We urbanites learned our lesson, whether it was the easy or hard way – the lesson that our new city dwelling isn't exactly rich on space. I remember drawing out my room plan after settling on my first apartment in Chicago. What was I thinking? I’m not quite sure why I thought that my closet of a space deserved a blueprint. Somehow when I left I remembered it being a whole lot bigger than it actually was. My little drawing included a desk and dresser, a queen size bed and sitting chair. In reality, that room held a twin bed and a desk. That was when I learned that it was no longer about quantity but quality.

Small Space Sweet Style

Having moved several times since, I've gotten a whole lot better at the game - the game of making a small space still look chic.

Less really is more: If you’re like most Americans, you acquired a whole lot of junk throughout your life. From your childhood knickknacks to your teenage posters and college memorabilia. You've got picture frames of every moment in between, a beanbag and a ton of nearly finished candles. Get rid of it. If it’s got sentimental value then store it, if not, toss it. Small spaces mean that every single thing has to count. Ask yourself:

  • Does this item have a true purpose?

  • Does this item add style to my space and if so, is it congruent with the look I want?

  • Does this item take up too much space? Does it stick out like a sore thumb?

Taking a solid inventory of your items while answering these questions truthfully can most likely lead to a whole lot less stuff and with that – boom! More space, more room for style.

Modern Eye for the Shabby Chic Eye: For all you fans of shabby chic, fear not! You can still do the less is more approach even though you may think cottage cozy means more stuff. Nope. You can still do cozy with a modern touch.

  • Choose pale colors for the walls like baby blue or just stick to white.

  • Hang as little on the walls as possible, you’ll be able to keep your cozy throw pillows and slightly oversized furniture as long as it’s not competing with too many wall hangings behind them.

  • Mix and mash classic with new like toile patterns for the shabby chic touch with retro modern pieces like a Jonathan Adler mid-century chair.

Make Everything Count: You've got to get creative with every piece in your place in order to maximize space. That means everything must have a function. Small items need to add style and large items need to help you sit, sleep, eat or study. That doesn't mean they have to be boring tables, beds and shelves, other items can serve as storage units too. Consider these ideas:

  • Stack vintage suitcases to serve as a stylish table, use them to store items that you want to keep but do not need frequent access to.

  • Ditch coffee tables for ottomans with storage.

  • Daybeds or trundle beds are an instant fix for more options for guests.

  • Go custom: If you can’t find the shelving unit that fits your teeny space then hire a newbie contractor to custom make it. You’d be surprised how quickly they can whip up a unit for you that’s just right. You’d also be surprised to learn that custom can still be cheaper than your favorite furniture shops.

Choose one surprise color: The key to giving your small space a look of consistency, which will make it feel professionally designed, is a recurring pop-up color. In order to make this work:

  • The recurring item needs to be used in as many different ways as possible, not just rugs, walls and furniture.

  • Use the pop-up color with items like a couple of throw pillows (more than two becomes overkill), a couple of frames a vase and a rug.

  • Utilize different textures, fabrics and patterns with the theme color. For example, if the throw pillow is coral zigzags, the rug can be white with a coral border while the frames can be coral polka dots. The color is what unites them, not the patterns.

Finally, take pictures of your space. This allows you to see your space in a new light; you may just notice what doesn’t belong. You’ll see your space as a spread in a magazine rather than your humble abode and quickly feel your inner interior designer coming alive.

This is a guest post from Courtney Lochner. Courtney writes for Glamour Magazine, Société Perrier, Europe From a Backpack Travel Guides, The Budget Fashionista and much more. Based out of Chicago she is is also frequently found in Paris, Krakow or Rio and almost always, with a glass of wine in hand. Follow her @courtneylochner.