My first Chicago apartment was a studio that I shared with my sister at 18 years old. I’ll never forget the moment I laid eyes on it for the first time: We signed a lease via Craigslist and had never seen the place in person. It was (and still is) the tiniest apartment I had ever seen. Thank goodness it was perched across from Molly’s Cupcakes—our holy place—where we could go to ease our sorrows as we tried to wrap our minds around how exactly we were going to make it livable for both of us. In the end, we bought a futon from World Market (which, when set up as a bed, actually touched the dishwasher in the “kitchen”) and called it a day.
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Somewhere out there, I know there are others in this same predicament, frantically Googling “studio apartment ideas,” and I want better for you. That’s why I dove into The Everygirl’s archives, perused the home tours, and put together the five best tips and tricks for mastering the layout of your studio apartment—futons be damned!
1. Make the bed a focal point
A common misstep I find with studio apartment design is that we’re always trying to hide the fact that there’s a bedroom in the same room as our living room/workspace/dining area. Of course, there are ways that you can create distinct areas (we’ll get to that later), but why not take a note from our senior graphic designer and online course director Kelly Etz’s former studio and make the bedroom a focal point? Facing the bed toward the living space opens up the entire room, provides a better flow, and creates an ultra-cozy setting.
2. Lose a closet; gain floor space
I love when people aren’t afraid to march to the beat of their own drum. Lauren Haden saw this closet in her San Francisco studio apartment and said, “thanks but no thanks” and made it a wall instead. This controversial decision allowed her to create a full sitting area on the opposite side of the room, complete with a generously sized sofa, armchair, and coffee table. Totally worth it.
3. Create separation with a room divider
Carving out different zones for each purpose of your home is a great way to increase functionality in a small space. Interior Designer Elaine Burns used plantation shutters in her New York studio apartment to create privacy and separation in her bedroom, with the shutters acting as extra wall space for an entry table at the foot of the bed. Pretty genius if you ask me.
4. Arrange your couch at the foot of the bed
This tried-and-true layout from Hannah Pobar’s studio is one of my personal favorites. The back of the couch creates an effortless division between the sleeping area and the living space, so your bed won’t even be in your line of sight when Netflixing on the couch. That’s ideal for someone (like myself) who only makes their bed approximately 4 times a year.
5. Make room for a floor-length mirror
While a floor-length mirror can’t add actual square footage to your living space, it can certainly give that illusion. Just look at Katherine Vo’s Nashville studio. In addition to bringing in more light and tricking the eye into thinking there’s extra space, it’s also a functional piece that’ll make getting dressed in the morning a total breeze. Studio living means you can’t afford to sacrifice function for the sake of form, so I’d consider this a serious win.