Many renters in New York and San Francisco share the same plight: to get the benefit of big city living, they're stuck in tiny apartments that don't always feel comfortable. Moving may not be an easy option, especially when larger spaces blow through the budget possibilities much too quickly.
Renting in a big city, in other words, can be a challenge. That doesn't mean it's an impossible challenge. In fact, a number of tips can help you outfit your apartment in a way that maximizes the space, and one way to accomplish that feat is through decoration with mirrors.
You might think of a mirror as a functional element that helps you get ready in the morning. In fact, its uses can go far beyond that basic function. Consider these 7 ways in which mirrors can create more space, or the appearance of more space, in your small rental unit.
1) Improve the Natural Light in Your Space
First, and perhaps most importantly, you can use mirrors to amplify the natural light that enters your space through windows. Especially in large cities, the lack of natural light can be a major issue. A mirror is your way to make sure that beautiful sunlight gets into every room.
To accomplish that feat, place the mirror on a wall where most of your sunlight falls. Often, the answer is the wall opposite your south-facing window, but that's not always the case. A few days of scouting tend to help you find that space, and a portable mirror can help you try out different angles.
Placed in the right spot, mirrors can actually add the effect of a second window in the space. The sunlight reflecting from them, especially when placed next to plants, allow for not just additional light but also a sense of space that you could not otherwise get.
2) Enlarge a Tight Hallway
Improving the natural light is especially helpful in areas like your living space. Of course, especially older rental units without open floor plans often come with tight hallways that are required just to get from one room to the next, but a pain to navigate.
A mirror might not help in that navigation issue, but it can make you feel less claustrophobic as you do so. Especially a long mirror placed on its side against the narrow wall allows you to give anyone in the space a sense of doubling the space.
Just like that, a tight hallway - which may be the first impression you and your visitors get as you walk in the front door - becomes a bit less problematic. You can even combine this tip with the above, catching natural light through an open door to reduce your reliance on lamps in the space.
3) Double the Size of Your Bedroom
Let's keep moving through the apartment. Depending on your space, you might have just enough room in your bedroom for the bed itself, but little else. That doesn't tend to be a comfortable arrangement, especially not if you feel that the walls are constantly closing in on you.
Now, consider the alternative. A mirror, strategically placed behind your bed, accomplishes a sense of space that (short of blowing through a wall) you could not get otherwise. Place it right above your headboard or, if you don't have one, about 3 feet above the edge of the mattress.
Crucially, you should avoid placing the mirror anywhere close to the ceiling. A mirror that reflects the ceiling can actually make a space feel smaller, achieving an effect that's opposite of what you intended. Whether it's in your bedroom or any other space in the house, always think wall over bedroom to make the right choice.
4) Amplify Your Lamps
Natural light obviously matters in creating space and depth where there is little to be found otherwise. At the same time, it will always be limited, in the evenings, on a cloudy day, or simply as an addition to the natural light, chances are you want and need plenty of lamps in your rental unit as well.
Here is a secret: any lamp is an opportunity for a mirror. Place it right behind the bulb or lamp shade, and you can amplify its light in a way that naturally makes the space feel larger. The effect is the same whether you place it behind an end table lamp, a large floor lamp, or even a natural spot for a candle, the effect tends to be the same.
Placed in the right spot, the light you get through the mirror can begin to feel almost natural. With this simple placement, you don't just add a sense of additional space but also create interesting new ways to showcase the light. In other words, it's a perfect decorational piece as well as a functional item.
5) Use a Mirror Behind Furniture
It might seem counterintuitive to place a large mirror behind a large piece of furniture. In reality, the effect you get can be absolutely mesmerizing and surprisingly effective. Place them right, and these types of mirrors become an invaluable help in building space and a sense of purpose.
Consider an entry console as an example: in a tight hallways as described above, it easily feels like clutter. Add a mirror behind it, and you add a sense of purpose about the function as well as the aesthetic of the piece. And naturally, the reflection of the mirror further adds to the depth of space you're trying to create.
To get to that effect, you have to be careful. Choose only mirrors that are the same length as your furniture. Ideally, they should be floor-length to ensure a consistent look, and be a few feet taller than the piece itself. That way, they accentuate the furniture without seeming overbearing or superfluous.
6) Consider a Mirror in Your Closet
Not all the mirrors in your rental unit need to go into the open spaces. Consider the opportunities you have with one of the doors that tends to get the most cluttered feel: your closet. Especially in a small space, it can be difficult to avoid that sense of clutter anytime you open the closet door. A mirror can at least help alleviate that pain.
A small bedroom with a closet can mean that anytime the door is open, it takes up all the space you have in the room. Add a mirror, and the problem seems much less significant. As another added benefit, placing the mirror you use to get ready in the morning on the inside of the door means not having to take up space elsewhere in the room.
And of course, it's a perfect spot for the mirror to begin with. Adding it to your closet mirrors function, style, and added value for your space in a way that even most other alternatives in this article simply cannot.
7) Turn Your Mirror into a Backsplash
Finally, especially if you have tried out all of the above options or simply don't feel comfortable with them, it might be time to go bold. Mirrors, placed right, can actually become a core part of your kitchen in a way that you or any visitors might not expect.
We all know the plight of small kitchens in a tight rental unit. If you want all the necessary appliances and storage space, you probably won't have much more than standing room. Again, a mirror won't be able to solve all of these issues, but it can brighten up the space and make it feel larger.
The right backsplash can make under-counter lighting look beautiful, but it works just as well without it. Yes, you might look at yourself while cooking - but you'll also look at all of the space around you, rather than a solid tile wall. And of course, mirrored backsplashes tend to be easily to clean, making them perfect for busy renters.
From Mirrors to a Great Rental Space in the City of Your Dreams
Maybe you're moving to San Francisco to fulfill a lifelong dream, or maybe you just have to move into New York for your next job. Either way, your apartment choices will be limited. Mirrors can go a long way towards improving your space, making you feel less boxed-in and more comfortable in your own four walls.
Of course, finding the right space is still an important part of the equation. Mirrors can only solve so much if the rental unit you've moved into simply doesn't fit your needs. A landlord who allows you to decorate the space and maybe even put some holes in the wall without risking your security deposit can add to that comfort.
In major cities as in most other areas, the match between the right space and the best way to decorate it has to be there. Mirrors can help you take care of one half of the equation. Contact us to learn more about the other half, and optimize your space for your specific needs and preferences over time.
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.