A 494-Square-Foot Studio Was Decorated on an Awesomely Small Budget

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(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

Name: Erica Thomas
Location: Williamsburg — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 494 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, renting

I live in a 494-square-foot studio apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This is the first apartment I’ve ever lived in that has a really fantastic layout that utilizes all of the space well. It has 10-foot ceilings and a wall of eight-foot windows, so it definitely feels bigger than it is. I’ve lived here six months and prioritized getting the space decorated and organized as soon as possible. Otherwise, I know myself, and I would be living with a bunch of unpacked boxes indefinitely.

(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

I didn’t really start out with a plan or set approach to designing my space. The one thing I knew is that I didn’t want to spend a ton of money since this is a rental, and I wanted a space I was excited to come home to and that reflected the things that interest me (mysteries, books, plants, color). I spent about $1,500 total including the couch. I’m a consultant, and I work from home sometimes, so a space free of clutter was also important. The first piece I bought was the blue velvet couch and a geometric, bright space grew organically from there.

(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

There’s a lot of DIY in my apartment. In my bedroom, I wanted to paint the wall behind my bed black, but I didn’t want to commit to painting and repainting since it’s a rental. Instead I bought a large stretch canvas, ironed it out, painted it black and made a splatter paint painting to hang on the wall. I turned the bed at an angle, because I found it visually more interesting and repetitive of some of the geometric shapes in the space.

(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

In the dining area, I really wanted wallpaper, but I put up wall decals from Pottery Barn instead since they were less of a commitment. The dining room table and bar stools were counter height (and gray) from a prior apartment. I hired a Tasker from Task Rabbit to cut everything down to standard height, and then I painted everything black to repurpose and save money. The splatter paint artwork in the dining room is my own. I also collect vintage entertaining pieces. The drink caddy on my dining room table is from Karoff Originals circa 1955!

(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

All of the pieces in my living room (rug, coffee table, and couch) are from budget retailers. Everything was sourced online without seeing it in person and luckily worked out. I wanted to separate the living and sleeping space without sacrificing light so I used an extra long tension rod from Bed Bath and Beyond and sheer panels from Amazon to create division.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Tiny but mighty, modern, mischievous.

(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

What is your favorite room and why? My whole apartment is technically one room, but I love my living room area. It has huge windows and great natural light. I love a good mystery, and the gallery wall above my couch is filled with things I find mysterious—a letter John Steinbeck wrote to his son about love, a photo of my great uncle who disappeared from a naval ship during WWII, a front page newspaper story about a sole survivor of an accident during the 1970s (my dad!), Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings in a phone booth… it’s a great conversation starter when guests come over!

(Image credit: Erica Thomas)

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? I am definitely in the minority on this one, but I hate the open concept floor plan and greatly desire a kitchen in a separate room. I feel like in NYC “open floor plan” is just a way to cram more into less space!

Any advice for creating a home you love? “I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don’t want.” Stanley Kubrick said that, and it’s true in life and true in design. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want is half the battle.

Also, my mom, who is the most creative person I know and my design hero, says that all furniture looks better painted black. She’s right! This is especially true for cheap furniture.


Birdy Side Table — Urban Outfitters
Ink Blue Samara Sofa — World Market
Connected Stripe Rag Rug — Urban Outfitters
HomePop Metal Accent Table — Target
Project 52 Globe Floor Lamp — Target
Acme Coffee Table — Target
Blanket from Mexico — From my grandmother’s travels in the 1970s!
Vintage Nancy Drew Books — I’ve been collecting these since I was a kid
Karoff Monty Carlo Drink Caddy — eBay
Curtainworks Sheer Panels — Amazon

Thanks, Erica!

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