The Small/Cool Contest Functionality Winner’s Studio Seriously *Works*

published Jul 27, 2023
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"Upon opening the door, you're greeted by the heart of my space," Ranson wrote in her entry. "This multifunctional area seamlessly combines my bedroom, living room, dining room, and office in a compact 213 square feet. This room features five windows, four of my original artworks, three rugs, and eight disco balls of varying sizes."

In her Small/Cool Contest entry, Hannah Ranson called her Atlanta studio apartment “a cozy haven that perfectly reflects my style and personality.” Within 303 square feet — and particularly within a 213-square-foot main room — Ranson was able to create a layered look of golds, browns, and reds; rich textures; and her own art. The items are well-curated and well-designed, and above all, they fit and function flawlessly. 

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce today that Ranson is the Functionality Category Winner of the 2023 Small/Cool Contest!

"Sketching my home's layout revealed a newfound appreciation for the curated design in this small space," Ranson wrote. "An interesting fusion of neutral tones and vibrant hues, layered with captivating textures and patterns, embraces diverse design influences spanning different decades."

“It’s definitely the smallest apartment that I’ve lived in,” Ranson says of her space. “And it has its quirks, but it’s very much a reflection of me and my personality. I definitely stayed true to my roots of maximalist design and didn’t compromise even with such a small space.”

"As you step inside, a vibrant entry space awaits in the right corner, showcasing a collection of my favorite things," Ranson wrote in her entry. "Disco balls, funky plants, books on various topics, and hand sculptures fill this nook. Hands, a recurring motif in my art, have effortlessly become a part of my home decor."

This year, we asked our Small/Cool Contest judging panel — made up of Apartment Therapy Media’s founder and CEO, Maxwell Ryan; Emmy-nominated TV host and design expert Bobby Berk, of “Queer Eye” fame, whose debut book, “Right at Home: How Good Design Is Good for the Mind,” releases Sept. 12, 2023; and therapist-turned-interior-designer Anita Yokota, author of the bestselling book, HOME THERAPY,” who uses her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT) as inspiration for her work in Southern California — to select four winners in the following categories: Vibe, Cleverness, and Creativity, and Functionality. 

For that last one, our judges looked for the entry that really works due to its layout and use of space, and they found it in Ranson’s submission. “Space-wise, and what she’s accomplished out of one space, I think this is the most functional,” Berk said during the judges’ deliberation, with Yokota and Ryan chiming in to praise the studio’s usability. “In this one little space, it has an office, it has a living room, it has a bedroom, so it’s very functional,” Berk said.

"The left side of the room features a vintage burl laminate dresser — a lucky thrift store find," Ranson wrote. "This unique piece visually anchors the entire space, providing storage and discreetly concealing cleaning appliances. The vibrant colors in the artwork above contribute to an inviting and captivating design."

It also works exactly right for how Ranson specifically uses her space — and that was intentional, she says. For example, Ranson says that creating a workspace with a desk was important to her so she wouldn’t “want to work from bed all day” (we get it!). And while she doesn’t have a kitchen table, she has a side table next to her loveseat at the end of her bed that she eats off of. 

Lest you think all of her gorgeous furniture magically fit when she moved in, know how thoughtful Ranson was about making it do so. “Everything was measured down to a T before I purchased it and brought it in,” she says. As an example, just take a peek at the perfect slice of chair space between Ranson’s bed and desk.

"In the back right corner of the main room, my dedicated office area comes to life," explained Ranson. "It's where I spend the majority of my day immersed in work. Despite the close proximity of my chair to the bed, I appreciate the window's view overlooking the backyard — an ideal spot for daydreaming."

Ranson says the home is so usable for her, but it also feels good. She’s surrounded herself with lots of books, color, and her own art. “[That] has really just made it come together and feel very comfortable,” she says. “No matter what part of the room I’m in, I feel pretty settled in that space.”

Ranson, along with each of the other three other category winners, will get $250 as her prize.

"The kitchen in this studio space is unexpectedly spacious," Ranson wrote in her entry. "A handy DIY mug holder has been a game-changer, freeing up valuable cabinet storage. However, the true highlight of my kitchen is the collection of photos capturing celebrities both making and enjoying meals (not pictured)."

This year, we also asked our readers to choose one grand prize winner out of 71 entries that made it to a public voting round. The grand prize winner will nab $1,000, and we’re announcing that champion today, too! You can meet the grand prize winner right this way. 

Congrats to Hannah and all of our winners!