Before & After: A 330-Square-Foot Studio’s Custom Furniture and Smart Storage Ideas Maximize Every Inch
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Owner and designer: Jaime
Location: Manhattan, NYC
Size: 330 square feet
Owned: For 10 years
This 330-square-foot New York City studio apartment is a prime example of how to maximize absolutely every single inch of a small space.
The “before” of the apartment was dark, but painting the existing bricks white helped lighten up the space and maximize the light that comes from the north-facing windows. The real change happened when she renovated the kitchen and bathroom and custom-built furniture for the space with her father. “The kitchen cabinets are ceiling-height for extra space, with latticework for breathability,” she writes below. “The bed has drawers in the headboard and all around the frame, with a massive storage trunk that rolls out into the living room. The trunk has a wood top that unfolds to transform it into table for up to eight people; turning the living room into a dining room with a few gestures.”
This apartment’s owner lived here for 10 years and still owns this incredible studio, but she has moved. Though, she has managed to keep it in the family; her cousin currently lives in (and likely enjoys) the smart small space.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I wouldn’t say I’m attached to one particular style. Rather, I tend to base my design choices on the particularities of the space. Maximizing light and storage, and creating uniformity across the kitchen, bedroom, and living areas were the choices that most informed the aesthetic of this apartment. That said, I’ve always thought of the apartment as a little farmhouse in the sky, since most of the furniture is Shaker-influenced and the overall feel is pretty unfussy and cozy.
Inspiration: I pull inspiration from so many places that it’s hard to keep track. From the histories of art and design to personal histories, from design blogs to old magazines, from Pinterest to funky craigslist posts, from trips across the world to people-watching just down the street; there is no shortage of style out there! One of my favorite places to look for inspiration is in artist’s homes because I love when the lines between art and architecture blur. In a way, the walls of an apartment are just another kind of frame.
Favorite Element: I love the light in this apartment, both day and night. For a small home, it has a surprising number of windows that flood it with light and keep the plants happy year-round. There’s even a skylight in the bathroom, which makes the tiniest room feel a lot more spacious. The city creates a different type of light show after the sun goes down, and when the moon rises, the window across the bed frames it beautifully. It’s those details that made me fall in love with this apartment.
Biggest Challenge: Definitely storage! After struggling to find the right solutions for the space, I decided to design the kitchen and bedroom furniture from scratch. I enlisted the help of my father, who in addition to being a photographer and textile designer, is a hobby architect and designed the home I was raised in. The kitchen cabinets are ceiling-height for extra space, with latticework for breathability. The bed has drawers in the headboard and all around the frame, with a massive storage trunk that rolls out into the living room. The trunk has a wood top that unfolds to transform it into table for up to eight people; turning the living room into a dining room with a few gestures.
Proudest DIY: There are so many DIYs in this apartment, but if I had to pick I’d say that designing the bed and kitchen cabinets was super satisfying, particularly because it was a collaborative project with my father and gave us some great quality time and memories to share.
Biggest Indulgence: Definitely renovating the bathroom! When I moved in, the bathroom was gloomy and cramped: brown tile, yellow popcorn walls and ceiling, a partition wall between the shower and the rest of the bathroom, and a tiny corner sink inside the shower. Replacing the wall with glass, and installing white, reflective tile made everything feel airier, cleaner, and brighter.
Best Advice: Nature never gets its colors wrong. When it doubt, I look at the underside of leaves for cues on greens, for example, or desert landscapes for subdued palettes. In every home I’ve lived in, I put a glass object near a window to create a rainbow or two. It’s a simple bit of magic and it never fails to draw a smile. Smells can be transformative, too. Incense (and incense matches!), candles, and diffusers are all great, but there are other ways to make your home smell nice too: I like to boil orange peels, or clean the kitchen with lemon. More than any object or design choice, however, I think that approaching home with a sense of gratitude makes the biggest difference.