A 235-Square-Foot NYC Studio Feels Much Larger, Thanks to Smart Space Planning and Lots of Light

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Credit: Katie Heise
Trying to fit a bedroom, living room, dining area, and office into a 11x12 foot space was definitely a challenge. Using artwork to break up the spaces helped a lot, as well as the use of different shapes, colors, and textures.

Name: Katie Heise, and my rescue kitty, Lana
Location: Lenox Hill — New York, NY
Type of home: Studio Apartment
Size: 235 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: By day, I’m an assistant media buyer working in SoHo. By night, I’m a creative homebody. My style can be described as minimal, sentimental, and high contrast. I became enamored with New York City at a young age, and I fantasized about living in a tiny NYC studio after college (as any 13 year old would?). I literally had a Pinterest board titled “The Dream” throughout high school and college.

Credit: Katie Heise
I used this bookshelf to highlight some of my favorite books, while also incorporating the green hues that I love so much. I have to leave the top shelf open for Lana. Hidden in this photo are some of my unorthodox DIYs, like when I added a cream lamp shade to add softness and inadvertently created a "custom" piece. I also removed the backing from a frame and taped a polaroid of my childhood pet, Rusty.

When I finally made the move from Michigan to New York earlier this year, I already had my Upper East Side studio all planned out. I rented the apartment sight unseen (I had to scour the internet to find approximate square footage), so I knew I had to be very strategic with what I brought with me. Though I wanted to make this shoebox a home, I didn’t want it to become a curated storage unit (you laugh until you find literal storage units with more floor space). As a self-proclaimed minimalist, I rarely bought or held onto anything without considering its potential place in my future home. Another lifesaver was using free online layout planning tools to further eliminate any guessing.

Credit: Katie Heise
My grandmother's piano bench has seen better days. The wood is chipping and the cream leather is warped, but it adds so much sentimental value to my space and helps to offset the black couch and the industrial feel of the bed frame and bookshelf.

In true Cancerian fashion, I’m very sentimental and family-oriented. Everything on my walls was either a gift or serves as inspiration or comfort, like pictures of my childhood dog or the New York map print that kept the “dream” alive during finals. A lot of the furniture came from my late grandmother, like my piano bench turned coffee table. I also have a collection of needlepoint pieces made by my mom. It’s surprisingly easy to feel alone in a big city like NYC, so I wanted to have a space that both inspired and anchored me.

Credit: Katie Heise
I picked up this piece from an artist at The Highline in Chelsea shortly after moving to the city. In graffiti it reads "become your dream," which was my motto throughout my high school and college years. It sounds corny, but finding it truly felt meant to be.

Contrast can be found throughout my home, both literally and figuratively. Vintage pieces live with clearance section Wayfair finds. Mid-century modern meets industrial with my retro-inspired leather sofa nestled between my metal bed frame and bookcase (the top shelf left open for Lana to use as a perch to watch over her tiny kingdom). Color-wise, blacks, deep greens, golds, and dark wood tones are a staple in my space. I simply love how they look against the “renter white” walls. The high white ceilings offset the dark tones and keep the room feeling airy.

Credit: Katie Heise
I got lucky with these all-white cabinets and the subway tile backsplash! Though it's tiny, it does the job. The only thing I did to this space was replace the silver knobs with mid-century inspired black ones to add contrast. One of my favorite thrift store finds is my humming bird tea kettle, so it's always on display!

Other must-haves in my apartment include alternate light sources. I’m a firm believer that light is key, and you would sooner find me sitting in the dark before using fluorescent light. While my apartment gets great light during the day, I have three lamps that serve as cozy lighting at night. Lamps, along with pictures, rugs, mirrors, etc. are also a great way to break up spaces within a studio, and are essential when you can literally see every “room” in your home from the front door.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: High Contrast, Old Soul Minimalist

Credit: Katie Heise
Easily my favorite "room" in my apartment. It perfectly showcases my love for contrasting new with old, vintage with modern, and light with dark. It also has a beautiful view of the city street that allows me to feel connected to the city while I work or eat!

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room has to be my makeshift dining nook and occasional office. It’s the epitome of contrast, mixing old and new, light and dark. My Amish cedar “hope chest” that my mother gave me for my 16th birthday serves as both a linen closet and a bench. The gold piano lamp that I found at Salvation Army gives off the perfect warm light at night. The circular table from Target helps to offset the straight lines in the rest of the apartment, and the vintage Tom Vac chair is just the cherry on top. Its location in the room also makes it my favorite, as it looks out onto the city streets. It’s always a great reminder while completing mundane tasks, like sending emails or eating breakfast, that “I did THAT.”

Credit: Katie Heise
Since my bed takes up a large amount of space, I wanted to keep it very simple and light. I love how the black bed frame and windows pop against the "renter white" walls. My nightstand is just a rolling cart, and holds more of my books. I have a wonderful collection of needlepoint works from my mom, and have my favorite one displayed in the corner to add warmth and curved lines.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing I bought for my home was the white console table, which I used to create an entryway/mud room by the front door. It was the only place I didn’t want contrast, since the space is already so tight and dark, so I was glad to find this because the white blends right into the wall. I hung a mirror over it to add more light. It’s the perfect place to toss keys and other items, and I often use it as a countertop while cooking. Another plus was the amount of free space under it, because I needed to keep space open for my WiFi router, which I keep in a woven basket.

Credit: Katie Heise
I wanted to have an entryway/mudroom area that could also double as extra counter space while cooking. I chose this console table for its clean white lines that blend into the wall, creating space without crowding an already tight and dark area. The mirror helps to make the space feel larger while adding extra light!

Any advice for creating a home you love? Draw inspiration for your space from the person living there: you. I found that the most helpful trick when creating my home was using the things that matter most to me as my “muses.” Use the things you love as inspiration for your decor. Musician? Frame the sheet music from your favorite piece. Bookworm? Displaying them is an easy way to make your mark while creating a cool focal point. Known for your monochrome outfits? See if you could duplicate that in your home’s color scheme. Ideally, someone should be able to walk into your space and say “Yup, [Insert Name] lives here!”

This submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.