How to Furnish a Small Studio Apartment
Living in a Studio Apartment
I recently moved into to the 500-square-foot studio apartment I lived in when I first moved to Washington, DC. I was in my early 20's back then and single. Now I'm pushing 30, no longer single and I have a much better sense of how to decorate and furnish a studio in a way that actually works.
I'm finding the experience of furnishing and decorating my tiny space liberating and exciting. I mean, I went from a large two bedroom to essentially one long room. Needless to say, not only have I found storage space in short supply, walls as well! So I've been faced with the dilemma of furnishing this small studio apartment and speaking from a previous failed attempt, I found a solution that works.
Keep reading for tips on decorating and furnishing your studio apartment... and hopefully some inspiration from my furnishing and decorating experience.
What is a studio apartment?
A studio, also sometimes referred to as efficiency is an apartment that's between 300 to 600 square feet with essentially one room. The one room functions as a living room, dining room, bedroom, and kitchen. Even the kitchen usually doesn't have an actual wall. My kitchen for instance, has a sliding partition. One plus that I've seen in studios here in DC and in my hometown of New York are foyers, aka dressing areas leading into the bathroom. I love those little rooms because they're like awesome walk in closets.
Effiiency Apartment Furniture Placement
The open floor plan of a studio apartment can make furniture placement quiet tricky. Who wants their sleeping space in plain site and practically touching the living room space. Or worse yet, be a combination of both and dead space. I know I don't so I'll share some tricks with you about how you too can have a little privacy in your intimate little space by choosing the right furniture pieces and partitioning spaces based on their functionality.
To start off,
- Take a look at your studio apartment's floor-plan (or sketch one if you don't have one on hand) and start playing around with different layout options that will work for you. Is your room big enough to split it into sections and make it more functional? Consider things like whether you plan on having friends over regularly (in which case you'd want a guest-friendly layout) or you plan on doing the entertaining outside of your home and will be using it just for some 'me time' and sleeping.
Keep in mind that you have limited space so every furniture piece will have a major impact.
- Get your creative juices flowing and start thinking of how you can use the furniture pieces you want to buy to serve double-duty and placing your furniture in unconventional ways. Who knows, if your room is wide, maybe it'll make sense to place the couch in the middle of the room, a TV stand in the front and perhaps a cute three piece dining room set in the back. The back of the couch can be the separator you need to designate your dining room. So there you already have two different rooms. Then toward the end of the room, you can have your bed.
Ways to Separate a Room
Although some may disagree, I think separating a studio apartment, which is just one room is a must - particularly the bed from the rest of the room. Having gone the 'open space' route, I quickly realized that separating a studio room adds functionality as opposed to having your bed and living space back-to-back.
There are a number of ways you can separate a room - below are the major options you have.
- Bookcase room divider. This one is my preferred route, particularly with bookcases that have both sides finished. Not only does a bookcase separate a room, it also does double-duty as storage space and book display case. It can even double as a night stand by placing your lamp on one of the shelves. I love how it keeps the room airy, while partitioning off the bed-area from the living room and looking so chic!
- Folding screens. These come in all different sizes (short/tall, wide/narrow) and styles. They actually work as more of a symbolic divider, necessary since we all need some privacy. Screens can also be an easy way to completely conceal your bed by using two of them. You also have the option of getting a shoji, a Japanese-style room divider.
- Curtains. This is an easy way to go - who needs walls when you can have a curtain? Well maybe if you want some privacy and quiet time but otherwise, curtains are cheap, easy to install, and easy to remove. It's a great temporary solution!
Studio Apartment Bed
Studio Apartment Bed
Oh my, just the thought of the bed options makes my head spin! Each one creates a really different ambiance for a studio apartment.
- Conventional beds. If you don't want to conceal the fact that you sleep, go with a good old bed (mattress, frame and all). It creates a relaxing environment and gives you a good night's sleep. It's much preferred on my end after sleeping on a futon for two years.
- Futons. Futon sofas serve multiple purposes - bed and couch in one. Seating on a couch for guests and bed for you to sleep on. It's great. Although futon mattresses don't tend to be that great. I recommend going with this option only if your studio doesn't have enough space to arrange it into separate sections.
- Murphy beds aka hide-a-bed or pull-down bed. If you want your bed out of sight and out of mind, go with one of these Murphy/hide/pull-down beds. When you're not using it, you can fold it into the wall and pretend it's not there at all. With this option, your bed turns into a tall and chunky looking cabinet during the day.
- Day beds. Day beds are awesome. It's a couch by day or a (slim) guest bed by night. Or a super comfy bench when friends come over (which is my preferred way to use mine!)
Looking at the before and after pictures of my studio, which do you prefer?
Studio Apartment Decorating Tips
Below are some decorating tips I've accumulated through the years and would love to share with you.
- Have a theme. One thing I now realize is that you need to carefully select your furniture in a way that fits into the overall theme. Don't run out and try to furnish everything as quickly as possible in the excitement of decorating your very own apartment (like I did the first time around). Instead, plan your furniture pieces in advance and have a theme in mind.
So choose your couch/sofa, area rugs, armchair, coffee and side tables, shelves, dining table and chairs very carefully. Keep in mind how each piece will work together with your other pieces.
- Use pretty mirrors liberally. Mirrors work wonders in small spaces. They trick the eyes into feeling like there's more space than there really is. The best spot to hang a mirror is directly across from a window so that it reflects the light back into the room. It's a neat decorating trick you need to use in a studio. And nobody said that you're limited to just one mirror, I personally have two in my studio room - one straight across the natural light source and another in the middle of the room, above where the focal point of the "living room" space is. There's also a hanging mirror in the foyer, as well as a vanity mirror to give it a walk-in-closet feel and mirrors in the bathroom. Naturally.
- Use area rugs to separate spaces. Another trick I found is that area rugs create a sense of "purpose" for each area. Not only that, they also give your home a cozy feeling... and keep your feet warm.
- Consider which seating options will work best for you. OK, if you're thinking of having friends over, think long and hard how many friends and how you'll have them sit. Do you want a sofa/couch, a futon, armchairs, stools to sit on? It's a tough question and I always found seating arrangements to be tricky. I got a coffee table that has two stools that fit directly underneath (then I put a cushion on top) and that gave two more guests places to sit. And I'd like to get a couch (the Pier 1 Alton as soon as it's in stock) as for now, I'm using the daybed as a sofa.
- Get a TV console with multiple shelves... and doors. We all know that space is limited when living in a studio apartment, so choose your furniture wisely and try to select the pieces that offer more storage space like when you're getting a TV console.
- Think about your lighting options. You have two major options for lights but it's important to consider what will work best for you. There are ceiling fixtures (which I wish I'd have but they require an electrician and approval if you're living in a rental - and who wants to live under just one lamp?) that give off a lot of light; and you have table lamps and floor lamp.
- Use clear furniture pieces and glass tops to make spaces appear larger.
- Add your own style with pictures, paintings, artifacts, etc.
Stuff Needed in a Studio Apartment
Couch / Sofa / Futon / Day bed
Arm chair / Chair
Bed / Futon / Murphy bed
Shampoo / Conditioner
Shower gel and shower puff
Toilet brush and plunger
Cooking utensils (including spatula, thongs, can opener,etc.)
Iron and ironing board
While my apartment is still a work in progress, I hope that the lessons I've learned with my experience of furnishing and decorating a studio twice has given you some ideas you can take away.