This 500-Square-Foot LA Studio Combines Clever Storage Ideas, Smart Space Planning, and a Ton of Style

published Jun 21, 2021

This 500-Square-Foot LA Studio Combines Clever Storage Ideas, Smart Space Planning, and a Ton of Style

published Jun 21, 2021
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Name: Willow Rothbart
Location: Hollywood, California
Size: 500 square feet
Type of Home: Studio Apartment
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

After sharing a home with a roommate, creative director Willow Rothbart says she wanted her first official place on her own to personify who she is. Willow, an LA native, found the current studio apartment she’s been renting for a year on, despite the listing only featuring one photo, an exterior shot of the courtyard. “I normally would have skipped this in a second but for some reason I took a chance and given I had absolutely nothing to lose, I went to check it out!” begins Willow. “Upon arriving at the building, it was beautiful. Apart from some little things here and there, it embodied all of the same character from the ’80s. It was VERY Hollywood in the best way. It makes you wonder who lived here back in the day and what chaos did they get into? I loved it.”

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“They had eight units open so we went one by one starting on the first floor, up to the second and ending at the third. Every unit had the awesome exposed brick and the space I needed but I wasn’t connecting with them the way I hoped. Then we got to the last unit (always ends up being the last unit) and sure enough I walked in and felt it. No joke, I turned to my now landlord and said ‘this is mine!’ within two minutes of being there.”

“We’re a year in and I still wake up just happy to be in the space. I open all the French doors, light up some incense, throw on some George Harrison, drink some water and get to it! I get to live in New York, Europe, and LA every day. It’s kind of epic.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My style is a combination of industrial, minimalist, with a touch of transitional. I enjoy the classic shop pieces but approach it with a very Bauhaus-like structure. I’m drawn to spaces with open architecture and exposed construction. My ideal interior is a large loft space with concrete floors, exposed brick furnished with a mixture of minimalist pieces with waves of color.

Inspiration: Bauhaus, James Turrell, Peggy Gou, Pierre Jeanneret, Walter Gropiusand Jean Prouvé.

Favorite Element: 10000% my beautiful French doors. I find it mind-boggling that my unit was available given how stunning these original French doors encompassed the place but I also think you have to be a weirdo to take on a challenge where you’re given 500 square feet and some of it you can’t even use because of the doors!

I grew up in LA so I know how hot it gets in the summer. Committing to living in a building that is 30+ years old, I was accepting the sacrifice of not having A/C. I can proudly say I’ve never felt that I needed one — these doors bring in the best breeze and natural light. Wouldn’t pass it up for the nicest penthouse suite in the city.

Biggest Challenge: I think my biggest challenge was the kitchen. It’s the one area that doesn’t get a lot of natural light and the original wood was this beautiful brown but it added to the darkness. So I went to Home Depot and grabbed sandpaper and a nice white paint color.

I began by uninstalling the top cabinets to expose my dishware. This helped elevate the space and give it a more modern feel. Then I got to sanding down the entire thing, and once that was done I slapped on top coat. Once that dried I went in with the white paint, and then again and again and again until it was finally ready for the top coat. This entire process took about three weeks (and lots of beer) but the outcome was everything I imagined. The white was a beautiful contrast with the marble checkered countertop and every three weeks I swap out a different combination of flowers across the top to give the space a nice boost of color.

Proudest DIY: My proudest DIY has to go to my coffee table. My good friend Tony Camaro (@tony.camaro on Instagram) is a phenomenal artist based here in LA and sold me this piece that he painted on a wood pallet. (He also did the flower piece above my bed). My original plan was to keep it propped up next to my couch as is but I loved it so much that I needed to figure out a way to make it the center of my space. So I started to brainstorm and my first idea was to put legs on it. Then I thought, let’s take it a step further and add another pallet beneath it, get some wheels and make it mobile!

So I went onto FB marketplace, found a yard with free wood pallets, purchased some wheels off of Amazon and started the process. First being that since the pallets are made of wood, I had to sand the edges to keep from possible splinters, size down the new pallet to fit evenly under the piece and then screw those two together. Once those were pieced together, I took a wood stain and gave it a nice little facelift so both pallets looked cohesive. After that, all that was left was to spray some wood lacquer to lock the piece in place. That way it keeps the art intact while being able to use it for food/drinks. After the lacquer dried, we drilled in the wheels and she was done!

Living in a studio, finding more ways to have storage space is a plus. Not only am I able to use this as a table but I’m also able to store my books, vinyl, and electronics in all the little nooks and crannies.

Biggest Indulgence: Hmmmm, It’s honestly so nice to say that there isn’t anything in my place that I’d consider a huge splurge. I love my cowhide rug, which I purchased off Etsy for $120. But that might be the priciest item in my spot; everything else was sold at a lesser cost secondhand! Really grateful for my friends and Facebook Marketplace.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Moving into a studio and having to mesh my living area with my bedroom, I wanted to figure out a way to differentiate the space so I did this by having two rugs. You’ll notice I have a black and white tufted rug under my bed and then on the living room side I have a cowhide rug under my coffee table. This way it gives the sense of two different spaces while being in the same room. It works because they’re both neutral colors but still opposite enough.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? So — my projector screen might be my favorite second product in my household. It hangs right above my couch and it enhances the space by a mile. I have a projector and soundbar under my bed so that I can just Bluetooth-connect to my computer and project right to the screen. I’m not a big TV gal to begin with but it allows me to host small movie nights with friends or just play visuals at night. Because it’s also installed closer to the ceiling it makes the space feel taller/bigger. 10/10 would recommend.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Two things, one would be to utilize every inch of what you got. My kitchen had a good amount of space but adding the island and wall shelves allotted space for pans and cooking utensils. The second thing I would say is go against the norm! A closet doesn’t have to be a closet. Floor plans are just blueprints. It’s up to you to give the space a soul and you don’t need to be traditional about it. Remember that it’s YOUR home.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? “It’s not about brand, it’s about how you style it” Ralph Lauren said it best and I think this applies here. I’m all for splurging on a good couch but before you do, try to suss out the space and see if there’s opportunity to repurpose, revamp, and elevate. You can have the nicest items in the world and still feel like the puzzle pieces aren’t fitting together.


I cannot stress this enough, utilize Facebook Marketplace.


  • Mirror — IKEA
  • Wheels for Pallet Coffee Table — Amazon
  • Pipe Shelving — Amazon
  • Cowhide Rug — Etsy
  • Cow Print Boho Chair — World Market


  • Pot Rack Wall Mount — Amazon
  • Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Bar — Amazon
  • Test Tube Shot Glass Holder — Amazon
  • Test Tubes (used for seasonings) — Amazon
  • Campari Poster — Etsy
  • Kitchen Ceiling Light — IKEA


Thanks Willow!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.