A 400-Square-Foot Studio Feels Larger Thanks to Multi-Functional Furniture

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Sleeping area with sleek black metal bed frame and exposed brick walls

Name: Michael O’Key
Location: Ithaca, New York
Type of home: Walk-up apartment
Size: Approx. 400 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Ithaca is a small, quirky town in upstate New York, almost the opposite of New York City, where I thought I’d be in my early twenties. So I made a compromise with myself: If you go to grad school in this small town, you will live in the most urban part of it. As luck would have it, this apartment became available for the first time in years, on the main downtown corridor. Architecturally, there’s nothing else really like it in town. I rented it completely sight unseen and crossed my fingers the entire drive up from Alabama. It was more beautiful in person. Fun fact: I got an internship last summer and had to leave the apartment. I offered it as a sublease, fully furnished. I got 10 offers just an hour after listing, and it rented two hours after it was listed.

I’m at a very transitional stage in life, being in graduate school, and I didn’t want to shy away from that in my home. I’m not super established or wealthy, and that’s pretty evident. But it also feels substantial, for a guy in his early twenties, and authentic. I also was very careful treading gender constructs in design. I call it “refined masculine.” It makes sense that a guy lives here, but everyone feels comfortable and welcome. That’s the power of intentional design.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Masculine, industrial, soft, comfortable, moody

What is your favorite room and why? It’s a studio, so it’s all centralized. It feels right for my stage of life. It also allowed me to get creative in how to compartmentalize functions without ruining the openness. Multi-functionality is at play everywhere: My desk doubles as a nightstand, bench as a coffee table, dining table as counter space. None of it feels forced.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The record player (from Wayfair) is the newest addition. Admittedly, all of the records were bought at the same time and Amazon Prime-d over. It feels a bit disingenuous—not doing the whole “searching through a vintage record shop” thing. But they’re here, they’re used frequently, and they bring me joy.

Any advice for creating a home you love? My last apartment in Alabama looked like a tornado had picked up a HomeGoods and dropped all of its contents into my apartment. My first pieces of furniture were hand-me-downs from my mom, and while I am grateful, I’m not sure why I felt the need to continue in that direction. When a friend asked me if my mom had decorated my place, I knew it was time for a change. I think a lot of people are frustrated in spaces that “don’t feel like theirs.” That’s such a valid feeling. Don’t stop cracking at it until that feeling is in the past.

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