Before and After: A 300-Square-Foot Studio Has Tons of Smart Storage and Renter-Friendly Ideas
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Name: Julie Gordon
Location: West Village, New York City
Size: 300 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years lived in: 2 years, renting
I found my little abode on Craigslist and moved in on March 16, 2020, so I think it goes without saying that I had… a lot of time on my hands to sit and ponder about what to do with the space during lockdown. It’s a cute little family owned walk-up building in the West Village, making it the most communal and comfortable of any apartment I’ve ever lived in. My landlady and her family have owned the building for many years and raised multiple generations in it, which as a single twenty-something woman at the time, gave me a huge sense of comfort in living alone for the first time.
I was provided a completely blank slate, literally. The only thing that came in my apartment was the small stove, fridge, and three cabinets. That’s it. While some may have found this overwhelming, I found it gave me the freedom to completely customize the space and make it what I wanted it to be, within the extreme square footage limitations, of course. I often joke that I live in a doll house, as everything in here is miniature compared to a normal, non-NYC (downtown, specifically) sized apartment. Yet, that is ironically what I love most about it and what’s made it feel most like my own. This is by far my favorite of the four Manhattan apartments/neighborhoods I’ve lived in, even despite the fact that it doesn’t have a real bathroom door (originally came with an unpainted, wooden slatted accordion closet door, which you can imagine, was not going to fly), nor any closets. But after some major TLC, a few great peel and stick finds, and lots of patience, I’m finally feeling the space is complete… for now.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Cozy and minimal
Inspiration: I first found myself drawn to Nordic interior style and neutral colors, but didn’t want the space to feel too washed out, so I made sure to bring in liveliness with greenery, fresh flowers, a statement wall in the kitchen, and prints throughout that add a pop of personality. Though, I’d be remiss not to mention the inspiration behind the neutral, cozy tones was mostly drawn from Nancy Meyers movies (“Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Holiday”) and the idea for my floor length curtains separating the sleeping area came from none other than my lord and savior, Carrie Bradshaw.
Favorite Element: Each area (I say “area” as “room” is clearly not a reality here) has its own reason to be adored, though it’s a toss up between my work space and living space. I’ve grown to adore my work space, thankfully, given it’s where I’ve spent most of my time since March 2020, as it is simplistic enough not to overwhelm me during the work day, yet includes some of my favorite pieces from my home (the “I love you, but I love me more” Sex and the City-inspired print, specifically). However, I have a major soft spot for my living space. I ended up creating a cozy, tranquil area that helped bring some much needed calmness to counteract 2020/2021 stress, which actually feels pretty open despite its lack of square footage.
Biggest Challenge: I’d say my little studio is the ultimate double whammy: no storage AND no space. The biggest challenge here has been figuring out how to neatly and optimally incorporate storage in a space that offers little to no chance for concealment. This forced me to think outside the box. Need a place to store clothes but a wardrobe would be too bulky? Clothing rack showcasing your favorite hanging pieces. Need to hide your suitcases and out-of-season clothes but don’t have a closet to put them in? Bed risers (yes, the ones from your college dorm). Finding where you can add storage without making it obvious is every New Yorker’s biggest hurdle, well, at least for those of us who live in shoeboxes.
Proudest DIY: Without a single shadow of a doubt: the kitchen. This space caused me a good bit of grief when I first moved in, as it had absolutely no counter/work space and limited storage. It took me until my second year here to finally take the plunge and incorporate elements to make it more usable and enjoyable to be in. The space originally came with a single sink counter that was bordered with an extremely outdated, brown laminate countertop and an unfinished multicolored, square tiled backsplash on only the wall above the stove. I covered both walls with a clean, white, chevron peel and stick tile backsplash and covered the counter (as well as the island I bought when I first moved in) with a white, glossy marble contact paper for about $16 on Amazon. Lastly, I tied the space together by adding an adhesive wallpaper to create a statement wall and create a bit of separation to the space, as well as floating shelves with rechargeable overhead lights and a microwave rack (life changing). It is now not only completely functional, aside from the fact that I use my oven to store my pots and pans because #nostorage, but also enjoyable to be in, which were my ultimate goals in working on the space. Also just have to give a major shoutout to my boyfriend who was my lone handyman in every project in this apartment!
Biggest Indulgence: Nothing in my place is very expensive, as most are IKEA/Target pieces I’ve had since I first moved here five years ago or are secondhand finds. However, I’d say my favorite “new” piece was my acrylic console that I placed under my TV in the living space. It was a little pricey for me given it’s pretty small, about $250 from Amazon, but completely worth it as the transparent acrylic allows the space to look much less congested and is small enough to leave walking space between the coffee table and couch. It also provides the perfect amount of space to incorporate decor that adds to the room but does not cause clutter.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Given that the max amount of storage provided when I moved in was three small cabinets, I have no shame in admitting that I keep my blow dryer next to my blender and extra paper towels in one of my kitchen cabinets. Gotta make the most with what you’ve got, right? However, I would say my high ceilings and indented walls worked to my benefit in helping segment out the areas and offer a bit more uniqueness than your standard boxy, flat-walled apartments.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Some of my favorite things I’ve added to my space are some of the most random. One of my proudest is my sofa that was a Facebook marketplace find for $200 (originally $650) that originally I wasn’t even looking for and just stumbled upon. It ended up fitting perfectly against the wall, down to the millimeter, and helped brighten the space after replacing a chunky, dark brown leather hand-me-down loveseat I originally had. Another favorite but random addition is my adhesive lights I put under my cabinets and shelves in the kitchen. I am someone who absolutely hates overhead ceiling lights, so having a cozy yet useful lighting solution in the kitchen has been amazing — don’t sleep on adhesive cabinet lights!
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Transparently, I’ve had a “Tiny Studios” board on my Pinterest created since before I even moved to NYC, knowing that it was my goal to have my own space in the city when I was able to, so I came in having my expectations leveled on what I’d actually be able to have in my apartment (for example, I knew my couch would really be a loveseat and I wouldn’t have room for any sort of dining table). I’d say my biggest tip is knowing how to prioritize what you want in your home. When you have limited space to work with, it forces you to truly think about what you want and what you don’t need. For me, it was going piece by piece and slowly filling up the space so that you don’t end up with pieces that may overpower the area or cause clutter rather than complement it. Be slow and strategic in the way you fill your small space, you’ll be happy you did!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? You know and spend more time in your space than anyone else, so trust your gut! Before I moved in, someone told me not to put up curtains because it would make the room feel smaller and cramped. I knew it was the approach I wanted to take and in the end, it allowed me to create separation between the spaces and actually made it feel bigger to me!
Also, find storage wherever you can! I have every hidden crevice of my apartment filled to the brim for storage: behind my full length mirror, inside my coffee table, under my bed and couch, inside my stove. If you got it, use it!
Lastly, pull inspiration from places or people that make you feel most content in your space. For me, that was pulling from movies/shows that bring me joy and content from creators that allowed me to see how I could incorporate their ideas into my space. Shoutout to Apartment Therapy for being a hub of creators for me to get some of those ideas from!
PAINT & COLORS
- Clothing Rack — Amazon
- Mirror — Target (originally black, painted gold)
- Bedside Table — IKEA (discontinued)
- Tiny hanging plants — Target (sold out)
- Lamp — TJ Maxx
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.
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