How to Get the Most Out of a Studio Apartment

Studio apartment
Studio apartments aren't big on space, so good organization is a must. FilippoBacci/Getty Images

There are many positive aspects to living in small quarters. Renting a compact studio apartment is really appealing to the pocketbook. Leasing a studio may enable you to live in a chic, expensive part of the city you couldn't otherwise afford. You'll never blow an entire Saturday cleaning. Everything you have is right in the room with you, so you'll never have to run all over the house to fetch something. And if you're not big on having guests stay over for several days, you've got a built-in excuse to turn them away: Sorry, there's no room [source: Apartment Therapy]. Having less junk to deal with is also known to relieve stress, and who couldn't use a little stress reduction now and then [source: McKinley]?

And that's one of the problems with smaller apartments. Many people shy away because of the space constraints. Where will the 65-inch (165.1-centimeter) TV go? The king-size bed?


Trends suggest living large à la the McMansion is actually going by the wayside. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows home size peaked in 2007 at 2,521 square feet (234.2 square meters), and has declined since.

Sound appealing? Before you rush out and sign on the dotted line for a micro-sized pad, remember that a studio apartment doesn't immediately equate into a great, new home. It willbecompact, and you'll need to make the most of the space you have in order to live well. Luckily, it's not that difficult. Doing so is a mainly a matter of layout, furnishings, color and light. And a little bit of deception.


Create Functional Living Areas

Interior designers often note that "form follows function," meaning the way you design or decorate an area must support its intended use. What good is that smashing sofa if it takes up all of the space in your tiny abode? So, before you move anything into your studio apartment, first figure out what you'll be doing in there. Eating and sleeping, definitely. Relaxing. Perhaps entertaining and working. You won't have separate rooms for all of these activities, of course, but that's OK. You can still create areas that fully support them.

First, divide your studio into areas for each activity. Items like bookcases, curtains and dividers can create distinct areas, as can different types of lighting -- spotlights over your cooking area, for example, and lamps around the seating area [sources: Griswold, Home Lighting Advice]. Besides making these areas more functional, such separations actually make your apartment look larger.


Next comes the furniture. Because you're short on space, all of your furniture must have two or more purposes -- a sofa that pulls out into a bed; a footstool that doubles as seating for guests, plus contains storage space inside; a bookcase that holds your items and serves as a room divider [source: Lurie].

Don't let electronics and appliances sabotage your efforts at creating functional space. Swap out regular-sized items for mini versions: coffeepots, microwaves, stereos, televisions [source: Lurie]. In the kitchen, this will result in more counter space, which is essential for a functional kitchen. In the living area, you'll have more room for other possessions, or simply create more open space.


Enhance Visual Perception of Space

Lighting makes a big difference to the way your eye perceives space.

One of your biggest tasks when moving into a studio apartment is making your compact space look and feel larger, which will make you and your guests feel less claustrophobic. You can achieve this through various means.

  • Creative lighting: Simply making sure all corners of your apartment are lighted will make it look larger. It also helps to layer your light. So, don't just plop a floor lamp down as your lighting source. Instead, add a wall sconce and mini chandelier to that area as well. Using high-gloss paint on your walls and incorporating accessories like mirrors and glass pieces will also help reflect light and create a feeling of spaciousness.
  • De-cluttering: Sorry, but those piles of paper and laundry have to go. Ditto for your innumerable knickknacks. When you have a bunch of junk lying around, whether on a desktop or in a room, it makes that space visibly shrink. Yes, it's painful to toss things out, and it's a drag to constantly be straightening up. But it doesn't cost you a penny, and the results are well worth it.
  • Letting the floor show: Your studio will look larger if some of the floor is showing, so make sure your rug is smaller than your floor space.
  • Strategic furniture placement: Setting your largest furnishings against the wall will open up your floor space. Consider purchasing at least one or two pieces of furniture in the same color as your walls, which will cause them to blend in and visually disappear.
  • Thinking light and bright: Lighter wall colors -- yellows, greens, creams -- will make your studio feel larger. However, the right darker color can make it look cozy and warm, especially if your place has high ceilings.
  • Going vertical: Draw eyes upward -- which expands your sense of space -- with vertical lines: tall, narrow bookcases, vertical stripes, pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, a series of small pictures hung on top of one another.


Select Furnishings for Fashion and Form

You have to think extra carefully when furnishing your new, teeny-tiny home. Don't just rush out and purchase whatever strikes your eye, or you'll likely be disappointed with the result. First, keep in mind that sleek and chic are where it's at. This isn't the time to purchase overstuffed pieces, or furniture with thick arms and legs -- those will weigh down a room. Clean, simple lines are best. Furniture that sits low to the floor makes the room seem smaller, so opt for pieces with longer legs. Your eyes will be drawn to the space underneath and perceive the entire area as larger [source: Griswold].

It's best to select lighter-colored furniture, too, or use a monochromatic scheme, selecting furniture in the same color family as your walls. Both of these techniques open up your space. Make it pop by employing accents like metallic accessories, or even by painting one wall a vibrant color, which also creates a visual focal point -- and focal points make smaller spaces appear larger [source: Griswold].


Finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box. Instead of automatically purchasing floor and table lamps, for example, consider hanging lights, which can illuminate space just as well without adding visual clutter [source: Home Lighting Advice].

Lots More Information

Author's Note

I've never lived in a studio apartment, and doubt I ever will at this point in my life. However, the ideas I learned in researching this article will certainly be helpful when moving my three kids into their college dorm and apartments this fall. And I suppose I should keep them in the back of my mind for the day my hubby and I downsize our home, which may be sooner than we realize!

Related Articles

  • Apartment Therapy. "5 Smart Studio Apartment Layouts." (July 23, 2012)
  • Apartment Therapy. "The Pros of Living in a Studio Apartment." (July 23, 2012)
  • Apartment Therapy. "Tips For Making A Small Apartment Feel Bigger." (July 23, 2012)
  • Bramble, Laura. "Difference Between an Efficiency & Studio Apartment." (July 23, 2012)
  • Freshome Design & Architecture. "5 Tips for Fooling the Eye and Making a Room Look Bigger." (July 23, 2012)
  • Griswold, Kent. "Ten Tips For Decorating a Small Studio Apartment." Tiny House Blog. June 20, 2008. (July 23, 2012)
  • Home Lighting Advice. "Create the Best Lighting for a Studio Apartment." (July 23, 2012)
  • House Beautiful. "11 Essential Organizing Tips for Small Spaces." (July 24, 2012)
  • Kitts, Kayla. "Studio Apartment Makeovers." HGTV. (July 23, 2012)
  • Lurie, Kathryn. "How To Make More Space In Your Apartment." Marie Claire. July 17, 2008. (July 24, 2012)
  • McKinley, Jesse. "Must Haves for the Micro-Pad." The New York Times. July 11, 2012. (July 23, 2012)
  • National Association of Home Builders. "The New Home in 2015." (July 25, 2012)
  • Newburg, Maddison. "How to Decorate a Studio Apartment." March 12, 2010. (July 23, 2012)
  • Stylist Home. "Décor Ideas: A Small Space Makeover That'll Definitely Surprise You." May 29, 2012. (July 23, 2012)
  • Teagarden, Rebecca. "Tiny apartment shows the value of a good fit." The Seattle Times. (July 23, 2012)