Making it Work: 8 Solutions for Even the Smallest Studios

published Mar 5, 2017
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(Image credit: Emily Ogden)

Aside from getting a glimpse at how other readers make a home, one of the best things about Apartment Therapy House Tours is exploring the myriad small space living solutions. Renting a small space—particularly a studio—often presents obstacles: perhaps there is an unsightly feature that can’t be removed or a seemingly inevitable storage issue (we’ve all been there). These house tours not only solve some of the common dilemmas that accompany studio living, but also maintain the warm, cozy vibe that makes our House Tours so special.

(Image credit: Will Strawser )

1. Double Up on Storage

The entry walls of Will and Kate’s Hell’s Kitchen studio are adorned with cute vintage wood boxes that double up as storage, holding the couple’s valuables: keys, wallets, etc. When square footage is limited (their space is only 420 square feet), creating storage solutions that aren’t an eyesore can be a challenge, but the couple succeed while adding some charm to their industrial-modern apartment.

(Image credit: Jessica Rapp)

2. Use Mirrors to Open Up and Brighten a Space

It’s no secret that using mirrors in a small apartment can transform the space. In Becky’s 300-square-foot Beijing studio, she placed a large floor mirror against a wall, which makes the the room seem more open than it actually is. Even better, the mirror is near a bright window and reflects the sun rays throughout, nearly doubling the natural light.

(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

3. Go Higher

Rhonda is lucky in that she had the option to customize her East London studio. She tore out the kitchen cabinets and replaced them with recycled scaffolding boards as shelves that she installed all the way up to the ceiling. This gives her just enough space to display her vast collection of beautiful ceramics and crockery, which tie in perfectly with the bold lines in the adjacent art and backsplash.

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

4. Pack a Punch with Color (Without Overwhelming a Space)

Alexandra’s Brooklyn studio is tiny and packs a punch, but doesn’t feel cramped at all. She does this by keeping the walls mostly bare, sprinkling colorful books, art, and housewares throughout the space. Her decor choices makes the space feel cheery and happy without feeling overwhelming.

(Image credit: Craig Kellmann)

5. Work With What You’ve Got

Basements don’t have to be dark and dingy, as illustrated in Arden’s bright and simple studio. She didn’t have to do much but embrace the “bones” of the apartment: the light wall color, the open windows, and the simple layout. It’s a great example of not overthinking things and working with what you’ve got, but making it look beautiful at the same time.

(Image credit: Chloe Berk)

6. Preserve Square Footage by Going Vertical

Alee was smart when deciding to forego a bulky bookshelf for her book collection. She used a spine book tower that leaves the beautiful brick wall exposed, and also draws the eyes upward. This makes the space feel taller and takes up minimal real estate (though we’d imagine getting a book from the bottom of the stack could get dicey!). Her studio is just 200 square feet, so preserving square footage is critical.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

7. Utilize Overlooked Nooks and Surfaces

When you have an appreciation for older things, it’s only natural to display them throughout your home. But when surface space is limited, it can be a challenge. Meghan and Jesse incorporate the items they love all over their Los Angeles rental, in almost every nook and surface, as illustrated in the photo above. Creating a vignette on top of the unsightly wall heater draws attention away from it, and adds a nice visual element to a spot that might normally be an eyesore.

(Image credit: Emily Ogden)

8. Create a Comfortable, Lived-in Look

When Emily found her small studio apartment in the historic German village of Columbus, Ohio, she knew she’d have to sacrifice the square footage she was used to. Though she pared down on furniture and decor, her studio is still filled with lots of the things she loves. While this usually goes against most small space design advice, it illustrates another important aspect of creating the perfect home: surround yourself only with the things you love. While not minimal or sparse, Emily’s home is exactly how she wants it: filled to the brim with things that bring her joy.