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By Robert Pratt | Broker in Chicago, IL

Great Design Ideas for Chicago’s Small Abodes

Chicago is a big city with a population of almost 2.7 million. What happens when you cram that many people into one place? A lot of inhabitants end up with small living spaces. If you think limited square footage means you have to give up style, think again. Use these great interior design ideas to make the most of Chicago’s smaller residential abodes.

Living Room

It is important to not overcrowd the living room with furniture and clutter. Keep it simple and minimal for a more spacious feel. Light colors generally make the room seem bigger and a strategically placed mirror can give the illusion of width and depth. A low-profile sofa and chair won’t over-dominate the room like a bulky sectional could. Pieces without arms are even better. Leave the central area open (skip the coffee table) and use side tables instead. Or place a long, narrow hallway table behind the couch to provide a surface for a plant, framed photos or a pottery piece. The advent of flat screen televisions is a godsend to small home dwellers. The TV can be hung directly on the wall, eliminating the need for a big entertainment center or TV stand. Floating shelves are discreet and do not take up floor space, as a bookcase would. Only hang one decorative piece per wall and make sure the lighting fixture is modest enough to complement the room without drawing too much attention.


The key to dressing up your petite boudoir is a trifecta of organization, dual functionality and simplicity. For an airy feel, keep the color scheme toned down – light or neutral shades with one accent hue is the way to go. Remember, the bed should be the focal point so save any patterns/prints for the bedspread or throw pillows. The bedroom can double as a study or home office if you put a day bed or convertible sofa in there, along with a small desk. The space under the bed can be used for storage containers, or consider a custom mattress frame with built-in drawers. Closet organizers can do wonders for maximizing space. The combination of shelves and rungs eliminates the need for a separate wardrobe or dresser. Place baskets on the shelves to hold smaller items such as socks and undergarments. Again floating shelves are useful and behind-the-door hooks are handy and discrete. Stick to the rule of one art piece per wall. Use floor-length curtains with the rod near the ceiling to draw the eye up. This creates a sense of height instead of cutting the room off at mid-level, which can make it seem smaller.


Chef’s kitchens are common in Chicago condos and apartments. These narrow galley-style kitchens have everything within arm’s reach. Some are open to the living and dining area, which gives the space a larger feel because it is not closed in. If you have an eat-in kitchen with a breakfast nook, consider getting a desk-like table that serves double duty as an office by day and a cozy dining spot by night. To make up for limited cabinet storage, install a hanging pot rack from the ceiling, attach a spice rack to the wall, affix cup hangers under the cabinetry, and add utensil hooks for spatulas, ladles and other large serving spoons. Be careful of hanging too many things out in plain sight – it can make the kitchen feel cluttered and therefore smaller. Another trick of the trade is to maximize cupboards for your specific needs. Add extra dividers, shelving and lazy-Susans as needed to fit your dishes, crockery and appliances. Under-cabinet and overhead lighting helps illuminate the workspace and create the illusion of space.

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