How Newlyweds Share a Small Apartment (Stylishly & Successfully)

published Oct 18, 2016
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(Image credit: Kimia Emami)

Franke and Jason have shared this small, sky-high Chicago studio for just over year, and considering they just tied the knot, I’d say the studio living experiment (this is the first studio apartment for both of them) has been a success! Read about how they survive sharing a small home, the best (and worst) parts about living in a studio and more.

Your small space history:

Franke: We’ve lived in four one-bedroom apartments together over the past ten years. But this is the first time that we’ve experimented with a studio. Spending a good amount of time on sources like Apartment Therapy made me less hesitant about it. I got a chance to see how others made it work. It made the idea of living in a small space kind of a badge of honor instead of this weird thing that people put themselves through.

Jason: During my first year of grad school I was living in a one-bedroom by myself. But Franke essentially helped me pick out the place, paint it, furnish it… So we established our new-place-planning dynamic a long time ago, which made the move to a studio at this time in our lives a bit less daunting.

“This is true of any sized home, but designating personal spaces is key. ”

What’s the secret to harmoniously sharing a small space with someone?

Franke: This is true of any sized home, but designating personal spaces is key. And if you can make them non-visible from one another, even better (that sounds so romantic). It’s the illusion of personal space that’s perhaps more important than the reality. We’re often up late working away at our respective desks, so being able to focus during those times is important. You even start to miss the other person after a few hours! The highs and lows of studio-living…

Jason: Staying out of Franke’s personal space! But in all seriousness, being familiar with each other’s needs is important and we’ve been fortunate to have lived together for years before downsizing.

(Image credit: Franke Chung)

What’s the best thing about sharing a small space without official “rooms” (or even a bedroom door) with someone else?

Franke: It’s kind of like a constant slumber party. Some nights we’ll camp out in the living room with too many pillows and play video games or binge watch a show. And then one of us might come crawling back to the bed in the middle of the night, but it doesn’t seem totally necessary.

Jason: I can almost always see my pets. It’s amazing. We’ve also become somewhat spoiled with how much needs to be cleaned. At this point, I can’t imagine keeping up with a larger home.

“It’s kind of like a constant slumber party.”

The worst thing?

Franke: When you’re mid-argument, there’s literally no place to escape to. When someone farts, there’s literally no place to escape to. It can quickly feel like you’re living in squalor the moment you put off dishes or making the bed. Also, dealing with the stank of Jason’s candle addiction. Despite all of these, downsizing in order to live in a central location still outweighs the nuisances of small space living.

Jason: Noise pollution across the apartment can be an issue when you need a quiet space to work or rest. Sometimes Franke has these early morning phone meetings and I have to tip toe around the apartment. You may be able to achieve visual privacy in a small space, but auditory privacy is far more difficult.

(Image credit: Franke Chung)

Has the furniture layout changed from when you first moved in?

Franke: We’ve just passed the one-year mark and the layout for the most part has stuck. We’ve added quite a bit of furniture and decor to the bedroom this past month, but somehow it doesn’t feel any smaller. Never underestimate the power of oversized mirrors.

Jason: The small space was useful in this regard, as the number of spots where key furniture pieces could go was pretty limited. Franke works from home, and I know the longer she stares at something, the more she wants to change it. The fact that we’ve gone this long without a major change is pretty astonishing.

(Image credit: Franke Chung)

Any small space sharing advice?

Franke: Plan, plan, plan. Living in a small space means you have to be that much more prepared for your move. You can’t just move in, dump all your stuff, and figure it out later; you need a general sense of what you can feasibly accommodate. So you’ll have to get on the same page about what stays and what goes, sooner rather than later.

Also, when you’re small space hunting, take into consideration some of the communal living areas that the buildings offer. Some are building up or retro-fitting larger, more amenities-focused lounges, game rooms, and working areas. So while folks may be living in small spaces, they have immediate access to such areas at all times.

“A studio space is often seen as a great first place for one person. But perhaps not a great first place for two people… There’s a constant negotiation of space, time, and things.”

Jason: A studio space is often seen as a great first place for one person. But perhaps not a great first place for two people, in my opinion. There’s a constant negotiation of space, time, and things. Of course this is contingent on your personalities and how well you know one another. But if a messy home amplifies anxiety for one individual but not another, it may be more difficult to negotiate how you’re going to work that out in a studio than in a larger space where messes may be easier to overlook.

(Image credit: Franke Chung)

See their entire Chicago studio apartment in their house tour → A Pragmatist’s Simple Sky-High 640 Square Foot Chicago Studio