This Is the Biggest Decorating Lesson — and Furniture Buying Trick! — I Learned Living in a 350-Square-Feet Studio

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I always thought my first apartment would be a spacious one bedroom, but my budget was barely enough for a studio. Somehow I lucked out — sort of. I ended up with what can best be described as a hybrid: a studio apartment with a small wall dividing the living and sleeping areas, all in under 350 square feet. Though I was so excited to be the “chief decorator” of my home, reality began to set in.

Living in a tiny space would have its challenges. Years later, I’ve now realized living there taught me so much about dealing with tight quarters. The biggest lesson I learned: Double-duty furniture isn’t just practical, it’s essential. And yes, I believe this is true even for larger homes.  

You probably already know multi-use pieces save precious floor space. Since living in that studio, though, this little trick of mine has helped me when shopping for the hardest-working pieces of furniture out there. The secret is as easy as remembering these three words: Store, stack, and fold. If every double-duty piece you buy can do one or more of these things in addition to its main use, you have a mighty space-saver on your hands. 

Here, check out a few of my favorite standout pieces, each of which passes my three-word buying test and will certainly work overtime in your space.

Credit: Overstock

Store

The biggest issue most people encounter when living small is the lack of storage space.  Where does everything go? All of your visible stuff, whether tucked into corners or sitting out on surfaces, can make a small space look visually busy, even if it’s all organized neatly.  The answer then has to be pieces that secretly stash away your belongings. That’s why I love using a stylish storage ottoman as a living room coffee table.

This stylish ottoman not only provides extra seating and concealed storage for things like blankets, throw pillows, and magazines, but it’s also hiding another handy secret. Flip the seat cushions over to find trays, and just like that you have a tabletop with a sturdy, level surface for placing down drinks, snacks, and more. It’s available in a range of neutral tones and also comes in two different shades of blue. Why settle for double-duty when you can have a triple threat?

Buy: Copper Grove Suonenjoki Storage Ottoman with Trays, $144.87 $106.12 from Overstock

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Fold

When square footage is scarce, you sometimes have to create functional spaces out of thin air. This could mean carving out a home office nook in your bedroom, creating a crafting corner in your main living area, or even making space for essentials like drying your clothes or simply having somewhere to eat your dinner every night in any spot where you can find a few spare square feet. Folding furniture has to be your secret weapon here. These collapsible pieces won’t interrupt the flow of your home because they can be tucked away when not in use, yet they’re right there and handy when needed.

What’s better than a disappearing dining table? A disappearing dining table with hidden storage and shelving that can also be used as a complete home office unit. That’s a lot of multi-tasking! With its tiny footprint (less than a foot deep!) and its impressive versatility, you’ll find plenty of uses for IKEA’s IVAR table in your bedroom, kitchen, or living room. If the raw pine look doesn’t do it for you, paint or stain in your favorite color or finish.

Buy: IVAR Section With Foldable Table,$285.00 from IKEA

Credit: Amazon

Stack

When many pieces of furniture occupy the footprint of just one item, that’s a huge plus for small space dwellers. Whether that’s stackable chairs, stools, or tables, this genius furniture invention is a game changer for small homes. Stackable stools in particular indispensable because of their compact size and innumerable uses. They’re also easy to shuffle around from one space to another, depending on when and where you need them most.

Simple, stylish, and versatile, these stools from Amazon can also be used as bedside tables, dining chairs, living room side tables, or even plant stands. Place two or three together to create a small but functional coffee table. You can even use the them when they’re stacked! Bonus: These stools’ design is highly influenced by the iconic Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto for Artek, so you know they’re going to stay in style for a long time, too.

Buy: COSTWAY Stackable Bentwood Stools, $139.99 $87.99 for a Set of 4 from Amazon