Home Tour: Living In And Loving Our Small Apartment!

It’s finally here, today is the day I welcome you all into our home! We live in a small one-bedroom apartment in Chicago, so we don’t have tons of space, everything is a bit smushed together, and it’s really cozy whenever we have guests over…but we make it work. The lack of space didn’t stop us from turning this tiny apartment into a home we love to live in!

So let’s start in the kitchen!

Practically Functional Home Tour:  Living in and loving a small apartment!

It may seem a bit silly to start in the kitchen rather than outside the front door, but we don’t have a porch or anything pretty and our front door is just a plain black door off the second story landing of our apartment building, and it’s pretty boring. Plus we almost never use our front door anyway! We use the door in the kitchen that leads out to the alley behind the apartment about 95% of the time, so this is the first room we see most days, and therefore it’s the first room on the tour!

This kitchen is what made me fall in love with this apartment when we were looking a few years ago. It’s a galley kitchen with counters on both sides, so it’s nice and big with lots of counter space! The last apartment we were in had 2 feet of counter space (no joke!), so cooking in this kitchen is a huge improvement!

Practically Functional Home Tour:  Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Wallpapered cabinets  //  Towel bar as a pot lid holder

I just finished wallpapering the cabinets a few weeks ago, and I think it makes a huge difference in the kitchen. The whole room feels a lot brighter and cheerier now! And yes, that is a pallet down there at the end near the back door. I’m using it as a “lumber rack” right now to store odd bits of wood I have leftover from my projects, because we don’t have a basement or a garage!

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Rustic Pallet Shelf  //  Herb Drying Rack  //  Built-In Craft Desk

At the other end of the kitchen is the dine-in area, but we don’t ever actually use that space for dining. It’s basically my “craft room”! And yes, I hoard glass bottles of all shapes and sizes! And because I haven’t yet found them a better home, they live on top of our portable dishwasher. :-)

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Built-In Craft Desk  //  Summer Flower Bunting  //  Herb Drying Rack

When we first moved in we put our small dining table in that space, but we never really used it for eating. So I used it for crafting!. And, to tell you the truth, we still eat like college students, either on the couch watching TV or at our individual desks while we work on our computers, so the lack of an official dining space didn’t bother us that much! When we realized that, we got rid of the dining table and I built a giant craft desk into the space. And it’s so much more functional than that round table! Plus the white color helps to brighten up the kitchen even more!

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Built-In Craft Desk  //  Indoor Herb Garden

Looking back into the dining area/craft room you can see some of my plants in the windows! We have six little potted herbs that make up our indoor herb garden, and they live in the three kitchen windows.

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

JM’s desk is the first thing you see when you walk in to the living room from the kitchen, and as you turn to the left you can see the rest of the room and my desk in the corner near the window.

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Living Room Refresh On A Budget  //  DIY Magnetic White Board  //  DIY Clock Makeover  //  Disney Countdown Blocks

We just recently refreshed this living room as part of a challenge for Better Homes & Gardens, and I’m loving how it turned out! We got rid of the big red rug under the coffee table and put a brown slipcover on the red couch, and the room feels much bigger and brighter now! It’s still a little cluttered just because the space is small and we have a lot of stuff, but it’s so much more open without that rug!

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Living Room Makeover On A Budget  //  DIY Cat Climbing Shelves

Plus the brown slipcover really helps make the room less red and yellow!

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: How To Stencil A Wall  //  Photo Transfers Made Easy  //  DIY Laundry Drying Rack

This is the view looking at the room from the front door of the apartment. It’s sort of bare when you look at it this way, but you can pretty much see the entire apartment from right here, so I figured it was worth including so you get an idea of the size of our apartment. The closet behind JM’s desk is SUPER messy right now, so I just slid both doors shut for the photo. But the cat’s litter box is in the closet so we usually leave one door open so they can get in and out. The black rubber mat is really kinda ugly, but it works so well to keep the litter box area clean that I’m totally willing to deal with it being an eyesore. :-)

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Keeping The Litter Box Area Clean

The little hallway leads to the bathroom, bedroom, and linen closet. I stenciled a few dandelions on the wall last year, but when they installed the electric heaters in the apartment a few months ago, they had to cut a hole in that wall to install them. After they fixed the hole, they painted over part of the dandelions and I haven’t gotten around to touching it up yet. :-)

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: DIY Laundry Drying Rack

The bedroom is straight ahead, the bathroom is on the right, and the door on the left is a linen closet. It turns out that I’m allergic to our cats (oops! Didn’t know that when we adopted them!) so we have to keep them out of our bedroom so they don’t shed all over my pillow and so they don’t run around like banshees at night while we’re trying to sleep. We tried for a while to just keep the bedroom door shut, but it got too hot and stuffy in there since we only have the one little window A/C unit in the living room. So we bought a screen door from a hardware store, got a few hinges, and installed it right onto the door frame! Now we can keep the cats out while still allowing some air flow into the room. (It’s really ugly unfinished wood, I know…yet another project I just haven’t gotten around to yet!)

Off to the left is the linen closet.

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

When we first moved in it was completely bare, literally just a closet with no shelves or anything. So we went to the hardware store and bought a few adjustable shelves and brackets and made our own “custom shelving unit” so we could take advantage of the vertical space in the closet. I organized the upper shelves with some black plastic baskets and put a small wire shelving unit on the ground to store linens.

I have a mini gift wrapping station on the back of the closet door where I hung our gift wrap and ribbons etc. and the long skinny fabric thing is a plastic bag holder that my grandmother made. We live right in the middle of Chicago, so we don’t have a car, and we don’t need one! We use that little roll-y cart whenever we do “big” shopping trips, and other than that we usually just grab a reusable bag or two and carry stuff home in them whenever we make a quick run to the corner store or farmer’s market.

Opposite the linen closet is the bathroom.

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: DIY Wall-Mounted Storage Cups

Our bathroom is probably my favorite room because it’s the only one in our entire apartment that is actually decorated with purpose! I’m not very good at interior design, but I think because the bathroom is such a small space, I was able to “decorate” and make it all match and coordinate without feeling overwhelmed. :-)

Also, I love the bathroom because there’s a window in the shower! The window is frosted, don’t worry, but it still lets in a TON of light, which makes the whole room bright.

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: DIY Wall-Mounted Storage Cups  //  Bath Shelf From A Pallet

However, that pedestal sink is the bane of my existence!!! I’m so used to being able to store stuff under the sink, but not in this bathroom. Except for the tiny cabinet behind the mirror there is zero storage space. So we bought a wire shelf stand for behind the toilet and it has helped immensely. I wrote a post rounding up 18 storage ideas for small bathrooms and I definitely need to implement a few more of those, but for now that shelf is really helping! Plus I can store the bath shelf I made from a pallet right next to it so it’s always handy whenever I want to take a bath. Perfect!

At the end of the hallway is our bedroom.

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

This room is definitely NOT “decorated” at all. The nightstands and lamps are bright red, my dresser is black, JM’s dresser is white, and the closet bar and shelf that I installed in the room are still plain, untreated wood. But, remember the brown and blue color scheme in the bathroom? Well I did at least get matching bed linens! One of these days I’ll get the entire apartment coordinating with itself. :-)

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Embroidered Map Art

We put the bed on risers in order to give us some more storage space underneath; you can see a few framed photos peeking out from underneath. We actually just rearranged this room recently… The bed used to be up against the wall on the right, and the embroidered map of our honeymoon was centered above it. But we moved the bed against the other wall and now the map looks kinda lonely over there by itself and the wall above the bed is totally bare and boring. But that’s where the framed photos come in! There are actually nine of them and they are all Ansel Adams photos (love!!!) that JM’s mother sent us a few months back. We haven’t found time to hang them up yet, but we’re planning to fill that space above the bed with those beauties when we get a few free minutes!

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

In this photo: Craft Supply Organization  //  Tin Can Snowman  //  Fall Wreath Chandelier  //  Painted Birch Bark Vase

At the foot of our bed is my craft storage area. Yes, JM lets me keep all of my craft supplies in our bedroom because he is the best husband ever!!! All of my craft supplies that aren’t in the built-in craft desk or the living room closet are here, plus I use these shelves to store some out of season decor (hello little snowman!) until it’s time to put that stuff out again.

Our bedroom is just a room with four walls; it doesn’t have any built-in closets, so I made my own!

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

(You guys should have seen this side of the room a month ago…I have a serious shoe addiction and they were overflowing so I couldn’t even walk up to the bed! I donated about half of my shoes last month, but there are still a ton left on the ground here, in a hanging shoe rack you can just barely see on the left edge of the photo, and out in the living room in the shoe rack next to the bookcase. I have a problem!)

I should really put up a full tutorial post on this closet bar and shelf, but it was before I started blogging so I don’t have any pictures of the “before” or the process! We obviously did not want to hang our clothes in the main closet in the living room or in the linen closet, so we decided to just install our own closet bar. We bought a dowel and a long wooden board from a hardware store, found some studs in the wall, and installed it using L brackets and dowel holders.

The big blue buckets have things like duvet covers, winter clothes, extra pillows, and holiday decor in them. I labeled them with little Post-It notes so that we don’t have to pull all four down each winter when we need to switch out the clothes in our closet! (That, by the way, is another totally foreign concept to me! Growing up in CA I wore jeans and a t-shirt 365 days a year, and in the winter I maybe threw a sweatshirt on at nights when it got a little cold. Now I have two entirely different sets of clothes for summer and for winter. And because the bedroom is tiny, I only have room for one set in my dresser at a time, so twice a year we pull the blue buckets down, pack away the summer clothes or winter clothes, and pull out the other set. Crazy stuff!)

Practically Functional Home Tour: Living in and loving a small apartment!

The other end of the closet bar and shelf are attached to the side of this giant closet thing we found at IKEA. Please ignore the horribly messy shelves above the baskets! We’re still working on getting this room completely reorganized, and right now those shelves and the boxes on top of the wardrobe are just full of “stuff”!

And that’s it! That’s all 650 square feet of our tiny apartment home; it’s small, but we love it! I hope you guys enjoyed getting a little peek into our apartment.


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Hi, I'm Jessi! Welcome to Practically Functional, a blog about real projects that real people can actually do! You don't have to be a pro in order to craft or do DIY projects; Practically Functional is full of projects for everyday life that anyone can do, regardless of skill or experience! Whether you're looking for fun crafts, DIY projects both big and small, gardening advice, cleaning tips, or quick and easy recipes, you'll find them here! Follow the step by step instructions in every tutorial, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions! Make sure you subscribe to free weekly emails so you don't miss a single tutorial!

Latest posts by Jessi Wohlwend (see all)


  1. Zografia says

    I am a big fan of small spaces. Clever storage is the key! Plus one can clean and tidy these cute homes in no time!!!!!!

  2. Debra @ msmoozysopenhouse.com says

    Thanks for sharing, I love how you make the most out of apt living. Very smart. Have a blessed day! :-)

  3. Bambi Mayer says

    Very clever use of small spaces! I know how challenging it is (I share your shoe addiction). I especially love the little bottle holder above the door next to your craft desk (liquor cabinet???). Thanks for the tour.

  4. laura@Top This Top That says

    I love chicago!! I remember my husband and I living on our boat for 10 months. I miss those days…quaint and cozy and less to clean. Thanks for having us over.

  5. says

    So sweet! Thanks for sharing your home….you are reallllly using your space well! You’ve packed in a lot of storage in a tiny space.


  6. says

    Thanks for the tour! You’ve made great use of the space. I especially love your craft room in the dining area. I am with you, my dining room table functions more as a craft table than as a place to eat. Looking forward to meeting you at Haven!!

  7. says

    I love small cozy spaces, I think they are my favorite spaces to see designed and decorated. You have a lovey apartment that truly does feel like a home. I should have taken the tour in person, since we are practically neighbors :)

  8. says

    How fun to see your home! Our first house was a little over 6oo sq ft as well and very cozy :)
    I had to smile as I’m reading through, because i recognized so many of your projects, even without seeing the links you placed in. And I’m really sad that your dandelions were messed up, they were one of my favorite projects that you did :)

    • says

      I know! The poor dandelions! And I just feel really bad about it because it’s simple enough to fix; I still have the paint and stencil, I just haven’t gotten around to it. :-)

  9. KATHYSUE says

    Jessi, You have really done a great job of utilizing ever inch of space in your apartment. Great organization!!

  10. jenny@birdsandsoap says

    I love the screen door on your bedroom! So smart. Our cat and dog get wild and run laps at like 3 am; that would be nice to keep the cat from peeling out on top of me at night. I love your closet! I think my bedroom is the same size and I have been contemplating a built-in wall unit for years. We have a small closet, but my husband gets the whole thing. I use crappy dressers. Would love some tall overhead storage!

  11. says

    I love all the little homey and DIY things you have throughout your home to make it warm and cozy and inviting.

    Living in smaller spaces is challenging, and you met the challenge for sure!

    I love you two realized you just didn’t use or need your formal dining room and made it into a craft area – so clever and smart – space is precious and you fixed it right for YOU!

    So happy you shared with all of us, thank you!

  12. Katie says

    This is such a fun little blog tour! I love the peek into your home. ^_^ It’s cool to see all the different individual projects actually living together in the space.

  13. says

    There is nothing at all wrong with small spaces when you have used clever ideas for storage, which you have done. It is a very cute apartment and you have certainly decorated it and utilized it to the max. Good job!

  14. Scribbler says

    You are a wizard at organizing! Your idea of using a screen door to keep the cats out and keep the air circulation going is brilliant!

    Thanks for the tour.

  15. says

    Jessi, your home reminds me of when my daughter lived in Chicago a few years ago. She had a teeny tiny studio in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. She had a window in the shower too and I loved her bathroom. You’ve made great use of your cozy space!

  16. says

    I love this, Jessi! My husband is from the Quad Cities in IL/IA and we lived in a small apartment building. We had lots of theater friends from Chicago and I know it’s unbelievably high rent! I love that you showed how you used every inch of your space, and I’m so happy you joined us on the tour!

  17. Anita says

    Love your home and I can see you have quite a talent for making use of every small space. Great storage ideas!!

  18. Crystal says

    Thank you so much for the tour of your lovely home. You have done a great job on it. I love how you utilize the space.

  19. says

    Thanks for the tour Jessi! You’ve got so many great ideas for that small space. Definitely can tell that you both are happy there. And what’s not to love about Chicago? (except the weather, maybe)

  20. says

    I love the idea of showcasing your home! I cant wait to check out the others. The wallpaper in your kitchen cabinets looks awesome. Great job

  21. Jazmin @ Frugality Gal says

    Such a sweet space. I love your craft area in the kitchen and the balance ball chair in your home office.

  22. says

    I love how you’ve made use of every square inch of your space. I didn’t realize until reading this that you live in Chicago. My husband grew up there!

    Thanks so much for sharing at Throwback Thursday.

  23. Kestrel says

    My goodness, you are STUFFED to the gills in there! Our first apartment (we called it “the compartment”) was itty bitty but we didn’t have as much stuff then as now. 16 years later (and about 6 apartments/rental houses) we bought the house that outlives our needs. It has 4br/4ba 4150sq ft. Psychologically it feels nice not having so much stuff hanging over my head.
    You say you’re not good at interior decorating. There are lots of sources,of inspiration for small apartment living. I used them ALL back in the 2-room compartment days.
    First, you need to corral the stuff you need into groups: winter clothes and Christmas, for example. I keep all the “other holidays” together so decorating basics are done. Make a sturdy tower of your currently unused stuff, furthest from use on the bottom. Put them behind your bed using totes, this will cost you 2 feet of depth. Now, get yourself some strong (strong!) wire and stretch it taut from wall to wall, about 8-12″ from the ceiling, in front of the totes. If you aren’t into the wire, I use galvanized pipes and sometimes copper and put a flange on each wall so you can screw in the pipe. It’ll look like a shower curtain rod but higher.
    Now, get yourself some fabric: use can use a fabric shower curtain, cheap drapes, or the inexpensive ecru painter’so cloth from Lowe’s. I’ve used the muslin drapes from Ikea ($25 for a pair of 60×105!) and decorated them by painting stripes, stamps and -my favorite! – gold and/or black marker. I write all over them special, personalized thrings like our travels, dates of birth/wedding/kids born, previous addresses, favorite movies, songs, quoted, books – whatever is YOU. Wash, iron, hang on the string/pipe. When the drapes are hung, you’ll have to stretch the panel out to read so it isn’t too private – or maybe it is! 😉
    You’ve lost 2 feet but you’ve gained some from where the boxes came from. Also, you have a “decorated” wall and a dramatic background for your headboard. For my money, I’d hang some type of drape over every closet, rack and pile of totes. Try hard enough and you can get yourself some storage – hang the fabric shoe organizer that has all the fabric (not see-through!)pockets, label them with pretty handwriting or more formalized font with the items in the pockets, like ties, belts, first aid stuff, hairspray, light bulbs, hair elastics, nylons, dress socks, slippers, gloves, handcuffs (just me? Kidding!!) or whatever else is in your way. Works great in the bathroom and kitchen as well. Cut to fit behind doors or cabinets!
    Having too much clutter in view really isn’t good for your mindset. Also, beige kills the soul. If you can’t paint (why not just paint it back to beige when you leave?) you can still do a lot. Look for placemats in nifty plastic patterns or even leather-ish looks. Attach them together and hang on the wall like a big picture. Or get cheap luan and paint/wallpaper it and hang. You can even get some fabric, (tablecloth?) fold it like a gift around a piece of plywood and prop it up. If you’re REALLY industrious, drill a couple holes in the plywood and run the plugs and wires from some sconces behind it and attach the sconces firmly to the front. Bam! Wall-mounted sconces without the wiring. Contact paper comes off when you’re done – try that in spots where you need some pizzazz.
    You have a lot of IKEA stuff. There are a million hacks for them. Why not turn that bookcase sideways and put your desks facing it? (Take off the cheap stuff that provides the backing so you can see through it.) Your Lack coffee table is doing nothing for you. Make it work! Get some old wine crates, put them open side up and make a rigid tabletop to cover them (Formica? Old doors or shutters? More luan or MDF?) Paint it with checkers-or chess board and you’ve got yourself a game table. Just lift it off to get what you want under it. Great for DVDs, games, etc. The Lack tables – both square and rectangular – but the squares are only $8 – can stack on top of each other. Use epoxy resin to “build” a lack tower using 3, 4 or more and you’ve got yourself a serious storage/display piece for about $40.
    Also, all pictures and artwork should be hung at eye level of the average adult which is 5’8. Frank Lloyd Wright made this A LAW of his and it does work! Most people hang wayyy too high. Keep it level or make a discernible pattern and try to use the same type or color frame for unity. Small spaces can’t handle the chaos of variety. Don’t forget that you can print out pics for cheap and really make a statement. I have a selection of our pictures from Japan that I loved so I printed out 12 5x7s, bought 12 black 8×10 frames with mats and hung them from the top of the wall all the way to the floor, exactly spaced. You can see all the pictures from the couch and it just looks cool.
    I’m sitting in an airport killing time so I hope I haven’t irritated you with all the “improvements” I’d make. I’m an Interior Designer and just can’t help myself from reworking other people’s houses. :)
    Happy Thanksgiving!


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