A 500-Square-Foot Rental Studio Is Filled With Small-Space Maximizing Ideas

published Mar 10, 2022

A 500-Square-Foot Rental Studio Is Filled With Small-Space Maximizing Ideas

published Mar 10, 2022
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Name: Jacqueline Clair
Location: Upper East Side
Size: 500 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years lived in: 4 years, renting

My first studio apartment was featured on Apartment Therapy years ago, and this one is a different unit in that same building. I moved into this apartment after a short-lived stint in a one-bedroom a few blocks away that seemed great but turned out to be riddled with issues — so, ironically, I was thrilled to return “home” and downsize to a studio! This time, however, I moved into one of the building’s larger studios — a corner unit with tons of windows, including in the kitchen and the bathroom shower! This was a major, major upgrade, and definitely a rarity in NYC. The amount of light that flooded the space on a daily basis made this a very happy place to live!

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I am a professional interior photographer as well as portrait photographer working mainly with families. I write an interior design and lifestyle blog called York Avenue and in addition, I work full-time at a hospital in New York City. I recently moved out of this studio apartment, but before I did I photographed the space, which was styled by Frances Bailey.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic and grandmillennial, with lots of color and pattern! I love a traditional look with a few modern touches thrown in.

Favorite Element: One favorite element was the paint color that I chose for the living area — “Pink Ground” by Farrow and Ball. It is the PERFECT sophisticated, not-too-sweet shade of light pink and set the perfect tone for the space.

Biggest Challenge: Oddly enough, the best thing about the apartment was also its biggest challenge — those windows! Having so many windows provided amazing light, but it also meant that even with weather sealing, you felt the weather. It got REALLY cold in winter and REALLY hot in summer… and because I faced the back of another building, there was constant noise. It was a tradeoff and completely worth it to me for the light, but there were challenges for sure! Since the windows were a focal point, I replaced the plastic shades that came with the apartment with bamboo roman shades from Home Depot and I loved the texture and natural element they added to the space.

Proudest DIY: I am admittedly the worst at DIY! But, I did bring along my vintage dresser, which I have painted twice (first time white, this time gray). It’s a piece my mom found, which lived in our home growing up, and I love the character it adds!

Biggest Indulgence: The overhead light fixtures in the hallway and kitchen were a bit of a splurge — I switched out the ones that came with the apartment for higher quality ones from Circa Lighting. It was 100 percent worth it. My friend Jennifer Hunter, a wonderful NYC interior designer, picked them for me, and I could not love them more. They looked like jewelry in the space, and truly just added so much to the hallway and kitchen which were a bit boring. I can’t recommend this enough as a rental “hack,” and you can take the fixtures with you when you move on!

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? So many things! I absolutely love my original art pieces, especially the large-scale painting above my couch by Christina Baker, a Nashville-based artist who is so talented and lovely. My Stevie swivel from Society Social is so great for a studio — I put it between the “living room” and “bedroom” and you could easily just swivel yourself around depending on how you wanted to use it — plus it added a great pop of pattern with the Les Touches fabric. Another standout was the NYC Matchbook wallpaper in the bathroom — it’s a removable one from Chasing Paper and I always got compliments on it. It was SO fun and bold and just made the space! As for something a little smaller, I adore my Kelly Wearstler Mini Pop Bowl — I had my eye on it for so long and finally splurged, and it was completely worth it. It just makes me happy!

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: When living in a studio, it can be useful to carve out “zones” in creative ways. I used area rugs to create a delineation between the bedroom area and the living area — it was more of a suggestion of a division, versus something more substantial like a wall or curtain that would block light and make the space feel smaller.

I think it’s also important in a small space to balance visually heavy and visually lighter furniture. Not everything should be a storage piece — it helps to have at least a few pieces that are on legs or feel more airy, so that the whole space doesn’t feel heavy with bulky storage furniture.

Finally, don’t neglect vertical space! I used vertical bookshelves to add book storage with a very small footprint, and the aforementioned overhead lights that I switched out made the space feel larger by drawing the eye upward.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I think the best advice I can share is to mix old and new. It’s not groundbreaking advice, but there’s a reason it’s so oft-repeated — it is so important that you have some vintage or older pieces in your space. They add character, as well as a sense of history and being collected over time. Whether it’s vintage furniture, art, lighting, or rugs, there are countless ways to mix old and new, and it ensures that your home will feel unique to you (plus it’s a way of avoiding those pesky supply chain issues and shipping delays!).

I also encourage people who are renting to go all out in decorating! Don’t hold back and wait for your “forever home.” No matter what your situation is, you’re in it — so make the most of it and create a space you love coming home to. There are so many things I did in my rental that made it feel special and weren’t an issue upon moving out — the removable wallpaper, painting the walls, switching out the light fixtures, the roman shades — all were reversible and/or things I could bring with me when I moved, and they made my boring white box rental feel like a true home.






  • Sophia Flush Mount — Alexa Hampton for Visual Comfort via Circa Lighting


  • Pondicherry headboard — Serena and Lily
  • Tall bookshelf — Design Within Reach
  • Bedding — Rebecca Atwood
  • Clara nightstands — Pottery Barn
  • Secretary desk — Pottery Barn
  • Standing lamp — CB2
  • Wooden bookshelf — Vintage
  • Loop chair — Thrifted from Housing Works
  • Brushstroke lamps — Jana Bek
  • Rug — Rugs USA


  • NYC Matchbook removable wallpaper — Chasing Paper
  • Bathroom storage — Pottery Barn

Thanks Jacqueline!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.