Home Decor

10 Tiny Tweaks to Make the Most of a Small Bedroom

That is, without spending a fortune.

February 21, 2022
Photo by Weston Wells

No Space Too Small is a brand new column by Laura Fenton that celebrates the idea that you can live well in a small home. Each month, Laura will share her practical findings from years of observing how people live in tight spaces, and her own everyday experiences of living small—from the hunt for the perfect tiny desk and managing everyday clutter to how to smooth the frustrations out of cooking in a galley kitchen.

My “bedroom” measures just 8 feet by 10 feet. I put “bedroom” in quotes because when we bought our apartment, the space was a dining alcove that we decided to make into a second bedroom. I’ve worked hard to make the most of the small sleeping space, which I will tell you all about below, but before that I want to reassure you that a small bedroom is nothing to fret about. In fact, if I had my druthers, all bedrooms would be smaller, so that our shared living spaces might be larger.

A bedroom is primarily meant to be a place to rest, and thankfully, you don’t need a ton of space or stuff to do that. It’s when we ask our bedrooms to do double (and sometimes triple) duty as a home office, personal gym, and wardrobe archive that we get into trouble. If your bedroom is feeling cramped, the first step may be to ask if you’re trying to make it do too much. When it comes to creating a sense of calm, less really is more. Here’s how to make the most of your room and create a restful space on a budget:

1. Put the bed to work, if you can

Yes, a bed is for sleeping, but it’s a lot of real estate in a small room. I am a big fan of both storage beds and wall beds (aka murphy beds)—and I've had both in various homes–but I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy a new bed. Instead, I’d encourage you to think strategically about the bed you do have: Could it fit drawers or storage bags underneath? If not, you could lift it up on risers to make room for storage?

2. Rethink your arrangement

Your current furniture arrangement may not be the only possible solution. Alisa Regas, whose home is featured in my book The Little Book of Living Small (and here on Home52) made her small bedroom even smaller when she renovated it. Regas divided the room in half so that sleeping and dressing spaces were separate, with her dresser drawers acting as a divider. While it may seem counterintuitive to divide a small room, there was no wall for a dresser, so the arrangement gave her a much more functional space. Alisa’s bureau is built-in, but take it as inspiration to reconsider your layout. Likewise, Shira Gill, whose home also appears in the book recently rearranged her bedroom so she wouldn’t be sleeping against the wall. Buying new more slender nightstands was one tiny change that made the new arrangement possible and completely changed the flow of the space.

3. Ditch the closet door

Traditional and bi-fold doors take up a lot of floor space. If you have closet doors that are constantly in the way, consider replacing them with curtains. Decorator Matthew Kowles did this in his studio apartment years ago and it was beyond chic. (Pssst… this is likely a two-person job. Wedge a book under the door before you remove the pins and have your helper hold it steady.)

4. Put the dresser in the closet

Occasionally, a bedroom has a larger closet than is needed. If that is the case in your bedroom, put the chest of drawers inside the closet to open up space in the main area of the bedroom. You can even hang short garments above a low-slung dresser. I especially recommend this arrangement in kid’s or guest bedrooms where a larger closet can be a waste of space because visitors rarely fill up a closet and kids’ clothes are often too small to hang.

5. Minimize your nightstand

While a nightstand does not take up a ton of room, the wrong one can make a small room feel smaller. Several small-space dwellers told me they’ve gone without a bedside table, but I believe you can fit some kind of perch in even the tiniest bedrooms, like perhaps a small, floating shelf (here’s another cute one) or even a single-pot plant stand.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I love this post - thank you!! And also love the shelf featured in the top/cover photo. Is there a link, or do you have recommendations to find a similar shelf? I'll be moving into a new apartment with a VERY small bedroom soon, and this looks like it would be perfect as a bedside table/shelf. Thanks!! ”
— annebrown14

I particularly love wall-mounted nightstands for offering a place to rest a book or glass of water without taking up any floor space. If you’re going to invest in one change to your bedroom, this would be a great pick. When I was looking for floating nightstands seven years ago, there weren’t a ton of options, so I ended up commissioning a pair from a woodworker on Etsy, but today there are dozens of options on Etsy. I love this genius light-table combo from One Forty Three and this floating drawer from PBTeen priced at $99. (I also like the looks of the BedShelfie—if anyone has tried it, please comment below!)

You can also shop your house for a more minimalist nightstand: A stool, chair, or even a plant stand can be used as a bedside table. In one small apartment, I had Aalto-style stacking stools for bedside tables, which I also used as extra chairs when I had big dinner parties.

6. Or make it do double duty

If you’ve got room for something larger beside your bed, you might consider using a dresser or a small desk as a nightstand, so that you can have one piece of furniture do two jobs. The key to make this work is to get the heights right and to be vigilant about keeping the surface clear.

7. Say yes to sconces

It’s not a new idea to install a sconce instead of a space-hogging table lamp, but I can tell you that the options for good-looking affordable plug-in sconces have increased exponentially in recent years. If you looked for sconces at an earlier time and struck out, try again: Schoolhouse, Rejuvenation, and Humanhome all sell great options. If you’re on a serious budget, you might consider a humble clamp light from the hardware store, which usually costs about $10. Clip it to your headboard or hang it from a hook on the wall.

In my own home, I’m debating upgrading to a hardwired sconce; here’s why: Our plug-in sconces are great, but the cords are a magnet for dust and in our tiny bedroom they add a surprising amount of visual clutter. If you’re likely to stay in your home for years to come, consider the benefits of hardwiring, so you don’t end up shopping twice like I did!

8. Don’t forget a dimmer

This may not sound like a space maximizing tip, but I believe a dimmable lamp is key in a small bedroom. Being able to adjust your light for different needs (brighter light to read and dimmer glow for the time when you are winding down to sleep) will make your bedroom function better and make you feel like the space has greater flexibility.

9. Consider your bedding carefully

In a small bedroom, the bed is the largest surface in the room, which means your bedding has a big impact on how the space looks and feels. Plain white linens will feel airy and fresh, but a bold pattern like say, a Marimekko print instantly gives a room a strong point of view.

If linen storage is a pain point, pare back your bedding to just two sets of sheets per bed: One to dress the bed and a spare set of clean ones. Better still if the two coordinate, so you can mix and match the sets for more styling options.

10. Try oversized art

Vanessa Helmick, the founder of Fiore Home in Maine, likes to go big with art in a small bedroom. This could be a large artwork or in the case of a recent bedroom she designed, an accent wall behind the bed with gorgeous wallpaper. (Her advice makes me tempted to wallpaper the wall behind my own bed!)

One last thing! If you have furniture positioned in front of an outlet, the Hug-a-Plug, which provides two right-angle outlets in tight spots behind furniture. It will only save you an inch or two by letting the furniture sit closer to the wall. We have one behind my son’s dresser and I appreciate that it sits a little closer to the wall.

What are your tips to maximize a small bedroom without spending a fortune? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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Laura Fenton is the No Space Too Small columnist at Food52. The author of The Little Book of Living Small, she covers home, design, and sustainability. Laura lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in a 690-square foot apartment with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @laura.alice.fenton or subscribe to her newsletter Living Small.


niftyinterio June 22, 2023
Great article Laura! Loved all the tips you mentioned for maximizing small bedroom spaces. Particularly loved the idea about adding sconces and dimming lights in the bedroom. Kudos to you for sharing such insights with the audience. Being in the interior designing industry, trying to maximize and make small bedroom spaces look aesthetic for our clients is a challenge we love to solve. Thanks for sharing these amazing tips!
Praveen August 8, 2022
Thanks for sharing this beautiful bedroom ideas with us and i have seen some more beautiful bedroom ideas here https://10minutesformom.com/home-ideas/bed-room-ideas/
jenniferbaloo March 2, 2022
Thank you so much for including these resources for plug-in sconces and wall-mounted night stands! I've been on the hunt for plug-in sconces to go in a bedroom that has no overhead lighting, and I'd given up on finding anything I liked. But I just found two perfect lighting options from Schoolhouse and onefortythree.com! (It looks like the latter wasn't from your article directly, so it must have come from one of the other design projects you linked out to.) Thanks for these new-to-me recs!

On the off chance that anyone is also on the hunt when you come across this comment... :) Here's what I just purchased:
Light #1: https://www.onefortythree.com/products/ogden-lamp?variant=12219407630441
Light #2: https://www.schoolhouse.com/products/simone-double-plug-in-sconce?variant=39424130809900
Nightstand: https://www.etsy.com/listing/1040117397
Laura F. March 2, 2022
So glad they were helpful. And I love your picks. It was a bit of an experiment to include the specific product recommendations in No Space Too Small, but your comment encourages me to include more!
MariLo February 25, 2022
Where is the link for the bookshelves shown in the photo? I find it very odd that they are not mentioned in the article. Can you please provide the link? Thank you!
Laura F. February 26, 2022
Alas, this was custom made for Alisa'a apartment by artisan Patrick Weder of Brooklyn, New York. You could look at Spine bookcases (and the many knock-offs) for a similar look, but not as tall as this one that goes all the way to the ceiling.
sue February 24, 2022
Sue February 24, 2022
Can you give me any information about the brown tribal pillow covers? Such great
economy in the planning of this space!
Louise H. February 24, 2022
Can someone tell me about the nightstand/shelf unit in the photo. Is it a DYI project?? Would love a link to learn about it. Thanks
Laura F. February 26, 2022
Yes, this piece was custom made by artisan Patrick Weder of Brooklyn, New York.
annebrown14 February 23, 2022
I love this post - thank you!! And also love the shelf featured in the top/cover photo. Is there a link, or do you have recommendations to find a similar shelf? I'll be moving into a new apartment with a VERY small bedroom soon, and this looks like it would be perfect as a bedside table/shelf. Thanks!!
Laura F. February 26, 2022
Alas, this was custom made for Alisa'a apartment by artisan Patrick Weder of Brooklyn, New York. You could look at Spine bookcases (and the many knock-offs) for a similar look, but not as tall as this one that goes all the way to the ceiling.
judy February 21, 2022
Have done several of these options. I am in a one rom studio apartment. So learning to optimize space is a must. Ditching th Closet door was a game changer when we did it. Sure clothes are not that exciting to look at when hanging in a closet, nor the stuff on the shelf, but If arranged nicely they are not too bad. And in a small space going for function over esthetic may be the goal anyway. Flat plugs are also a game changer. Not only do they save space, but then the cord coming of the plug is not bent at a 90 degree angle because the space is so tight. Long/ wide shallow storage boxes that can slide under the bed are great. They hold stuff and keep the stuff from getting full of dust and cobwebs. Risers under the legs is an idea I hadn't thought of. That would certainly open up some space. I do have a queen size bed, as there are two of us. but we make it work. We use furniture to define the various spaces in out apartment, and it generally works. I tell folks I have a 6 room apartment with a pantry!
Laura F. February 26, 2022
Love the idea of a 6-room studio! Cheers to living small!