multifunctional head

Multifunctional furniture is an efficient use of space in small apartments, and some pieces can also be a great way to hide the less-than-beautiful but still necessary items in your home. These solutions can be as simple or as complex (and expensive) as you want, and there are DIY options for all of them.

Popular space-saving pieces of furniture

There are always going to be innovative techniques to create more utility with one piece of furniture that most people haven’t seen before, but the solutions below are the staples of small apartments for a good reason.

Box benches

Benches are a simple, effective solution because they’re very straightforward, and you can easily build one yourself. The idea is to use a more or less box shape that has storage room on the inside, with a top that is strong enough to support human weight. Pillows or a cushion on top create a surface for seating. House Updated has an extensive post on building an entryway bench with cubbies for storage.

Murphy wall-mounted bed [via whiteknuckled]

Murphy wall-mounted bed [via whiteknuckled]

Murphy (wall) beds

Probably one of the archetypes of small space dwelling and visions of 200-square foot Manhattan apartments, Murphy beds can be pulled back and upward to lie flat against a wall when not in use. This frees up a lot of floor space, but these beds also require some extensive carpentry work to properly install, meaning they’re probably not an option for renters, and they’re fairly expensive if you have one custom-made. If you build one yourself, parts and frames are available on Ebay at lower prices than most furniture stores will have.

To fulfill their purpose as a space-saver, wall beds also require manual lowering and raising (with pillows and any heavy blankets placed elsewhere). Make sure you’re willing to do this chore daily before you make the commitment, or else you’ve essentially paid a lot more than necessary for a normal bed.

Futons and sofa sleepers

It seems straightforward, right? It’s essentially a mattress that bends in the middle and can be propped up to hold the shape of a couch with no armrests, but getting a comfortable futon is difficult and dependent almost entirely on the quality of the mattress used. If at all possible, you should test the one you’re considering out in real life. More expensive sleepers should have better-quality padding that won’t make your sleep uncomfortable. Target’s futon selection is pretty expansive, and a lot of theirs are also sold at their stores so you can at least sit down on them before buying anything.

Antique trunk as coffee table [via Deann Barrera]

Antique trunk as coffee table [via Deann Barrera]

Trunks as stands and coffee tables

Flat-topped trunks can make a great flat surface for decorative items or as a coffee table. Many small space dwellers have renovated antique trunks to get a unique and often inexpensive coffee table. This post shows one of countless examples of chest-to-coffee table DIY projects.

Loft beds

If creating floor space where there was none before counts as a multipurpose furniture option, lofting your bed can make a huge difference. Though loft beds may conjure up images of children’s rooms, full and queen-sized mattresses can be lofted with a sturdy-enough furniture design. If you’re interested in this solution, check out our post on loft beds for more details.

Note: Not a solution for everyone

There’s a reason people with larger spaces tend not to use a lot of multi-purpose pieces: in general, furniture can serve either two purposes adequately, or one purpose perfectly. Be prepared for the reality that your futon isn’t going to be as soft as a thick mattress, your bench isn’t going to be as comfortable as a sofa, etc. However, as long as you understand this, many small home dwellers find the trade-off more than worth it!