remember what I said about moving everything off the floor? If you have a standing coat rack, lose it ASAP and install a set of mounted hooks. There’s no reason to have bulky jackets or other winter items out during warmer months. Store them wherever you can, like in suitcases you’re not using at the moment. Do this with items overcrowding your closet, too. If it’s not in season, away it goes. 

Mirrors, Mirrors, Mirrors

bedroom with large wooden mirror
expanding space with mirrors

Here’s an interior design secret: well-placed mirrors make rooms look much bigger by creating the illusion of space. Large mirrors do this by reflecting light when hung on the opposite wall of a window or a lamp. One small mirror or a group of smaller mirrors on the wall also helps brighten a room. And you don’t have to limit yourself to wall mirrors. Mirrored coffee tables, end tables, or kitchen backsplashes look sophisticated and have a similar effect.

Do a Real Spring Cleaning 

Use this as an opportunity to make a clean break with anything that doesn’t have practical or sentimental value. Go through everything–clothes, makeup, other beauty products, gadgets, old devices, takeout menus, and condiment packets. Donate what you can and trash the rest. Here’s a suggested rule of thumb while you’re parsing through everything: if you don’t remember you own it or can’t remember the last time you used it, you probably don’t need it, period. 

While we’re all waiting to move into fairytale castles, there’s no reason we should feel boxed in. These simple tips can transform an overcrowded, small home into a stylish, roomy bachelorette pad. 

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