Before & After: A 600-Square-Foot Studio Is an Example of Furnishing a Beautiful Home on a Small Budget

updated Oct 23, 2020

Before & After: A 600-Square-Foot Studio Is an Example of Furnishing a Beautiful Home on a Small Budget

updated Oct 23, 2020
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Name: Erin Miles and my boyfriend Alex
Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Size: 600 square feet
Years Lived In: 1 year, renting

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Photographer and stylist Erin Miles shared a peek of her Hartford rental home with Apartment Therapy earlier this year in a house call, but it wasn’t a long enough look. Although the before photos are empty rooms—and therefore, any furnished after photo would be an improvement—this transformation is worthy of highlighting simply for how she was able to design an elegant, beautiful small home… all on a very low budget. Along with taking cues from Scandinavian design (lots of bright white, natural textures), she also stuck to a simple color palette throughout the small space, which helps make it feel bigger than it is. And she didn’t splurge on new, store-bought stuff when it came to furnishing the space. Instead, she went shopping on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other discount spots, as well as literally finding some items for free. The whole home is full of inspiration for what to look for when you’re thrifting, how to design a functional layout for a small space, and how to pull a look together beautifully when you don’t have a ton of money.

Credit: Erin Miles

“I share my studio apartment with my boyfriend Alex, and for such a small space we share it really well together!” explains Erin. “All of the furniture in our space was found on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or just found. I am inspired by Scandinavian design and the American West so I worked to have those two inspirations flow together. I’ve always loved finding my furniture and decor in thrift stores, estate sales, or Craigslist. It started out as a way to save money and to enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Now it has turned into a hobby of repurposing items that also have a history instead of purchasing everything new, which is better for our environment. Our building was the first payphone factory!  It has recently been renovated and built apartments which we were lucky enough to be the first tenants for our unit. I actually was able to pick out tile, cabinets, and the kitchen countertop, too!”

Credit: Erin Miles

Unfortunately, Erin and Alex’s time in this small studio has come to an end, as they’re starting a new chapter in Denver, Colorado. I look forward to seeing what their new home looks like—I bet it’ll be another beautiful space done on a budget!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Maximalist gone minimalist, earthy, modern vintage.

Inspiration: Scandinavian design and nature.

Favorite Element: The big windows and antique floors. I am so inspired by how the light changes in the apartment at different times of the day; it’s always so bright. The floors also have such a beautiful patina from being 100+ years old.

Credit: Erin Miles

Biggest Challenge: The limited storage. I add shelves to all the closets to maximize the space and really Tetris in boxes.

Proudest DIY: I sourced driftwood to make our kitchen table, shelves, coffee table, and found a driftwood stump on the side of a river that is now my favorite side table.  I also made the black and white 8 foot tall painting to fit the high ceilings. My art school background really came into play so I could custom fit pieces for this small space.

Credit: Erin Miles

Biggest Indulgence: Hans Wegner wood and rope style chair.

Best Advice: When it comes to buying furniture, if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.

What’s your best home secret? I go shopping many times a week! I go thrifting, antiquing, and search Facebook marketplace all the time. By constantly looking I find the really special pieces. It started as a habit to work around my budget, but now I also look at it as an environmentally friendly way to furnish my home.


Credit: Erin Miles


  • Bookshelf — ​TJMaxx
  • Bookshelf Decor — Thrifted
Credit: Erin Miles


  • Sofa — Ashley Furniture purchased on Craigslist
  • Dresser — Vintage Dixie Furniture
  • Burlwood Dresser — Craigslist, previous owner shared that her grandfather won it in a bowling tournament
  • 8 foot tall painting — DIY
  • Rug — Online Auction
  • Lamp — Urban Outfitters
Credit: Erin Miles


  • Kitchen table — ​DIY (wood sourced along Farmington river)
  • Shelves — DIY (wood sourced along Farmington river)
  • Shelf decor — Thrifted
Credit: Erin Miles


  • Burlwood tallboy dresser — Craigslist
Credit: Erin Miles


  • Towel Basket — Thrifted
  • Shelf — DIY

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