icon How to Separate Your Kitchen and Living Room in a Small Apartment

How to Separate Your Kitchen and Living Room in a Small Apartment

When you move into a small space, you might find yourself struggling to keep everything divided and well-decorated while still keeping the apartment looking spacious and tidy. Even if you're not in a studio, many apartments have an open floor plan that makes it hard to divide the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

This can make it hard to entertain, difficult to organize, and stressful to decorate.

I want to help guide you on separating the kitchen and living room in a small apartment. While some tips will work better for some spaces than others, these should all give you some inspiration so you can "renovate" without having to lose your security deposit. 

Small homes and apartments can be frustrating, but you'll start finding creative ways to make it work with these tips. Keep reading to learn more. 

Use Rugs

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to create a clear distinction between your kitchen and living room is by strategically placing rugs in each area. 

Many apartments that have these kinds of room combinations use one consistent type of flooring. They may have tile or wood that extends from the kitchen into the living space, making it hard to see where one room ends, and the other begins. When a room has some carpeting, it's easier. 

Small gray room with a seating area

If you're not fond of having a rug in your kitchen, start with your living room. Choose a large rug that spans the entire living space, so it's clear that this is a designated room instead of a portion. 

You can also get peel-and-stick flooring. This is a great option for a kitchen as many designs look like linoleum or stone tiles. Make sure that the true floor of the apartment is suited to these peel-and-stick tiles before proceeding. 

Color Block

Using rugs and flooring distinction is one part of a larger concept: color blocking. When you use color to divide a space, you enhance your interior room design while also creating an aesthetic that visually separates the two spaces.

Open living room to dining room and kitchen.  Fireplace is painted bright yellow, sofa is red and there are red accents in the kitchen.

You have options. The first (and easiest) is color blocking with furniture. Use one or two colors for the living area and a different set of one or two colors for the kitchen. This is a great time to incorporate sofa covers and colorful lighting options. 

For a more complicated option, you can use peel-and-stick wallpaper. Most apartments won't allow you to paint, but this wallpaper should be removable. Pick a bold color and wrap it around where you want your living room to be. 

Find Room Dividers

This might seem too simple, but room dividers are a great solution to a space that doesn't offer enough distinction between areas. There are hundreds of options for your dividers, so you can find a set that matches your aesthetic. 

If your apartment is limited to natural light, it's a good idea to find dividers that are at least somewhat transparent. You could use ones made of plexiglass, a stained glass design, or even an almost-opaque wall screen that allows light in a while blocking the other room. 

Natural rounded top screen against a white wall with a mirror in the shape of an eye on the wall.

One of the best things about room dividers is that they're flexible. If you need more space in your kitchen or living room when you're entertaining, or if you need to clear up the room when you're cleaning, you can move them around to more convenient locations.

You can also hang decorations on room dividers sturdy, further giving the "distinct room" look. 

Get a Bar or Island

If you don't mind seeing your kitchen and like the idea of open space without the two living spaces looking like one room, see if you can find a bar or kitchen island that suits your space. 

White kitchen, focus of the photo is a white mobile island in the middle of the kitchen with a vase of flowers and glasses sitting on top.

While most kitchen islands are built into the kitchen itself, many people like to buy external islands for smaller spaces. These islands are generally movable. They have extra storage space, and they provide more room for you to entertain, sit and eat, and cook. In other words, they're not just good for dividing. 

Bars are often more expensive, but they serve the same purpose. 

When you have one of these islands, you can put stools on the side facing the living room, so the spaces seem more separate. 

Use Shelves

Adding shelves is a great way to make your space look more separated. Shelving units divide the space and provide a lot of storage and room for decorations. You can use tall shelves or short shelves depending on how separate you want the rooms to look. 

You have several options when it comes to using shelves effectively. It's a good idea to use shelves with open backs. While you'll still be able to see through to the other "room," you also won't have the problem of one room having a blank "wall" while the other has a shelf with decorations. 

Open shelving with books on it helping to divide up a large living room space.

Having open shelves may also be a more sturdy option, so you don't have to worry as much about the shelves falling over. 

On your shelves, you can place your standard books and tchotchkes (this is a great place to put cookbooks!), or you can put plants on the shelves for a tasteful and modern living room design. 

Try to keep your shelves tidy. While intentional clutter is okay, when you clutter up your shelves too much, you end up making both "rooms" look messy.  

Use Curtains Indoors

While a sliding door isn't a great option for renters, you can use indoor curtains to divide your living room and kitchen. They're easy to remove, they come in designs for every aesthetic, and they're great for when you want to combine the spaces from time to time because you can pull them to the side. 

Your biggest problem here will be finding a curtain rod that's large enough to go between your walls. These rods exist, but they're often expensive and hard to track down.

You can make your own with a wooden dowel, plastic tubing, or plenty of other affordable and easy-to-find materials when in doubt.

White curtains that reach a wooden floor.

Ensure you look at your lease or talk to your landlord to determine if you're allowed to drill into the wall before putting up your curtains. If not, you're going to want ones that hold themselves up with pressure. 

When it comes to your curtain choice, you don't have to commit to one set. If you want a complete divide, opaque blackout curtains are great. If you're okay with a more subtle divide, sheer curtains look dainty and neat in any room design. 

One of the best things about using curtains as dividers is that you can swap them out for the seasons. They're affordable enough that you can have multiple sets, so when it's time to change up the living room's look, you can do it in a matter of minutes. 

If you choose to use curtains to divide your space, adding lights to the dowel or rod (like some string light set) adds more visual interest to the room. 

Re-Arrange Your Furniture

If you don't want to stress out over dividers that block one room from the other, you can arrange your furniture to look at a faux divide instead. 

As we mentioned before, when you put stools on the side of a kitchen island or bar that faces the living room, you create a mock divide because people's backs will be facing the other room. 

You can do this with your other furniture as well. 

Close up of a rendered floor plan showing an open living room, dining room and kitchen.

If you have a long couch, arrange it with the back facing the kitchen. Arrange any chairs in a square or circle, all with their backs turned outward. This makes an intentional divide between the rooms and makes it, so you need to "enter" the living room through spaces between each piece of furniture. 

It's also a good idea to put a tall and long coffee or hallway table against the back of the couch. You can add decorations to it to further block off the rooms. 

This is also a great time to incorporate a small dining area between the two living spaces if you have some extra room. It's normal in larger homes to have the dining room between the kitchen and the living room, which may trick your brain into feeling like the two areas are separate. 

That's How to Separate the Kitchen and Living Room In a Small Apartment

Figuring out how to separate the kitchen and living room in a small apartment is tricky. Not all of these tips will work in every home, but they should give you some good ideas to start with. 

You can make a small and cramped room design look more spacious and distinct by giving the illusion of two separate rooms. Why not give it a try? 

If you're looking for a professional interior designer to improve your home designs, I want to help you. Whether you want a new home office, a fresh kitchen, or a design overhaul, we can work together to create your ideal living space. Contact me so we can get started on your next project!

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