Most of us don’t set out to create a small living space. Instead, we find ourselves in an existing small space and learn to make do. College students, urban dwellers, young families… anyone short on discretionary income lives tiny by necessity, not by choice. People in this situation can grow happier by maximizing the utility and style of their homes.

Who better to court this demographic than IKEA? A few years ago, the budget-furniture giant released a series of videos in which designers created small rooms that combined high function with their usual Scandinavian chic. The rooms include a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, a family room, and a puny apartment for six. There are tons of clever ideas in here… like positioning your wardrobe to create a walk-in closet, and rethinking living-room furniture to make the space more versatile. I like the videos’ honesty, showing that the rooms are just sets built inside a factory. When you know these perfect spaces exist only in a vacuum, they challenge you to adapt to your own unique situation.

That’s good, because these ideas certainly won’t work for everybody. I don’t know why the kitchen and bathroom were included, except for the sake of completeness, since apartment-dwellers can’t reconfigure their fixtures. The six-person flat, with its bunk beds and central kitchen, resembles an alpine hut rather than a place to live comfortably for any length of time. But the key here is to spark your creativity so you’ll find some cool solutions for yourself. I always look forward to IKEA’s annual catalog, even though I live 200 miles from the nearest store and have all the furniture I need. Everybody can benefit from a little small-space inspiration.

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