A 460-Square-Foot, Oddly Shaped Chicago Studio Is Only Three Feet Wide at Its Narrowest Point

published Nov 2, 2022

A 460-Square-Foot, Oddly Shaped Chicago Studio Is Only Three Feet Wide at Its Narrowest Point

published Nov 2, 2022
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Square feet
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Name: Ainsley Fleetwood
Location: Rogers Park — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 460 square feet
Type of Home: Studio apartment
Years Lived In: 8 years, renting

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“In first talking with someone from the management company, the studio’s shape seemed delivered as almost a disclaimer or warning when mentioned on the phone,” begins Ainsley Fleetwood about this 460-square-foot studio apartment in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Thankfully, she didn’t let the odd shape turn her off from the rental, which turned out to be just the right fit. “Seeing the studio for myself, I appreciated its character, and felt a spark of excitement that ended my apartment hunting. The building is built along a diagonal alley, and my unit faces the alley and is at the end of the building, such that narrowest tip of my apartment is only about three feet wide,” she explains.

Credit: Ainsley Fleetwood

Ainsley says this is the first place she’s lived alone in, and so it has had the opportunity to evolve alongside her own interests over the past eight years. The small rental has also been a design challenge with an unexpected benefit: She’s been motivated to keep her possessions pared down and organized thanks to the limited amount of square feet available.

“Since I was a child, I have found interest in color, in collecting tiny things, and in customizing my little living spaces,” Ainsley continues. “These days, my interests and appreciations are reflected in my studio apartment. At work, as a guide in a Montessori early childhood classroom, I enjoy preparing comfortable spaces that invite children to work and play with independence and creativity. At work and at home or out and about, I also enjoy making music, tinkering with visual art or DIY projects, working on crosswords, reading, and connecting through conversation.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I appreciate rich color and texture, organization, quirky details, and useful objects with backstory.

Inspiration: I moved in with items I’d thrifted or collected from travels, and I’ve continued to add pieces from the past that suggest memories or personal stories. My tiny coffee table is a cedar chest from a grandmother. Colorful blankets come from family trips to Guatemala or from westward USA adventures. Wooden birds and a gym marquis sign remind me of my time in Chile. Many of these items are bold in color and/or made of natural materials.

Favorite Element: Inside, I am amused by the triangular shape of the apartment. The shape also offers a lot of length, for ease of designating separate areas in such a small space. Outside, I like my neighborhood, and my proximity to a large park and the lake. 

Biggest Challenge: The small space and atypical angles offer a challenge to fit in useful, cohesive items without feeling too cramped or cluttered.

Proudest DIY: A recent, and quite simple DIY, was installing cup hooks under the cabinet. This freed up some of my limited cabinet space.

Budget: Many of the items in my apartment have been free or purchased used. I’m just reminded that the tree behind my couch was snagged from an alley after a friend texted a curb alert.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The length and increasing width of the studio allows distinction between areas — a small kitchen, then dining area; space for a piano and desk with art supplies; a living area for waking and sleeping; a small corridor for clothing, accessories, and books; and a bathroom.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Multi-use furniture comes in handy! For example, one of my most useful furniture finds was a mid-century-style hutch, with six drawers on bottom, and three rows of shelves on top. The drawers house clothing, the shelves hold books and tiny framed photos, and on top rest items in storage boxes. My coffee table is an antique cedar chest with games stored inside. And I parted with an antique pea green, velvet loveseat for a loveseat that would convert into another sleeping space for myself or guests.

I also have used large canvas storage bags, large wooden baskets, and other storage containers to organize my one closet, so I can fit and find — among the clothing — my sewing materials, keepsake items, outdoor recreation equipment, bedding, bags…

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I like when living spaces reflect and support individuality and inspire calm and comfort. Also, plants!



  • Antique Gray Wood Indonesian Daybed Frame — World Market
  • Rust-red colored bedspread — Thrifted
  • Espresso Wood Studio Day Sofa and gold/gray canvas cover — World Market
  • Chair with red upholstery — Thrifted
  • Geometric wool rug — West Elm, Craigslist
  • Tapestry loom — Schachtd
  • Cedar chest — Heirloom
  • Small wooden chest of drawers — Thrifted
  • Mid-century lamp — Thrifted
  • Accordion in case — Heirloom
  • Ukulele — Old Town School of Folk Music
  • Case — Amazon
  • Magazine holder — Thrifted
  • Blue velvet curtains — Hand-me-downs
  • Small wool wall hanging — Target
  • Mid-century-style mirror — Target
  • Mid-century-style hanging pendant light — World Market
  • White wooden/fabric window shades — Hand-me-downs
  • Large world map — Free from a school where I used to work
  • Small wood side table — Thrifted
  • Metal sun — Purchased in Mexico
  • Silver metalwork (on door) — Etsy
  • Wooden horse — Gifted


  • Table and table cloth — Thrifted
  • Chairs — Thrifted
  • Turquoise large plate and bowl — Thrifted, originally World Market
  • Iridescent brown bowl — Heirloom
  • Roll top desk — Yard sale
  • Stool — Thrifted
  • Electric piano, stand, and bench — Used, from the Old Town School of Folk Music
  • Art print (above piano) — Gifted, made by a friend; Etsy shop site for smaller pieces
  • Ceramic bird (above plants) — Gifted, from Portugal
  • Huipil (textile) — Made in Guatemala
  • Art print — Paul Klee’s, Castle and Sun
  • Collage — Handmade by me
  • Blue Mirror — TJ Maxx
  • Rabbit mask — Purchased in Honduras
  • Spider mask — Made by me
  • Used watercolor paint set on display — Blick Art Supply
  • Banana leaf collage — Gifted, from Congo
  • Framed postcard — Print by Monet
  • Artwork and origami card — Gifted
  • Stick puppets — Handmade by a friend
  • Singing bowl — Gifted


  • Turquoise tea cabinet — Thrifted
  • Butter tray — Thrifted
  • Small cutting board — Purchased in Beliz
  • Black floating wall shelf — IKEA
  • Black manual coffee grinder — World Market
  • Red antique coffee grinder — Thrifted
  • Tea kettle — Gifted, Kitchen Aid
  • Set of antique glasses with stand — Heirloom
  • Black and gold lamp — Thrifted
  • Globes — Thrifted


  • Hutch — Rummage sale
  • Artwork — Print of Mary Oliver, by friend, Amber Doan; Etsy shop site
  • Drawings — Gifted
  • White shelf with jewelry
  • Blue shelf — Thrifted (holds jewelry, items/gifts from travels, and a painting by my brother)
  • Mounted clay face — Purchased from The Armadillo’s Pillow, in Rogers Park
  • Framed Grief and Love are Sisters card — Designed by Molly Costello
  • Framed page, Karl Friedrich Thiele
  • Colorful, antique pendant light — Yard sale


  • Shower curtain — Target
  • Bath mat — Target
  • Wicker clothes hamper — Hand-me-down
  • Wall art — Framed Georgia O’Keeffe print, “Pelvis III
  • Candlestick holders — Thrifted

Thanks Ainsley!

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