Decor & Styling

The Best Ways To Maximize a Tiny Living Space, According to Studio Apartment Dwellers

written by SARAH LYON
Source: Emily Henderson Design | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp
Source: Emily Henderson Design | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Living in a studio apartment is often a necessary reality for those living in a big city or renting on a limited budget. But fitting all your belongings into one small space doesn’t have to cramp your style. There are plenty of ways to make a studio layout work for you. It just involves some intentionality and creativity! We spoke with seasoned studio dwellers about making the most of even the tiniest apartment units, and their tips can work in any small space. Bring on the nesting tables and under-bed storage containers!



Think in “zones”

To maximize her studio apartment in New York City, content creator Natalie Caez (@natymichele on Instagram) set up various zones to create the feeling of a living room, workspace, sleeping area, and more. “This helped a lot in determining which furniture I needed,” Caez said. “I also wanted to make sure that each piece served an actual purpose other than just being decorative.”

NYC-based interior designer Nicole Arruda, who lives in a studio herself, reiterated the importance of designated zones. “This will really help drive the layout and ensure you’re using every inch of your small space intentionally,” she said. “Looking at your space in zones is easier to digest and helps you stay organized!”


Choose furnishings that adapt to your needs

Not sure which types of furniture to prioritize? Photographer and blogger Jackie Clair—who lived in an NYC studio apartment for many years before recently moving into a one-bedroom unit—suggested investing in furniture that can transform to your needs. “Items that expand and contract are functional as well as beautiful,” Clair explained. “Nesting tables, drop-leaf tables, and secretary desks are a few classic examples. These items can be expanded when the need arises, such as when company visits and then folded up for everyday use when you want things to look a little more streamlined.”



Use lighting to distinguish different areas

Designer Kate DeWitt, who lives in a studio apartment in San Francisco, uses decorative lighting to distinguish different areas within her space. “For example, I have bedside table lamps, a wall sconce by the couch, a small lamp on the kitchen counter, and so on,” she explained. “I have found this technique creates the illusion of flowing from room to room more so than relying on one overhead light.” So consider this your excuse to stock up on cute lamps!


Utilize furniture for multiple purposes

Instead of trying to cram a bunch of different furniture into a small space, opt for pieces that can serve double duty, Clair suggested. “A dresser can be a TV stand, a desk can also act as a nightstand, a storage trunk or ottoman can serve as a coffee table, a skirted console table can hide shoe storage, a desk chair can be used as extra seating when moved to the living space, and a bar cart can double as a side table,” she said.

Arruda uses this small-space tip in her own apartment. “I used an entry console that doubles as a nightstand, and I often use my dining table as an extra kitchen surface due to my very limited counter space,” she shared.



Make use of your under-bed area

Take advantage of under-bed space to stow away sweaters, extra pieces of decor, linens—you name it. “Underbed storage has been a blessing to free up closet space,” Arruda said. “If you don’t have a storage bed, you can always purchase pull-out drawers and make the most out of that space.”


Don’t mix too many materials

Last but not least, be intentional about the colors and patterns you bring into your studio apartment. In a small space, a pared-down look is never a bad idea. “Visually, keep an eye out for mixing too many materials in a smaller space,” Arruda said. “This can sometimes be a little chaotic to the eye and make the apartment feel smaller. Not every single piece of furniture needs to have a strong visual presence.”