A 451-Square-Foot Chicago Studio Apartment Shows How to Successfully Section Off a Small Space

published May 3, 2022

A 451-Square-Foot Chicago Studio Apartment Shows How to Successfully Section Off a Small Space

published May 3, 2022
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Square feet
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Name: Erinne Brown
Location: Printers Row — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 451 square feet
Type of Home: Studio apartment
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

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As a coach and facilitator, Erinne Brown says she spends most of her time either “coaching high-performing teams on their collaboration and effectiveness, or coaching women business leaders to manage the balance of a demanding career and personal life/well-being.” Erinne’s home has to not only be a place where she lives, but also one where she works and recharges after working.

“Moving to this apartment at the beginning of the pandemic was a blessing in disguise because I realized how much the natural light and unobstructed view lifted up my energy when the days of quarantining at home and watching the news brought me down. It’s been awesome to see all four seasons unfold outside my window, and I’m inspired just by looking up at the sky,” Erinne explains.

“I never took the time to decorate my living space until moving here, because I was rarely home and traveled often for work or for fun. But once I realized that we would be in this pandemic for a while, I started investing in artwork for the first time, and other types of decor, so that I could find joy in the everyday act of just looking around my space. My intention was to look in any direction in my space and see something that brought me joy. I picked items that were fun and vibrant to lift up the mood in the space, which has made it truly feel like a sanctuary when there was so much uncertainty and turmoil in the outside world.”

“I’ve enjoyed the challenge of carving out distinct spaces within a small space, and repurposing things I’ve previously owned to fit my needs of this space, while adding a LOT of new items — because, like I said, this was my first time being intentional about design and decor in my home. I’m so happy I did, because I love the vibes here and I got to express myself creatively in a way I hadn’t before.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I would describe my style as eclectic, modern, and whimsical. It gives my space a relaxing air and a sense of softness and playfulness, all things that help me feel more balanced. I also like having small touches here and there that make the space feel interesting no matter which direction I look.

Inspiration: Nature and wildlife are big inspirations for me. Besides having lots of plants, much of the patterns on my furniture and decor and in my living and bedroom art pieces have elements of the natural world in them. It makes the space feel more alive and vibrant, while also helping me feel centered.

Favorite Element: I love how much natural light I get during the day. I keep my curtains up all night, which helps me wake up with sun, and I get to see the sunset from my work area. It’s great for all my plants, and I’ve learned which plants thrive in direct light, and which ones to position away from direct light. It also makes the colorful elements of my decor pop, especially when the sun hits the disco ball and creates sparkles of light everywhere.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was creating a separate home office space, something I never needed pre-pandemic. I wanted to create some sense of separation from working and living, which is hard in a tiny space. I also wanted to make sure I got adequate light (but not too much) for my Zoom calls. I choose a corner which is well lit; although the light can sometimes create a halo effect behind me, even with the shades down, so I decided to place a rattan divider screen, which I already owned and was planning to sell, next to me to block out more light. I combined two clear acrylic tray tables that I already owned to hold my two screens and office supplies. The screen also hides a lot of the wires for various electronics in my office. I knew I wanted a plant and decided to get one on a stand because I didn’t have enough room on my tray table desks. I always get compliments on the screen divider and plant from those on the other side of my Zoom calls.

Proudest DIY: No DIY, but I had fun buying custom frames for my Ana Leovy and Jade Purple Brown art pieces.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Like many people, I acquired many houseplants during the pandemic. But over time, they took up too much of the limited space I have, and I saw how certain plants were impacted by the changing position of the sunlight throughout the year. So I found a place for my large and light-sensitive plants above my kitchen cabinets. I also have some smaller plants on top of my media stand to hide the view of the wires and internet modem behind the TV.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? My disco ball, all my wall art, and my plants. Being in a small space where I spent so much time during quarantine, I realize now that I needed all of this to add a sense of vibrance and aliveness during a time that was hard for many of us. I feel uplifted whenever I look up and around my space.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Even in a small space, I like creating barriers that make the space feel like each section has an intention. I like knowing that when I step away from my work and move to my kitchen counter or to my couch, it feels like a mental separation from work. The counter table behind my couch creates an illusion of kitchen versus living room space. And having a small rug and nightstand next to my bed, with another art piece above it, gives some semblance of a defined bedroom space.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Whenever I move, I like to feel settled in ASAP. But for a small space like this, I realized that the best thing I could do is take my time living in the space, moving things around to figure out what felt right, and experimenting with where I placed things, before I added more decor or furniture to the space. That helped things slowly come together in a more cohesive way, and increase my likelihood of no-regrets purchases.




  • Side Table — 2 Zemi
  • Stools — CB2
  • Media Stand — Bought Second Hand
  • Safavieh Club Chair — Bought Second Hand
  • Carly pillow — Karen Jai Home
  • Dalia Faux Fur Pillow — Anthropologie
  • Beige Leopard Print Pillow
  • Tufted Sleeper Sofa — Urban Outfitters
  • Marble and Gold Margaux Laptop Table (used as side table) — World Market
  • Faux Fur Gordon Rug — Nordstrom Rack
  • Cowhide Tootstool by JLCowhideCreations — Etsy
  • Flower Shop Strolling Print by Ana Leovy — Artfully Walls
  • Brass Egret Wall Hanging Set — Jungalow
  • 20″ Rose Gold Disco Mirror Ball — Table Cloths Factory
  • Beveled Full Length Mirror — Wayfair



  • Floating Shelf — Target
  • Endless Summer Framed Art — Kate Aurelia Holloway
  • Night Stand — Joss & Main
  • Estela Duvet and Shams — CB2
  • Tufted Octavia Leopard Rug — Anthroplogie
  • Infinity Brass Square Mirror — CB2
  • Cement Wall Planter Set – Jungalow
  • Bedside Lamp — Street Market in Istanbul


  • Rattan Room Divider Screen — World Market
  • Acrylic Folding Tables — CB2
  • Office Chair — Walmart
  • Mermaid Sequin Reversible Melody Lumbar Pillow — Joss & Main
  • Metal Foldable Round Tray Accent Table (used as plant stand) — Amazon

Thanks Erinne!

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