A woman who lived in a 400-sq-ft London apartment showed us how to 'maximalize' a tiny space without making it cluttered

Joey Hadden
·8 min read
Tiara Christian used unique storage opportunities in her 400-square-foot apartment.
Tiara Christian used unique storage opportunities in her 400-square-foot apartment. Courtesy of Tiara Christian
  • Tiara Christian turned her 400-square foot apartment in London into a maximalist mid-century modern home.

  • Christian made the apartment feel larger with mirrors, storage hacks, and plenty of natural light.

  • She recommends small furniture with thin lines to maintain a sense of flow in little living spaces.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

When Tiara Christian's real estate agent recommended a 400-square foot studio in London's Notting Hill neighborhood, she said no way.

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Tiara's apartment before she moved in. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

The ceilings were tall and the windows were big like she liked. And the apartment had a lot of character, especially compared to the other boxy modern builds she was seeing, which all looked the same.

But Christian was put off by its size and the loft bed.

"I'd never considered small space living before, and I was so confused by the bed above the kitchen," Christian said. "I was like, what is this? "

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But when she didn't find another place she liked better, Christian decided to give the tiny apartment a chance. After all, she wanted to live somewhere that looked different.

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Before and after photos show how Christian decorated the space. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"Then I thought 'how can I put my touch on it and make it beautiful?'" Christian said. "And when I felt like I was finished, it was like a breath of fresh air."

Here's how she did it, and her best tips for designing a small space.

With only 400-square feet to work with, Christian had to get creative with how to make her tiny apartment feel like a home that fit her maximalist style.

Tiara Christian in her London apartment with her dog Sweet Potato.
Tiara Christian in her London apartment with her dog Sweet Potato. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

Christian's studio apartment was eclectic, mid-century modern, and borderline maximalist, she says.

"It's boho-chic," she told Insider. "It's more of a calm approach to interior design, but with pops of texture and color to tease the eye and get you excited."

Christian knew she shouldn't invest in a bunch of furniture from the beginning.

"I needed simple pieces that have a function because in that apartment less is more," she said.

Her priority was having enough seating space for plenty of people to hang out, so she opted for a large sectional couch.

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Christian can fit up to eight people on this couch. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"When you're thinking about the couch that you're going to spend a lot of time on, it just needs to be comfy," Christian said.

She says knowing the proportions of your furniture is crucial.

"You really have to think about your floor space," she said. "If you get bulky furniture, you're cutting yourself off from a lot of that room to move and flow which is so important."

From here, that couch looks pretty bulky, but in a small space, you also have to prioritize what's most important to you.

"I prioritize comfort and having friends over. And I'm fine with that," Christian said. "I made that decision."

Christian said her couch is nothing short of comfy. It's deep and it seats eight, and she loves the faux leather look — it pops.

Christian's trunk storing winter boots was the perfect size for her TV to stand on. And her TV fit perfectly under the built-in shelving.

As for the mannequin, Christian, who used to work in fashion, got it from a colleague who no longer needed it.

"I had always dreamed of having a mannequin in my place," she said. "I'll take it everywhere until I'm tired of it."

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To make up for lost space, Christian got bar stools with ultra-thin legs.

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Christian works at the breakfast bar in her London apartment. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"I knew the space was already tight, and I needed it to feel spacious, or else I'm living in a box," Christian said.

So she opted for bar stools with thin legs to keep the space from feeling cluttered.

Christian put pillows on her bar stools to add color and height.

"When I sat on the stools, I thought the height could be just like a smidge higher for that breakfast bar," Christian said. "I just added some pillows to give me an inch and a half of height so I could sit at it properly."

Christian filled the built-in shelves with plants, perfumes, photos, figurines, books, and a mirror to make the room feel larger.

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On Christian's shelves, everything has its place. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

Christian focused on balance and symmetry when filling the built-in shelves.

"I put the tallest things at the top because it's the largest space," Christian said. "Everything has its own place."

But nothing is set in stone.

"I've been on a ladder many times changing these things to make sure that I liked the way it looks," Christian said.

Behind the couch, a mirrored wardrobe amplifies the natural light in the room while making it feel much larger.

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Christian's wardrobe, desk, and additional storage in the apartment. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

Christian's apartment came with the mirrored wardrobe, and she recommends adding mirrors to a small space to amplify natural light and make it feel bigger.

"While dark spaces can be nice, you're going to have a higher electricity bill," she said.

In the left corner, the desk is made of thin lines, and so is the chair.

"The thin lines really help cause you want to see through things to make it feel like you have a full space," Christian said.

The desk chair was her favorite piece in the flat — aside from those chartreuse curtains, which she had custom-made for the tall windows.

Above the wardrobe, Christian stores all her belongings that she doesn't want to be seen in large baskets.

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Christian said the loft bed was the biggest adjustment to living smaller.

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The loft bed was up a ladder above the kitchen. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

The loft bed was the trickiest part.

"I was really struggling with the bed when I first moved in because the stairs are very steep, Christian said. "And it has really high ceilings, so you're climbing up to a really tall space."

For Christian, this was scary. So she got some grip pads for the stairs to keep her from falling.

But once up the steps, the bed offers a great view of the apartment and gardens out the window.

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Christian's apartment had a loft bed. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

The ledge next to the bed served as a nightstand for Christian.

Underneath the stairs, Christian utilized a space with odd angles for her dog's food and water.

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Sweet Potato's food is in this little nook. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"Under the ladder is a very odd space, and I couldn't put a picture there because it was a weird angle," Christian said. "So I thought it could be Sweet Potato's perfect nook since she doesn't need the height."

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In the kitchen, Christian hung up mugs on the wall because she has "way too many" of them.

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Christian's kitchen was only 6 feet tall. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

The challenge in the kitchen was storage space, making Christian rethink how she stores dishes.

The best thing about the kitchen was the deep sink.

"I thought that that was amazing because you're working with less and maximizing the space," Christian said.

In the bathroom, Christian displayed all the pretty products and hid the rest away in cabinets.

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Christian's bathroom in her London apartment. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"I just made sure that everything had a place and looked nice," Christian said of the bathroom shelves.

When deciding what to display, Christian says she is mindful of what she wants to see and how to arrange it so it's functional.

"I spend the most time in there, but I like to look at nice things when I'm in my house," Christian said.

Christian stuck a nail rack on the wall for her collection of polish.

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A close up of Christian's bathroom wall. Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"That was the most exciting thing in my bathroom," Christian said of the nail rack.

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In the shower, Christian got a bath tray to store additional products.

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Christian's bath tray is seen in the apartment shower, Courtesy of Tiara Christian

"It's a nice feature visually, but also it's very handy in the shower because I only had those corners as space," Christian said about the bath tray in the shower.

Since moving out of the small flat, Christian says she misses the floor-to-ceiling windows most.

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Courtesy of Tiara Christian

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