6 Maximalist Studios That Show You Can Live Small AND Love Stuff

updated Mar 25, 2020
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Credit: Minette Hand

There seems to be an enduring myth that moving into a small space means you must become a minimalist, eschew most worldly possessions, and never enjoy the energetic clutter of a shelf of tchotchkes again. But that simply isn’t the case.

Downsizing into a small home—particularly a studio apartment lacking in interior walls —does require planning, and yes, some paring down of your things. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up stuff altogether. The small-space dwellers in these six studio apartments are happily living a maximalist life despite their home’s small square footage. If you’re working with a size-challenged home as well, check out some of the ways the spaces below celebrate stuff (without feeling too stuffy).

The art of layering plays a big part in this 400-square-foot Philadelphia studio apartment’s stuff-filled style. From stacking rugs on top of each other, to colorful throw pillows and blankets adding boldness to the already vibrant furniture. When Amanda downsized from her previous apartment, she decluttered her wardrobe and old school papers, but she held on to family heirlooms like the mid-century modern drawers and shelf combo that were part of a set in Amanda’s dad’s childhood bedroom. Those treasures mix with her own art hanging in the space.

This Chicago studio apartment is only 320 square feet, but that hasn’t stopped designer Rene Valdez from decorating the small space with an exuberant medley of furniture, antiques, and dark paint colors. Rene advises: “Don’t be scared of dark bold wall colors in a small space. Dark walls seem to disappear, making a space feel larger yet cozy.”

Credit: Liz Calka

This Baltimore, Maryland studio apartment belongs to a baker, and it’s only 250 square feet. The home is peaceful, inviting, and full of inspiration—cozy maximalism is the style of this small space. Everything holds meaning, and her belongings are arranged into what Krystal refers to as “moments”—like a pair of pom-pom heels she wore on a special day in her career, or beer bottles she enjoyed with friends (that now live on as bud vases).

Credit: Minette Hand

At 300 square feet, you wouldn’t think there’d be much room in this New York Studio apartment for a lot of items, but Heather Alexander managed to create separate spaces for the living area and bedroom in her home. She’s also incorporated tons of books and colors. “I moved in after I divorced a design-curmudgeon,” wrote Heather. “He would never let me use too much color or have a lot of stuff around. So when I got my own place, I really went for it.”

Credit: Minette Hand

At 280 square feet, this Crown Heights studio apartment benefits from the tall ceilings and ample windows—it doesn’t feel as small as it actually is. Though she says space is her biggest challenge, she tackled it deftly thanks to being “extremely selective” in what she chose to add to the space…as well as finding furniture that was custom made to fit the home’s small dimensions.

In Brooklyn, Quinne Myers took a 400-square-foot studio apartment and transformed it into a whimsical space, a place that celebrates quirky elements. There are plenty of mermaid and flower details sprinkled around the home, which isn’t surprising considering her biggest inspiration: the Madonna Inn.