From Tiny Dark Apartment to Light and Airy Space

Have you ever seen how teeny tiny and dark apartments in NYC can be? Here’s how I transformed my daughter’s tiny dark apartment bedroom into a light and pretty space to call home.

You know when I start a post with a before picture, it's going to be a pretty big transformation.  (Last time I did this, I converted a storage closet into an elegant French butler's pantry.)  This time, I was working with a room in a tiny dark apartment and the challenge was to transform it into a lovely bedroom for my daughter to call home, in her very first apartment.

Now, if you've never seen a Manhattan apartment, let me emphasize, when I say small and dark, I mean REALLY small and dark.  You can see in the before photo how close the next building is, so despite the two windows, there's very little light coming into this room.  It's a very old building and when you walk into the empty room, you can hardly imagine where you'd put a twin bed, let alone a queen.  But queen we did, and much more.  So let's look at how to decorate a tiny dark apartment bedroom.

I started this room the way I do most - with a mood board.  I sat down with my daughter like I would a client and discussed what she'd like the room to look like, what colors she preferred, what furniture pieces were important to her and what could be sacrificed for the sake of space.  

Next I did a layout and started selecting pieces that would fit, revising the board as idea became roadmap to reflect the final plan.

The number one aim was to open the space, keeping it warm and welcoming, but light and cheerful.  In addition to the space challenge, we also had to work within the constraints of a rental, so walls couldn't be painted anything other than plain white.  We chose creams and beiges for the decor to maintain a bit of sophistication, with touches of pale lilac for an infusion of personality.

Much of the interest was added with pillows, utilizing tufted silk shams for a note of sheen and a Mongolian lamb throw pillow for a cozy luxe feel.  The French lilac print on the boudoir pillow hides a lavender filled interior that fills the room with a delightful scent.  (For source information scroll to the bottom and click the link to the blog post.)

The furniture pieces were selected for their storage capacity and function, as much as for their aesthetic value.  In a room this small, every detail counts, and we made sure the nightstand had enough drawer space to serve a purpose, while the pull out shelf made up for the lack of desk space in the room.

For the dresser we chose a piece that would offer the maximum amount of storage for a relatively small footprint.  The octagonal mirror above provides a bit of an edgy feel, keeping the whole thing from getting too sweet.

Given the space limitations, the walls needed to be used, as well, so instead of extra wall art, the jewelry rack becomes a visual focus.

The key to fitting a queen bed into this room, was pushing it up to the wall for as much walk space as possible.  We chose not to forego the headboard and footboard as they lend a tailored note of finish to the room.  The faux fur skin print throw at the foot of the bed adds another hint or warmth, while the neutral print rug adds sophistication.

To keep the room clutter free, we used decorative items sparingly, but a distressed picture frame on the night stand personalizes the space.  The mercury glass lamp is another modern touch, ensuring the room doesn't get too fussy. A little more bling was added to the dresser in the form of these candle hurricanes, and a makeup organizer keeps cosmetics neatly corralled.

One advantage of the tight spaces between buildings is that you're not really facing anyone else's windows, so privacy is not a concern.  This gave us the freedom to use lovely sheers on the windows, although there are blinds beneath for when needed.

If you'd like to see how we addressed the same problem in the living room of this apartment, you can see that post HERE.

For full resource info visit the blog post link below.

Lory @ Designthusiasm
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

3 of 8 questions
  • Jeanne Jeanne on Aug 31, 2017
    Was there budget?

  • CV3567 CV3567 on Dec 12, 2017
    What a lovely room you created with your daughter! Romantic, but not sugary sweet - and very bright and airy. I'm just wondering where she hangs her clothes?

  • Katie Katie on Dec 14, 2017
    Where did the radiator go


Join the conversation

3 of 31 comments
  • Katie Katie on Dec 14, 2017
    Or register..not sure what u call them..the

  • Judy Dotson Thomas Judy Dotson Thomas on Jan 11, 2018
    Wouldn't you have more light in the room if the head board of the bed wouldn't in front of the window. You could do away with the headboard or have a smaller one.

    • Lory @ Designthusiasm Lory @ Designthusiasm on Jan 11, 2018
      In this particular case, the window faces a brick wall which is only a few feet away (this is Manhattan), so the only light is coming from the sky, several stories above. It was more important to have the room itself be light. In fact, the creamy white headboard gives a much lighter impression that the brick wall would.