This Small/Cool Winner’s 280-Square-Foot Studio Feels So Much Larger Than It Is

published Dec 30, 2020
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Credit: KC Cibran

Name: KC Cibran
Location: New York, New York
Size: 280 square feet
Years lived in: About a year, renting

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KC Cibran‘s TINY 280-square-foot Manhattan studio apartment won the Tiny Bracket in 2020’s Small/Cool competition, and really that’s no surprise to anyone who’s seen inside her “Tropical Boho and Cuban Abuela” style space. KC wrote that she wanted to bring Cuban Miami style to her home while also staying within a very small budget. “I hit up every sale, thrift and curbside find and made a little tropical getaway in the middle of Manhattan,” she wrote in her contest entry. “When I walk in the door, I’m reminded of my roots. My home doesn’t really fit a specific style (or a couch), but I love it here because every piece tells a different story.” To close out the year—and to see even more of her smart, small home—check out this video tour. Consider it both a longer look into her small-space designing skills AND a goodbye to a home that served her well: KC recently moved to Brooklyn to a larger apartment with two roommates.

Credit: KC Cibran

With so little square footage to work with, KC had to be intentional with everything she brought into this studio apartment. She explained that her TV stand—a cool boho-looking wood cabinet—was one of the first things she bought and that it helped to establish the aesthetic. “That wall is the first thing you see when you walk in, so I wanted something there that would be cute, but also functional. I came across this beauty browsing one of Target’s beloved home sales. Then I bribed two of my friends to help me carry it up three flights of stairs. It took us a while to build and one of the doors is crooked, but I love how perfectly imperfect it is,” she described. Of course, incorporating storage into small spaces is paramount to designing any studio apartment, which thankfully this piece accomplishes nicely. “It’s also like the Mary Poppins bag of TV stands! I can fit an alarming amount of things in there.”

Credit: KC Cibran

KC’s entire studio apartment is beautiful, but her refresh of the kitchen is downright impressive considering its size and the fact that it’s a rental. You might even say it’s a $100 rental kitchen redo with a million-dollar personality. “My main goal was to just put my personality into this rental kitchen,” KC wrote in her kitchen’s before and after post. “My apartment building is very strict on changes—we can’t even paint. So I also wanted to make sure everything was reversible and most importantly, low budget.”

Credit: KC Cibran

KC probably knows more than anyone that sometimes living small means making compromises. For this studio, it was not being able to fit a couch into the layout. Instead, she made sure to find what she calls a statement chair… as well as crafted a lovely gallery wall above it. “The art above the chair has sentimental value—my aunt got in the ’60s during the women’s rights movement,” KC said. “It reminds me of all the strong women I grew up with.”

Credit: KC Cibran

Double-duty, multi-purpose furniture was also key to this studio apartment. “This bar cart holds wine, a turntable, records, art supplies, a disco ball, Pitbull, you name it. When I have guests over, I clear the top and use it as an appetizer/cocktail table.”

Credit: KC Cibran

You can see more of KC’s studio apartment, as well as the new apartment she just moved into, on her Instagram account @thecasaverde and on TikTok.

Credit: Frances Arrebola-Llopiz
"I arranged my apartment so that each corner serves a different purpose. I have the bed in one corner, my reading nook in the other, my bar cart, and lastly, my lounge chair. I’ve decorated each corner like its own vignette in a bigger picture so that the space feels separated, but still cohesive."

Thanks, KC!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.