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One Room Living

Updated on August 23, 2014

Living Comfortably in One Room

This little studio feels right. I had a larger one for quite a few years because I had a cat, and kitty cats do like their space to frisk about. Some time after the death of that cat, I moved down to a smaller room -- a room that didn't feel so much smaller or, for that matter, feel like moving down, except in the most literal sense. (I now live one floor lower, but in the same building, in a mini-studio less than 200 square feet.)

It did take a bit of planning to make the one room living space neat and comfortable. Interestingly, a Google search on 'one room living' yielded a variety of articles, some of which were about downscaling to... living spaces that are larger than the one I came from. I have fewer square feet -- and I'm not afraid to write about it!

On this page, I will share my tips and resources for living in one room, as a well as a sneak little peek into my... well, it's not quite a castle, but it's no shack either. A mini-studio doesn't have to feel like a dorm room. Within four small walls, one can have a lot of choices. This is true not just for the 500 square foot loft, but for the efficiency as well. And it's true not just for the person who buys all new furniture, but for the one who makes do, at least partly with what they have.

one-room-living-kitchen
one-room-living-kitchen

Furniture That Does Double Duty

I have almost no counter space -- I use my dinette table in place of counter top when I prep food. That way my table gets a fair amount of usage every day, even if there are no visitors. It has become a multi-purpose furniture item. This wouldn't necessarily be feasible in a larger apartment because a single item couldn't be in the middle of everything. But it is accessible from the different living areas in my small space.

Most articles will tell you: It's good to let furniture and nooks do double-duty. Do give thought, though, to your own needs and habits when acquiring and arranging furniture. Some people let their table double as a desk, but that wouldn't work for me. I seldom work at a desk, preferring to perch or sprawl rather than sit in traditional fashion. I do have a desk, but it's for the purpose of storing things upon... and, in a pinch, under (since you won't actually find legs occupying the space).

As for the desk -- well, it's a good idea to have a hutch sitting atop it.

Partitions in One Room Living
Partitions in One Room Living

Letting Possessions Dictate Space

How to apply principles of one room living design

Just about all of have objects we wouldn't want to part with. In my case, one of those objects is a three-story Tudor dollhouse. At first glance, it would seem such an object would be hard to place in a smaller living space. And yet...

Stacking items can maximize space. The item of furniture the dollhouse sits atop takes up no more room than it would without the dollhouse sitting on it. The dollhouse actually serves more than one purpose. Living in one room, it's a good idea to section off small areas and also to hide clutter away from view.

In that corner is my workplace, my 'studio within a studio'. There are a lot of small items packed on the shelves and in the little drawer units. And yet you don't really notice them when you walk in the room. The Tudor hides far more than the furniture would alone, and, while I sure wouldn't want it toppling down, I know it's not heavy enough to do damage.

That Tudor wouldn't be everyone's choice of d├ęcor. Yet I think it has a more commanding -- and attractive -- presence than in the larger space. And that brings us to one of the more surprising principles of one room living design: A single large item can contribute to a spacious look where a number of smaller ones make it look cluttered. Scale is important -- but sometimes in ways that seem counterintuitive.

Some people would choose to put a TV/ entertainment center in that space. That could work, too. Much of the related paraphernalia, from videos and music to small equipment, can be tucked away behind the drawers of closed furniture. Just make sure the arrangement is sturdy.

A hidden corner -- yes, that seat is a cooler!

A hidden corner -- yes, that seat is a cooler!
A hidden corner -- yes, that seat is a cooler!

The Storage Seat

Hidden storage can be ideal for one room living -- but do analyze your space first to see what you need.

I thought, when I first moved into the apartment, that if I bought one small item of furniture, it would probably be a storage stool or small bench that doubled as seating in my 'studio within a studio' work space. At that time, I had a Styrofoam cooler I found in the 'free stuff' area of the laundry room downstairs that I cautiously tested and determined, yes, I was light enough to sit on.

This one is pretty cool, even cooler than the cooler...

Madison 24"w Lift top Storage Bench, SMALL, WHITE
Madison 24"w Lift top Storage Bench, SMALL, WHITE

This is an economical little furniture item -- a storage box that doubles as a seat. White can be a very good color for small spaces as it makes them look larger.

It looks like a safe one, too, for apartment dwellers with kitty cats.

 

Update: Added Furniture

I picked up two stackable cabinets that are combination kitchenette/ living room furniture -- they were actually free. One thing that went inside is the recycling bag; cleaning supplies take up half the space in one of the cabinets.

There's a decorative medicine cabinet sitting at an angle on top.

You can see just a bit of the dinette table there in the foreground.

A Peek at a Well Crafted Studio Apartment

It looks like this apartment dweller has not only found stylish hidden storage but managed to create an extra wall with his shelving unit. His wall mount TV is a space saver.

Image: urbaneapts, Flickr Creative Commons

Another Take

This decorator uses color and texture to unify elements across living spaces. There's a lot of stuff, but it doesn't look cluttered.

Over the Door Hooks

Some smaller storage items actually add to the cluttered look. Over-the-door hooks are something that actually make things look better! I have several sets. There is a rather elegant burnished metal one on the closet door -- on the front of the closet door. There are a couple small, plain ones on the back of that same door. Of course, hooks work just as well screwed to the wall, but they may not be appropriate for apartment dwellers.

Here I am featuring some nifty over-the-door hooks. They're not mine. There's not a lot of science to my selection process -- except for a couple things. I like to find things that aren't apt to be at the local drug store -- i.e. not plain old chrome.

And they shouldn't look like they belong in a utility room -- in a studio apartment, you can see everything. I think the hook sets with the bird shapes are rather elegant. They come in both black and white.

I also have a preference for things that have reasonable, or better, shipping prices. Sometimes I click on something that appears very cheap and then I see a shipping price that... well, I know it doesn't cost anywhere near that much to ship. Other times, the item is priced well out of the bargain basement range but comes with free shipping. I tend to have warmer feelings toward those sellers.

More Ideas for One Room Living - From Around the Web

Here are some more ideas, some written by experts.

Photographic Inspiration from Around the Web

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Basil: A Dual Purpose Houseplant

Basil: A Dual Purpose Houseplant
Basil: A Dual Purpose Houseplant

Hidden Storage: Baskets

A small place looks less cluttered when clutter is tucked away in cupboards or in baskets on the shelf. I have quite a few baskets... but arguably not enough.

Prepac Entryway Cubbie Shelf, Black
Prepac Entryway Cubbie Shelf, Black

Here is a set of baskets that hang right on the wall... and look, hooks, too! This can be combined with a storage bench (one over, one under).

 

There's plenty of room! (Pull up a cooler.)

There's Room for Comments!

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    • NatureMaven profile image

      NatureMaven 6 years ago

      I admire your ability to be able to live in such a small space! Letting go of clutter and space is hard for many of us. Bravo!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Small is just another word for "cozy." You look like you've made good use of your space.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 6 years ago

      Been there done that! A few years ago, my husband and I got rid of everything we owned so we could homestead. I lived in a one room home and EVERYTHING needed to act as double duty! I used my desk as my counter to make bread which I cooked outside in a colemen stove. It was small, cozy and teaches you a great respect. Great lens!! Leaving you with a ~Blessing from a SquidAngel~

    • profile image

      tssfacts 6 years ago

      Great article. I have lived in studio apartments but prefer larger rooms. Must be the "southern girl" in me lol.

    • Rockett LM profile image

      Rockett LM 6 years ago

      I think I am more like a cat and need a bit more space to roam around in. I admire your ability to get along in 200 Sq Ft.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      A smaller living space is sounding better and better these days. Except for keeping the litter box, I don't need my upstairs at all (except for storing the junk I need to get rid of). If I could have a studio apartment in the middle of my two acres of paradise, that would be perfect!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      Great living lens! I'd love to find a one-room house, but with a yard of a few acres. That we me and my dog could both be happy.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Some pretty cool ideas. We all have to deal with some shortage of space sooner or later... To me the most important is to have enough space for walking - six steps here and six steps there - it helps me to sort my thoughts. Not necessary in my apartment:)

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Don't know if I could go this small, but you surely make it inviting. Twelve years ago we downsized from a 3-bedroom home with a family room, full basement and large yard to a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment and thought we were roughing it. Since then we've scaled down further to a large 1-bedroom, 1-bath with no external storage, no dishwasher and no in-home washer and dryer. We're thinking our next move will be to an even smaller space. Who needs so much stuff? You are an inspiration!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great work on this lens! I live in a single room studio apartment and found your tips pretty handy. Thanks for sharing!

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 5 years ago

      We downsized a couple of years ago. it was tough in the beginning, but now we are fine! you adjust to the situation and realize you don't need so much stuff.

    • turtleface profile image

      turtleface 5 years ago

      @phdesign: that's what I love about having my small place... the cleaning always reminds me of how much I love not having too much to clean. Utility costs stay low too

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wow, I don't know that I could live in THAT small a space, but I am considering travelling in an RV for 6 months of the year, each year, so I am sure some of the same challenges exist. What a cute space, and I am glad that it is working out for you.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 5 years ago

      I have 7 rooms and find that I end up living in one of them anyway, and could probably sleep there also. Nice lens, down to earth. Angel Blessed

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 5 years ago

      I'm not sure I could live in one room unless it was a garage...

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have a taste of this when we stay for some time in a hotel. My friend has a studio in NY and we all like staying there.

    • profile image

      sherioz 5 years ago

      I'm also one of those that basically live in one room even though I have several. Nice piece.

    • Jessica Holbrook profile image

      Jessica 5 years ago from Southern Indiana

      My husband and I lived in a 2 room 500 square apartment for our first year of marriage. His sister even lived with us for 4 months. It was cramped but we made it work. Three things we did was cut down on big furniture, use vertical space and use dual purpose furniture. Since then, we moved to a larger apartment. We have the same stuff (except a larger bed and entertainment center) but it seems like it takes up more room. It's weird how things work like that.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      I'm probably the opposite of most individuals. I fantasize about living in a one-room cabin. Though I have several rooms in my mountain home, I really only use the combined kitchen/living room, a bedroom, and the bathroom. My next home will be, by choice, a studio sized cabin. I will feel total freedom once I downsize once more. Appreciated this feature on one room living.

    • profile image

      Funny_Beekeeper 5 years ago

      As a student I was used of living in one room apartment. There was enough space for me and my friends, heck, I could even throw a party sometimes ;)

      But one thing I have to agree with you is that you just need to organize things a bit more that you would in a bigger apartment.

      Using so called multi-purpose furniture is a good idea, getting some organizers and racks is even better. Once I've managed that I felt like my one-room apartment is too big for me :)

      Thanks for making this lens, you've reminded me of good old times :)

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      I used to live in a studio when I was single. It was quite comfortable and plenty of room for one person. Nice job!

    • iWriteaLot profile image

      iWriteaLot 5 years ago

      I've lived in 2 studios and they were my favorites. They're so warm and cozy. Now I'm jealous.

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 5 years ago

      One room living can be quite charming and comfortable. My hubby and I lived in a one-room house with two children and we really enjoyed discovering different ways to decorate for comfort as well as usefulness.

      Thank you so much for your visit to my Children Afflicted With Autism,/i> page. I so appreciate your Angel Blessing an' Squid Like. Thank you.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      Great use of space-good lens welldone

    • Demaw profile image

      Demaw 5 years ago

      Life can be a lot easier living in a small space. That is if you are able to live without a lot of junk.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      I love these ideas, because it is easy to think that we need more space than we actually do. This one room living brings out the creativity of the person making due with less. Great information.

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 5 years ago

      I had a little one roomer that I loved. Lived there about 4 years, with a Murphy bed and all. Cute little place.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      This makes me smile being a retired sailor. Six month deployments in sooo little space, I could live like a king in these with this great lens if I had too! Thanks for sharing. Blessed by COUNTRYLUTHIER

    • PastorCher profile image

      Pastor Cher 5 years ago from United States

      Really good ideas not just for home, but for small offices or work spacees.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Living in a small space means you free yourself of clutter. Great tips!

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I have seen the cabins with one room and different levels. Pretty cool! Squid Angel blessed.

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Great ideas! We could certainly do without so much stuff and living in a small space forces us to get rid of the junk. Stuff you soon realize you don't need and won't miss.

    • xriotdotbiz lm profile image

      xriotdotbiz lm 5 years ago

      Loved all my small places that I have lived in- dorm, a SRO, extended stay hotel, and a studio apartment. Helps me to understand that bigger is not necessarily better.

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 5 years ago

      I admire folks who can live in one room, but I can't. I've lived in studios twice and even though they were spacious compared to my current home, they felt tiny and claustrophobic. I live in a tiny home (about 125 square feet total), but I have a four rooms perfectly sized for their function, plus a sleeping loft. I need to be able to shut the door to the office at the end of the work day, make dinner and spend the evening in a separate room, and then retire to a place that's just for sleeping.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Wonderful tips. My husband and I share a 640 sq ft cottage with our cat. Compared to you we live in a mansion, but whatever size space, it sure pays to be organized, doesn't it? :)

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      The cats would definitely not be pleased if we went to a living space like yours - and they are, of course, in charge. I lived in an efficiency during college that was perfect for me, but I didn't have kitties then.

    • StewartClan profile image

      StewartClan 4 years ago

      I do love this lens, truly. Not least because we have been thinking about getting a mobile home and downscaling everything so we live small. But because it has great ideas for keeping homes neat and tidy, which I do like. Living small is problematic at the moment due to two dogs, a cat, a parrot and seven fancy rats. Them as well as two small boys and a husband mean it is unlikely to happen any time soon. But, the ideas are great for incorporating into my not particularly huge home. Thanks, I really like this lens!

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 4 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Nice! I have 3 cats in my household so not quite ready to downsize to one room yet. But it's something to consider for the future. Angel blessed

    • profile image

      myamya 4 years ago

      Awesome lens, nicely done!

    • LaurisB LM profile image

      LaurisB LM 4 years ago

      I really love this article - for a bunch of reasons. I see you live in Seattle. I still feel homesick for Seattle at times, even though I only lived there for a couple of years. I had a little studio apartment with a sleeping loft on Pill Hill. I was in heaven. But needed a job. So moved away. Now I live in a big city again, where living spaces tend to be small. I love it.

    • Soapmarked profile image

      Soapmarked 4 years ago from TX

      I've lived I places nearly as small and am impressed by how much you got in there.

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 4 years ago

      Oh, that's tiny... but I also think it's the coming trend. I subscribe to The Tiny Life's blog feed and am really impressed with what can be done with 400 s.f. and under.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      I lived in a studio when I was single and I loved it - it forced me to get rid of clutter and was so easy to maintain!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      People really do not need the space they have in large homes. Small is definitely all that one truly needs in a home when you do not have young children. I married a few years ago and my husband has quite a large home. I find the basement is simply wasted space that we truly do not need. If that floor were removed from the home we would not even miss it.

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      We have a really small house which is particularly cramped when there are visitors, usually lots of kids! I often find myself complaining about it, but we do make it work. Your place looks really beautiful! And not at all cramped! I often think up space saving furniture that if I was a designer I'd design and build it myself because I can't find the exact thing I need in reality!

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