Small Apartment Decorating: How to Add Color Without Overwhelming Your Space

If you’re working with 700 square feet or less, you might be wondering how to add color during your small apartment decorating sessions. With less space, most apartment renters might be a little wary of going overboard. However, there are lots of subtle and creative ways to give your apartment some pizzazz without veering off into tackiness — or worse–clutter.

Small Apartment Decorating How to Add Color Without Being Overwhelming

I’ve lived in the same place in Chicago for three years, and it’s pretty small. Like most apartments in larger cities, many of the rooms got the short end of the stick when it comes to square footage, and most of the walls are painted in a rather bland eggshell-looking hue. To keep the place from looking “blah,” I had to really fine-tune my small apartment decorating skills.

Here are some key things I’ve learned:


When it comes to color, there are a lot of approaches you can venture into, but one of my faves is the monochromatic approach. Not only is this excellent for perfectionists (everything looks just so), but it also allows you to shop for decorations a lot more easily.

Small Apartment Decorating How to Add Color Without Being Overwhelming - Go For a One-Color Scheme

To do this, keep the rug, paint color (if you get the OK from your landlord) and decorations all in the same general hue. You can fluctuate a bit with the exact shades you’re working with, but keeping a one-color approach can really open up the space and make your apartment look bigger than it actually is– and what renter doesn’t want that?


Need to add color and visual interest with knick-knacks and picture frames, but lack the space for a bulky bookcase, armoire or dresser? Try installing floating shelves. You can find some pretty inexpensive setups at places like IKEA, and they add a lot of visual depth and color to any space.

Small Apartment Decorating How to Add Color Without Being Overwhelming - Floating Shelves

Best of all, they can be installed in practically any room in the house, from your office to the bathroom. According to Real Simple, floating shelves can also replace nightstands if you have a tiny bedroom as well.


If you’re stuck with plain white walls, you can still add pops of color in your small apartment decorating scheme. Simply hang some show posters, frame your favorite vinyl albums, or arrange your books in the case so that many different hues pop through.

Small Apartment Decorating How to Add Color Without Being Overwhelming - Let Your Media So the Talking

The best part about this idea is that in most cases, this is going to cost you next to nothing. Secondly, it really does let you showcase your personality in a subtle and colorful way– plus, they’re great conversation starters when you throw parties! Books and vinyl in particular reflect a lot of natural light, which also opens up the space.


Oh, accent walls. I don’t think I’ve seen one that I didn’t like. Your landlord might not be so keen with having you paint the entire place. But chances are, he or she would be OK with painting one accent wall, so this is a very doable thing for small apartment decorating.

Small Apartment Decorating How to Add Color Without Being Overwhelming - Accent Walls

However, if you are going to paint an accent wall, try to go for one in a soothing shade– hues like red and yellow might be a bit jarring visually, especially for bedrooms where you need to relax. A lighter teal, pale pink or even forest green could offer a soothing and peaceful feel to the space while still adding color. Make sure you get written permission from your landlord before painting!


Another way to add color to a small apartment is to allow your furniture and artwork create a harmonious flow with your decor. For instance, my living room has a pretty basic decorating scheme with lots of neutral shades, but I do have a very colorful Bob Dylan show poster that hangs above the fireplace that really does shine over almost everything else in the room.

Small Apartment Decorating How to Add Color Without Being Overwhelming - Add Flair with Dramatic Artwork or Furniture

This same concept can work with your furniture. Let’s say you go vintage shopping and fall in love with a ’60s-era mint-green sofa. As fabulous as it is, it might not only clash with your current decorating scheme, but it might also look tacky if you already have a lot of stuff in your living room. In these cases, you really want to keep all of the other decorations simple and streamlined, and let the sofa’s colorful retro charm shine through.

Adding color to a tiny apartment isn’t easy, but there are a few standard rules that can help you create a tasteful and gorgeous color scheme no matter what your square footage situation is.