10 Tips for Decorating Studio Apartments

With some planning, your studio could look like a penthouse -- well, a one bedroom, anyway!
With some planning, your studio could look like a penthouse -- well, a one bedroom, anyway!
Comstock/Thinkstock

Whether you're just starting out in your first place or are wrestling with the economics of moving to a large city, studio apartment living can present some unique challenges. Studios typically have limited storage, and inhabiting a space that's a living room and bedroom in one -- plus sometimes an office and dining room -- can be exasperating if you don't have a strategy.

These 10 tips will help you decorate, streamline and add function to your studio apartment. Downsized living spaces are becoming more and more popular, and if you embrace the challenge as an opportunity to live a simpler, greener and more organized life, you may pick up a few Earth- and wallet-friendly habits.

10
Let in the Light
If you're in a high-rise, you might be able to forgo window coverings altogether.
If you're in a high-rise, you might be able to forgo window coverings altogether.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

If you've ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you know that lack of adequate light can affect your mood. Opening the drapes and investing in plenty of light fixtures will help you sleep better and stay positive when gray skies threaten. It will also make your small space look larger, cleaner and more welcoming. Avoid adding heavy curtains to your windows by opting for sheers instead. If you can't change the window treatments, keep the blinds or curtains open as much as possible. You can also add task lighting with track light fixtures that plug directly into your wall outlets. This option offers good illumination and pulls the eye upward, making your ceiling look higher and the overall space appear roomier.

9
Understand the Traffic Flow

Your main living area may need to function as an entrance, bedroom and living room combined. This means it's probably central to the kitchen, bathroom, intercom, thermostat and other important indoor real estate. If you've ever seen someone headed the wrong way down a one-way street, you know that flow is important. Define the traffic flow around and through your studio apartment with clear, roomy pathways, and avoid making furniture placements that require clumsy detours.

8
Anchor Furniture Placements

Analyze any well-designed indoor space and you'll notice that objects just look like they belong where they're situated. Designers use furniture placement to pull this off by organizing furnishings into smaller groups within a room. Just because your studio apartment is small doesn't mean you shouldn't use this trick to create a finished look. Evaluate your furnishings by function. If a table, chair and lamp constitute a reading area in a corner, go one step further by defining that smaller space with a rug and framed print. You can perform this wizardry on all the functional areas in your studio apartment while still keeping the space open and airy. Think of anchors as visual boundaries that create virtual walls.

Some effective anchors are:

  • rugs
  • wall art
  • planters
  • shelves
  • sofa tables
  • decorative screens
7
Invest in Flexible Furnishings

You already know that a futon can work as a serviceable sofa as well as a bed, but there are other types of furnishings that do double-duty, too. Some footstools or seating cubes open to provide handy storage. Place a serving tray on top, and you have a makeshift coffee table, foot rest and linen bin in one inexpensive piece.

Drop leaf tables are great multifunction space savers, too. Fully opened, they can seat four to six, but remove one leaf and the table will be perfect for intimate dining à deux. Drop the other leaf, and you'll end up with a narrow table suitable for a hallway or entrance. Best of all, some of these dining pieces have onboard storage for folding chairs.

When you live in a studio apartment, a furniture piece that takes its tiny footprint and flexible functionality seriously is a good friend to have around.

6
Get and Stay Organized
When you have limited space, use what you've got and go vertical.
When you have limited space, use what you've got and go vertical.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

If there was ever an incentive to get rid of old clothes and other items you don't use anymore, it's a lack of space. Modular closet storage organizers will help you arrange your belongings and encourage you to manage them efficiently. If your wardrobe is bursting at the seams, consider investing in a closet hanger system, too. While you contemplate donating that style-challenged coat to the local homeless shelter, consider the fact that you'll generate more than 600 times your adult body weight in trash over a lifetime. How much stuff do you really need to be happy? Rethinking your priorities could help save the planet while saving you money -- and floor space.

5
Use Your Walls for Storage

Once you overhaul your closets and organize your belongings, you may discover that you're still short on storage. Your stuffed animal collection, books and photo albums have to go somewhere, right? When you have more history than room to store it in, open storage may be the answer. Shelves offer two solutions in one tidy package. If you like the idea of showing off some of your belongings, you'll gain a showcase for your collections as well as some much-needed extra space.

If you have small items that may be too personal or mundane to display (and who doesn't?), conceal them in plain sight by stowing them in decorative baskets, boxes or bins. You can put shelves almost anywhere: over or under a window, over a bed, in a corner or even suspended from the ceiling. This idea can be a creative bonanza, so don't sell it short.

4
Downsize the Furniture
Think minimal with clean lines.
Think minimal with clean lines.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Overstuffed chairs and a couch long enough for four to sit comfortably will seldom work in a small space, even if you have the square footage to cram everything in. Furnishings that look good in small spaces are typically abbreviated, streamlined and spare. Plush and supersized pieces may be perfect for the burbs, but when you're decorating your small apartment or studio, opt for lean pieces. Stick with solids or small- to medium-sized prints in your upholstered furnishings, and blend the colors in your furniture, flooring and wall covering rather than going for dramatic contrasts. If you love bright colors, indulge yourself with a couple of accent pillows or a decorative throw.

3
Get Comfortable

The economic downturn has lots of folks staying in their present dwellings longer than they'd planned. Adding some prints to the walls, a nice area rug to the floor and a few quality furniture pieces (like a comfortable chair) to the décor will make your home life more fun and satisfying. Even if the accommodations are a short-term solution, indulge a little; you'll be able to take most of the items you buy with you when you move.

2
Add Artwork to the Walls
It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, just pick something that you love.
It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, just pick something that you love.
Polka Dot/Thinkstock

Wall art can do some pretty impressive things in a small space. It can anchor the furniture groupings, provide color and texture, conceal flaws in the walls, draw attention away from unattractive elements, and put your personality and style out there for everyone to see. Adhesive wall hanging products will allow you to outfit your studio apartment with wall art without marring the pristine drywall -- or requiring you to pick up a hammer. If you can't afford large, framed prints, construct a wall collage made up of small prints, wall sculptures, and even architectural elements. This is an option you can implement inexpensively and rearrange on the fly. If you're just learning to decorate, it's an easy way to change the look of your room in less than an hour.

1
Control Clutter

We love creative groupings on tables and shelves -- and on mantles and windowsills -- even on the floor. Piles of pillows and clusters of candles make a home cozy. If the home is small, though, decorative displays can appear muddled and chaotic. Even expensive pieces can start to look like garage sale fodder if there are too many of them. To avoid giving your studio apartment a jumble sale look, provide open spaces where the eye can rest, and be selective about the objects you display. Choose one distinctive piece over a large collection of smaller pieces. If you do use groupings, make sure they share features in common, like a shape, color or texture. Vary the height of objects in a group, and keep groupings to three objects or less.

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