Storage Secrets from a Pro Organizer’s Own Tiny Studio Apartment

updated Dec 20, 2019
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(Image credit: William Strawser)

Amelia, of Urban Cottage NYC, occasionally has moments when she sees a large-scale piece of furniture, or a giant antique butcher block, and wishes she had a little more square footage to put stuff in. While she has country house dreams for the future, her present home is short on space, but rich in smart storage ideas. And she’s been gracious enough to share her small space storage secrets.

“But right now, in this moment — I know I have everything I need. So much of what I swore I could not live without from the old apartment, I don’t even miss,” Amelia says.

Storage secrets in Amelia’s own words:

Before you move into a small space:

Prior to my move, I considered myself practiced at purging and editing. But as the primary tenant in my last apartment, most of the furniture was mine. And then there were all of my things — collected flea market finds, 1940s kitchenware, a vintage Chesterfield sofa I had rehabbed.

The bones of this studio were completely different from my sweet old walk-up. Picturing my new space kept me focused and brutally honest. I felt anything I took with me had to be space-conscious but also blend with that newer, modern vibe. The vintage pieces that made the cut were more mid-century than farmhouse. It became a game of “This or That”… take the loveseat, sell the couch. When I felt myself hesitating or resisting, I just tried to focus on getting cash and creating room for the new pieces I would need. When in doubt, fund your future.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

Think through the system:

The most important challenge was getting a system in place for the closets and the dining room bench. I really needed to think through the flow of those areas. The kitchen and bathroom was much more straightforward. The rest became a puzzle, with each move dependent on the next. It’s like a giant game of Tetris.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

The least used things (seasonal stuff, guest linens and air mattresses) went into the bench. The front third of the large closet became utility-oriented: laundry, vacuum, tools and on. The remaining closet space went towards my wardrobe. (The dresser in the living room was purchased to store folded clothes). The linen closet was the linchpin. Each shelf became extremely valuable real estate.

I purchased the bench and bins in the bathroom to store towels. Cleaning supplies went under the kitchen sink. Finding other solves for traditional linen closet items meant I now had a place for my office, sheet music and visual journals along with my everyday bed linens.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

Amelia’s favorite storage tools you can buy:

The Container Store has such great stuff. The small and large Tint Stacking Drawers in Smoke are all over my apartment. I also love their white cardboard Best Box. A couple of those are on the top shelf in the utility section of my closet. I used their Shoe Organizers. I also love IKEA for storage ideas. You can also make storage out of anything – leftover vases from floral arrangements, shoe boxes.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

Choose double duty:

The dining bench was designed for my old apartment so my roommate would have extra storage. It’s basically a seven-foot box and the lid hinges up. The other big items I purchased for the new space all share that duality/practicality. The kitchen island stores big and decorative pieces but works for food prep and as a buffet. The mid-century dresser under the television looks like a console but stores folded clothes. The bookcase functions as storage and also provides room separation.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

Think small, too:

One of the first things anyone can do to make their closet less frustrating is to streamline their hangers. Uniformity cuts down on hanger tangle — when different kinds get stuck on each other. The thin-profile velvet flocked hangers are key for a small space. You can fit so much more across the hanging bar, plus things stay put — even the skinniest strapped tank top. Even if things aren’t perfectly organized, having all of the same style and color hanger makes you look like you’ve got it all figured out.

I also like shelf dividers to keep piles from tipping over. Spice tins to replace all of the different shaped spice bottles are another game changer. I store them in the top drawer in my kitchen.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

How to keep open shelving looking neat:

I would just say style and edit on a regular basis. I went through my bookcase again recently and donated some more books to make room for new ones. I also keep an eye on the island to make sure it’s not getting too cluttered. I never met a bowl or a serving piece I didn’t love. But you need negative space so you can really see and enjoy what you have. So when something new comes in, it usually means something else has to go.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

Don’t forget those out-of-the-way places:

Those are IKEA baskets. I use them to store extra stationery, thank you cards, cocktail napkins, tealights, taper candles, bows and tags for wrapping presents. It’s like an all-around storage area for anything hostess-related.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

See all of Amelia’s gorgeous studio apartment

Or learn more about her secrets to entertaining in a small space.