HOW TO: Make a Big Impact in a Tiny Apartment

In WeWork interior designer Justin DiPiero’s New York City apartment, time stands still—or perhaps it never existed in the first place. “I like mixing art, artifacts, and furnishings from any period in time,” says DiPiero, who describes his style as “of-no-time.”

But even if eras aren’t a constraint, space is, especially in DiPiero’s 400-square-foot apartment. He shared his best small living room design ideas with us, plus a few photos for decor inspiration.

What was your vision for decorating your apartment? How did that change once you got into the process?

I really wanted this apartment to be a warm and cozy respite from the city. Somewhere where I could come home and feel comfortable just nesting. I was inspired by some of my favorite Meg Ryan films that take place in New York, like When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. The ‘90s apartments that her characters inhabited have always immediately made me feel safe and comfortable, so I set out to make my space feel the same way. I didn’t want a space where I just existed; I wanted it to have a story as well.

Photo by Claire Esparros


What was your process in choosing the Maxwell sofa in Pebble Weave Linen? How did you decide?

Since it is a small New York apartment, I knew I wanted a sofa to anchor the space and set the tone right away. The Maxwell was perfect because it combined everything about my personal styles. It was a more traditional shape, but updated and modernized. I completely fell in love with its turned legs, deep seat, and clean silhouette. The rolled arms kept it a little bit formal, but by using the Pebble Weave [in] Linen, it became a cozy and not-so-stuffy addition to the living room.

What are your five best tips for maximizing a studio or other small space? These might be tricks you used in your own space, in a client’s space, or that you’ve seen in a friend’s space.

  1. Definitely don’t be afraid of dark colors. They tend to recede from the eye, and in turn, can make the space feel larger. I painted the wall of my living room a dark green that makes the focal wall push out, away from the eye.
  2. Use multipurpose furniture, or furniture that has storage. I actually have used my curtains to hide my vacuum cleaner :)  It’s important to think of dual purposes when choosing furniture and finishes.
  3. Create lift. Open up floor space by  using furniture with exposed legs. The Maxwell with its turned legs is perfect for this, keeping the space feeling light and airy.
  4. Use mirrors to reflect light into the space and keep it bright.
  5. Use bigger, but fewer amounts of furniture. Don’t be afraid of using big pieces. If you use all small or apartment-sized pieces, it will emphasize the fact that your place is too tiny!
Photo by Claire Esparros

Your living room is full of charm: gallery wall, printed drapes and throw pillows, shearling ottoman. I imagine finding just the right balance between abundant and crowded would be difficult for someone without your expertise. What advice would you give them to keep things in check?

Stick with a consistent color scheme. I use a lot of neutrals as a base (white walls, save the accent [wall]; linen sofa, shearling accents). Then I add color on top of that, sticking with greens and pinks.

Also, I would suggest to only use things that you really love. Things that inherently mean something to you. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then let it go. It will only add visual clutter.

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