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Making a smaller space look great is hard enough if you own it. You have to bend over backwards finding creative ways to get things to fit without making it look cluttered. Now imagine having to do this as a renter since when you’re essentially borrowing someone else’s living area. That can place limits on your ability to express yourself.

Ultimately, you have to remember two things when trying to make your small apartment livable: 1) it’s okay to cheat a little, and 2) as much as possible, everything should serve more than one purpose. Here are several great decorating ideas to make your space shine.

Secret storage
It almost seems like a cruel joke, but the smaller an apartment is, the less storage it tends to have. What those people with huge apartments need with all that extra storage space is a mystery (give some of it to us!) but that’s the way it is, and it means that you have to get clever by finding ways to store things in plain sight.

Fashionable ottomans and benches that open up are great places to put your blankets, books, and even things like board games if you have enough room. Stores like IKEA have fantastic-looking hidden storage options, like a coffee table for the living room with large drawers on each end—perfect for hiding away the two dozen remotes, iPods®, and other portable electronics you have.

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Ballard Designs

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Home Decorators

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Ikea

Reflections of you
A big part of successfully decorating a smaller area is tricking you into feeling like it’s bigger than it really is. One easy way to achieve this effect is through a clever use of mirrors. To give the illusion of an open space, larger mirrors in standard shapes are best because they do a good job of sucking you in. Most renters can probably get away with hanging a large mirror or two and simply patching the holes when they leave, but if that idea scares you, it’s not completely out of the question to find tall mirrors that you can carefully prop against the wall.

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: West Elm

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Pottery Barn

When painting, go light and bright.
Lighter, brighter colors tend to make a space feel bigger than it really is, so you should always stick with them over darker hues that can create the feeling of being trapped in a cave. But wait a minute; you’re wondering how can you paint the walls as a renter? Who said anything about the walls? If you don’t own the space, redecorate by painting what you do own—your furniture! You’ll be shocked by how different your room looks when you repaint that black entertainment center an electric blue, or change your bed frame from oak to white. Just make sure you do a little bit of research on the best ways to paint furniture before you jump into the project.

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens

Think tall
When your square footage is limited, the best way to get the most use out of it is to look up and try to find furnishings that do a good job of taking up the vertical space. Not only will this help you to store more while making your living areas feel more open, designers say that big furniture often serves to create the sense that a room is larger than it really is. Nice!

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: What is Home Improvement

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Remodel

Creative Ways to Decorate a Small Apartment
Photo Credit: Free Home Decorating Ideas

Robert Mansions writes for Apartments Management Group. When Robert is not writing or reviewing apartment rentals, you can find him at home working on his garden and landscaping.