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How to Furnish a Small Studio Apartment

Updated on April 21, 2013
Here's my tiny studio apt, which pretty functional
Here's my tiny studio apt, which pretty functional | Source

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.

Here are both my 'dining room' and 'living room'
Here are both my 'dining room' and 'living room' | Source

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,

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Here's my queen-size bed, which fits perfectly in my studio and the divider gives my sleeping area some privacy
Here's my queen-size bed, which fits perfectly in my studio and the divider gives my sleeping area some privacy | Source

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.

You have:

  • 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!)

My studio apartment before - see, with a futon bed, it looked like I Just had two couches and really impractical.  Also there was no separation of spaces, creating a weird large room.
My studio apartment before - see, with a futon bed, it looked like I Just had two couches and really impractical. Also there was no separation of spaces, creating a weird large room. | Source

Looking at the before and after pictures of my studio, which do you prefer?

See results

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

Area
Items
Living Room
Couch / Sofa / Futon / Day bed
 
Arm chair / Chair
 
Coffee table
 
Floor lamp
 
Television
 
TV console
 
Book shelf
Dining Room
Dining table
 
Chairs
 
Table cloth
 
Place mats
Bedroom
Bed / Futon / Murphy bed
 
Dresser
 
Nightstand
 
Table lamp
 
Room divider
 
Bed sheets
 
Pillows
 
Comforter
Bathroom
Bathroom toilettries
 
Bathroom mat
 
Shower curtain
 
Towels
 
Toilet paper
 
Hamper
 
Hair Products
 
Shampoo / Conditioner
 
Shower gel and shower puff
 
Toilet brush and plunger
 
Scale
 
Wastebasket
Kitchen
Utensils
 
China
 
Cookware
 
Water pitcher
 
Trash can
 
Knifes
 
Paper towels
 
Kettle
 
Blender
 
Cooking utensils (including spatula, thongs, can opener,etc.)
Other
Curtains
 
Fire extinguisher
 
Iron and ironing board
 
Mirrors
 
Area rugs
 
Humidifier

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.

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    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good advice. Your apartment looks nice. It is so hard to downsize, but it is such a good idea. I never considered living in a studio, but dividing the room really seems to work well. Voted up and sharing.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Great layout tips! Futons can be quite comfortable, but they must be turned regularly. The thinner ones should be replaced every few years as the cotton compresses. I find they are so much better for sore backs!

      Although I don't have a studio, my bed is in the living room, using beautiful wooden drawers and the high back of the sofa as a divider.

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 4 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      These are some nice tips. I need to think about downsizing soon. The kids have left the nest, and health issues are making a smaller space more and more necessary. Interior design is not something that comes naturally to me, so these tips will be helpful.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 4 years ago from Illinois

      While I don't live in a small space I am always fascinated by the t.v. decorating shows that show clever ways to maximize storage and create a livable environment. You certainly accomplished both it seems. In particular I like the open-sided bookcase as a room divider and how your area rug essentially defines your living room area.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      You arranged your place neatly. Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas on how to furnish small places.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Global Chica, your suggestions are well thought and practically useful. I like the after pictures of your studio apartment. I would separate the bed with curtains or the book shelf.

      Voting this up & useful and sharing.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a great hub and I'm bookmarking it. We're moving soon and although I haven't seen our apartment, there never seems to be enough space for all our furniture. I'm going to use your idea of planning the space on paper. I really struggle with where to put furniture, so I think this will help spark creativity. Thanks for these practical and aesthetic ideas!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      This is great advice! I love the bookshelf divider you have separating your livingroom from the bedroom. I have a one bedroom apartment, but I need some new ideas for my livingroom.

      P.S. I love the layout of your hub and the photos. Voted up and sharing!

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      Some great advice! I particularly like the room dividers section, it would have been useful when I was living in my small apartment!

    • Andrew Bing profile image

      Dragos 2 years ago from Romania

      Looks great! Keep up the good work!

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 2 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks, Andrew! Now I live in a tiny one bedroom apt in NYC so time to write another article ;-)

    • Sylvia Leong profile image

      Sylvia Leong 2 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

      Fabulous hub! I must agree with everything. So cool that you had second chance to design the same space.

    • profile image

      Kay 2 years ago

      i happen to think your couch is perfect. Where is it from and if possible do you remember a name or model? Thank you in advance

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 2 years ago from New York, NY

      Which one, Kay? The futon or the daybed? The daybed is from the World Market and the futon is from a futon store in Duport Circle in Washington, DC

    • bnayr profile image

      Ryan 2 years ago from Manchester

      I live in a small bedsit (UK) that isn't much to look at and very cramped, but you have given me some good pointers. Many thanks.

    • veronicaadams profile image

      Veronica Adams 20 months ago from Mobile,AL

      A very informative article. This can help get prepared when I go aoartment hunting.

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