By Angela Cabotaje

Back in May, the New York Times highlighted a growing fascination with living small. We mean really small. Like 78 square feet small. In these Lilliputian apartments, there’s only room for a sofa, a table, and a tall cabinet. The sofa transforms into a bed—which in turn flips up to reveal storage underneath—and the cabinet has space for just the essentials: a microwave, a printer, a wardrobe, and the obligatory bathroom accoutrements.

Though these microscopic apartments aren’t the norm when it comes to small-space living, the Gray Lady certainly isn’t the only one talking tiny. Dwell regularly focuses on modern homes of the petite variety (though, by the magazine’s standards, “small” can be anything up to 2,000 square feet), and even House Beautiful has an annual small spaces issue featuring diminutive dwellings about as large as some people’s bathrooms.

All the media buzz aside, small homes are increasingly becoming the way of the future in terms of urban planning and modern design. Not only are they eco-conscious with less energy consumption and a lighter environmental impact, small houses can also be alluring for those looking to embrace minimalism and a simpler lifestyle.  And when there’s no option to build out or up (as is the case in many modern cities), architects, designers, and homeowners instead find creative solutions for living large in a small space. Here are just a few ways to make less feel like more:

Think Multifunctional

In a small space, everything needs to serve a dual purpose. The Murphy bed, once classified as comedy cliché, has evolved into a modern space-saving marvel and inspired a whole generation of multipurpose pieces. Contemporary Murphy beds from New York’s Resource Furniture merge workspace, seating, shelving, and sleeping area. The Tip Over Table from Italian design company Porada hinges at the legs, so you can flatten it and hang it on the wall as a mirror when not in use. The Peg series by Oregon’s Studio Gorm is a flexible collection of surfaces and screw-on legs, allowing users to build everything from a bench to a shelving unit upon request. And Seattle-based Urbancase designed the Ledge, which floats on the wall as a workstation and console with a pullout drawer. In general, furniture that sits on legs or mounts to a wall can make a space feel lighter and less cramped.

Create an Illusion

You can trick yourself (and your guests) into feeling like your space is a lot larger. Draw the eye up with tall windows, sheers, or bookshelves. Great sunlight keeps things from getting claustrophobic, and mirrored surfaces reflect light to make a room seem bigger. See-through acrylic or Lucite furniture can also do the trick. Clean, white walls are one way to keep things airy, but a bold feature wall, all-over color, or a statement-making piece of art can bring the focus to the design instead of the size of your home.

Embrace Minimalism

Experienced tiny-home dwellers know that every new item must be carefully considered before being purchased. After all, there’s only room for so much. In a more pragmatic way, one way to feel like less is truly more is to embrace the tiny home lifestyle. Small houses require their homeowners to focus on simplicity, living fully with less, and focusing on what you have rather than what you don’t. It’s minimalism distilled to its purest form.

For more small-space inspiration, check out these resources:

Small House Bliss

Small House Society

Tiny House Blog

Tiny House Design

Tiny Revolution

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