You guys know how much I love studio apartments, so today I wanted to share some tips and ideas for decorating them – ways of maximizing the space without sacrificing style. It’s something I feel pretty passionate about – you can live well in small spaces! You just have to put in the effort and decorate smartly, and a big part of that is in the pieces that you choose. So I put together some guidelines for the best types of small space furniture for studio apartments, but of course this could go for any petite space. I hope you guys will find this helpful!
Best Small Space Furniture for a Studio Apartment:
One important thing I’ve learned over the years is how important balance is in making a room work well. For a studio, I think it’s best to put the bed and the sofa on opposite walls. They don’t have to be directly across from each other, but having them both on one wall can make that side feel visually heavy, and the other side feel visually out of balance with the other wall. By putting the two (likely) largest pieces of furniture on opposite walls, it creates that balance that is so pleasing to the eye in design. I think it also helps to establish a feeling of separation between sleeping area and living area. Matthew Kowle’s apartment featured in Lonny is one of my favorite examples of this!
Look for Legs
When you’re shopping for small space furniture for a studio apartment, it’s important to look for pieces that have some air underneath -ie, pieces that are on legs. Of course you’re going to need storage pieces, like a dresser – but you want to make sure that you don’t get an entire apartment of blocky storage pieces. Even one or two pieces on legs can really help to create a feeling of airiness. Plus, pieces on legs often still have a drawer or shelf, so you won’t totally lose out on storage! Win-win.
Avoid Mini Furniture
This is a piece of advice I learned from Nate Berkus (I think when his TV show was still on, which RIP). He said that often people in small spaces think they have to use small furniture, but that actually makes the space feel smaller. So no dollhouse furniture – use full sized pieces! It’s more economical too, as you’ll still be able to use these pieces in the future if you move to a larger space.
Strategic use of mirrors (and mirrored furniture!)
I know I just posted this Elizabeth Bauer-designed space in my recent post on tips for dividing a studio apartment, but I just have to feature it again here for her genius use of mirrors. Mirrors are a great way to trick the eye into feeling like a space is bigger than it actually is, and nowhere is this more important than in a small studio apartment! You can see in this example that the mirrored wall helps to visually enlarge the space, while the pink standing mirror does the same and also reflects back the pretty view of the gallery wall. Mirrors also bounce light around which is so key in smalls paces. Mirrored furniture can be great as well, as you can see here in Michelle Adams’ former bedroom:
I have to admit, I actually find mirrored furniture slightly annoying because it shows every speck of dust, so how genius is that: mirrored drawers. If only I knew where she got that fantastic dresser!
Another quality to look for when shopping for small space furniture for a studio apartment: items that expand and contract. Nesting tables are a great example (bonus points for lucite ones!), along with drop-leaf tables or a secretary desk. These items can be “expanded” when the need arises, such as when company visits, and then folded up for everyday when you want things to look a little more streamlined.
I wrote a whole post on this which you can read here, but in a nutshell: in a small studio space it is so important to utilize every inch smartly, and that includes the vertical space. Spine bookcases are my favorite way of doing that – they have such a small footprint but hold a ton of books and look really cool and modern (I have this one from DWR). You can draw the eye up with an eye-catching light fixture or tall headboard, and of course be sure to hang curtains all the way up right under the ceiling, not at the top of the window frame! Wall lamps are also a really great way to save space and they look high-end and built-in (even when they’re plug-ins). Look for ones with a cord cover for a clean look. My sister has a pair of these and they look so much more expensive than they are – plus they have a dimmer! Above, you can see how both Meagan Camp and Katherine Vo used wall lamps (and they both look fab).
Consider a Swivel Chair
This is something I actually only recently realized when I got my Society Social Swivel Stevie – swivel chairs are PERFECT for studio apartments! I put mine in between my bed area and living area, and honestly I didn’t realize how perfect it is for the simple fact that you can just swivel to be in one “room” and then swivel back to be in the other. It’s like two chairs for the price (and footprint) of one! I prefer the ones where you can’t actually see the swivel, like my Stevie chair – it just looks like a regular upholstered chair but then you sit in it and realize it swivels!
While you don’t want mini furniture, it is useful to keep an eye out for narrow furniture. You don’t want all of your furniture to be super skinny, but a slim console or coffee table can go a long way towards giving you more breathing room (not to mention space to walk!). In my first apartment I had a thin console from West Elm, and it fit perfectly into a little nook I had in my entryway. This lucite console is perfect for skinny spaces, plus lucite brings me to my next point…
Furniture you can see through is truly a godsend for a studio apartment. Lucite is probably the first thing that comes to mind (and is a great option), but if that’s not your bag, look for other types of furniture that are light and airy, such as cane. The coffee table above in this home is such a perfect example of see-through furniture that isn’t lucite (and I love it, wish I knew where it was from). When it does come lucite or acrylic furniture, my recommendation is to use only one piece – too much and it can just look weird or tacky. A ghost chair, lucite coffee table or lucite console will disappear to the eye and visually expand the space as your eye travels right through them (hence the term “ghost chair.”). I have this ghost chair and it’s held up extremely well over the years. It’s such a useful piece that’s lightweight and easy to move around, and it’s flexible enough to work as a desk chair or side chair. Extra seating is always a challenge to incorporate into a studio without making it feel too stuffed, and this is a great solution.
Double Duty Furniture
In a studio apartment, what you want are pieces that can work double-duty. Think creatively and try to rethink the pieces you have. Can a dresser be a TV stand? Yup! Can a bookshelf be clothing storage? Yup, if you add some cute baskets. A desk can also be a nightstand (see above), a storage trunk can serve as a coffee table, a skirted console table can hide shoe storage, a desk chair can be used as extra seating when moved to the living space, and a bar cart can double as a side table when placed next to a sofa and adorned with a table lamp. I particularly love a desk as nightstand, as you can see above in Lauren McGrath’s apartment and that beautiful shot on the right which I think is from Lonny?
One last piece of advice for studio apartment dwellers is to make sure to get a bed that allows for underbed storage! I’m not the biggest fan of beds that have drawers built in underneath – I prefer and have always used underbed boxes hidden by a bedskirt. But either one can work! I have this bedskirt and really love it – I’ve actually been using it for over ten years, I’m kind of shocked they still have it! As for underbed boxes, I use these from Container Store (they’re actually boot boxes but they hold a surprising amount of clothes!) and also love these flexible ones that you can kind of stuff into a tight space. If you have enough room these seem great and really convenient (unfortunately I have an annoying support bar under my bed so these wouldn’t fit for me). I also put these into the storage boxes to protect woolen items without any gross mothball smell.
Let me know if you guys have any topics about small spaces or studio apartment decorating that you’d like to see posts about!