12 Clever Ideas for Laying Out a Studio Apartment

Find tips for decorating a one-room apartment and making the most of a tiny space.

By: Jacquelyn McGilvray

Make a Seating Area

Photo by: Bethany Nauert

Bethany Nauert

Do you really want your guests sitting on your bed? Well, maybe some of them. Having a separate seating area will help keep your bedding clean, meaning less trips to the laundry mat. Even if you only have a few square feet to spare, a designated seating area will make the space feel bigger with more purpose. Try a love seat or an apartment-sized sofa. There are plenty of models that also fold out to a bed if you have guests.

Tour This Studio Makeover

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Before: Solitary Confinement

Studio apartments can feel limiting, but by making only a few thoughtful changes- you can set them free.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

After: Bailed Out

Purposeful furniture choices and arrangement transform this formally cramped room. Simple, gorgeous style elements welcome guests into all of the new space. Watch the video of this makeover >>

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Before: Basic and Bland

This white, drab kitchen entry, decorated with a litter box, is enough to make anyone lose their appetite.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Now We're Cooking

Sometimes adding the right furniture to a small space can make it feel bigger. No longer deserted, this apartment’s kitchen becomes the dessert! See more renter-friendly kitchen updates >>

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

High Hopes

It is crucial to use the vertical space in a studio apartment. Not only will the amount of storage increase, it will draw the eye up and make the room feel bigger.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Magnetic Memories

A magnetic chain displays some solid gold photos, while adding a touch of bling itself.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Hat's Off

It might be instinctual to hide a bed in a studio, but highlighting it can work well, too. This shiny, classy queen-sized piece of art complements the apartment proudly. Get furniture-buying tips for renters >>

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Work Life Balance

Designating a specific space for your work – no matter how small – gives it a place of importance. When the time comes, closing the curtains will give you a little peace and rest. See more projects from this home office makeover >>

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Take A Look At Nooks

There can be no square foot unused in a studio. Comb a watchful eye over every corner to see if creative custom shelving might solve some problems.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Design Detail

Just because an apartment is efficient, doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive. Washi tape creates a chic faux chair detail to the room.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

You Gotta Vent

Sometimes certain practical elements within an apartment are permanent – but not unchangeable. Camouflage can be a pretty glamorous solution.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Line It Up

Echoing clean lines throughout a space can give it a cohesive look. Shiny brass and gold accents also keep light moving throughout the apartment.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Great Graphics

Midcentury modern design can lend itself to some exciting prints. Solid walls and furniture are important in a small area, but you should feel free to have fun with your fabrics.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Big Piece, Big Purpose

When it comes to small studio apartments, every piece of furniture needs to pull its weight. This double credenza brings storage and tabletop real estate while managing to keep a low profile.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Brass Tracks

A hammered brass bowl contributes to the apartment’s style story and becomes a very important place to store keys, cards and other important essentials.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Shoe-In

Beautiful baskets can provide great homes to items that tend to scatter easily, like shoes. The woven texture adds a warmth to the room.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Eye-Catching Efficiency

The key to living comfortably in a studio is defining the purpose and place for each thing in it. No need to sacrifice style along with your square feet, however. This place might be small, but it’s stylish.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Reinvent a Closet

Photo by: Bethany Nauert

Bethany Nauert

If you work from home, set up a separate office zone. Think about converting a closet. Take shelves up to the ceiling, and add rolling carts under the desk if you can’t give up all your storage.

See the Full Office Makeover

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Before: Need Better Space Planning

Today, 50 percent of the workforce works from their home at least part of the time. Many of us know how hard it can be to carve an office zone out of our living areas. Stay tuned for some easy upgrades that will turn up the wow factor on this weary workspace.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

After: High-Functioning Fashion

With just a few small projects and a little elbow grease, you can convert your cluttered work area into a curated, efficient and attractive home office.

Color Some Courage

In color theory, dark raspberry red inspires leadership, bravery and energy. A quick primer and paint job brings new life to this industrious nook.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Shine On

Brass contact paper completely transforms builder-grade shelving. Glamorous and functional don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Adding metallic accents can also help to bounce light throughout a dark corner.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Tell Me About It, Stud

It’s very valuable to spend some time finding the wall studs within your home office area. Well-anchored shelving will help you to make the best use of your vertical space, and you won't have to worry about having too much weight on the shelves.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Sweet Seat

A simple decoupage project will bring some modern charm to this chair. Just because you use something every day, doesn’t mean it has to look everyday and ordinary.  The green-marbled pattern also creates an interesting contrast with the red wall. Get step-by-step instructions on how to decoupage a wood chair >>

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Fabricated Fabulousness

Gorgeous silk cloth and basic paste turn unsophisticated storage boxes into works of art.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Beautiful Boxes

Small details can have a major effect on organization spaces. These containers are now practical and pleasing to the eye.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Pegboard Possibilities

Pegboard is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to make use of hidden corners and partial walls.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Basket Case

Good things come in small storage spaces! Tiny bins and pouches store important business and index cards you don’t want to lose while you’re working.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Use It, Don't Lose It

It’s hard to use the office supplies you can’t find. Hang smaller items on the wall instead of throwing them in a drawer and forgetting where they are.

Give Them An Inch

When you ask a small space to do a big job, you need to use every inch available.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Nice Knickknacks

Open metallic shelving not only works hard, but it looks good. Personal trinkets and keepsakes will remind you of the adventures and memories you’re working so hard to create. See more of this apartment makeover >>

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Printing Place

Printers and scanners are important. Be sure to create a functioning place of honor for the machines you use the most.

Touché, Maché

If you’re working on a lackluster desktop, consider a weekend paper maché project. It’s as easy as it is transformative. Rip and glue your way to a fabulous desktop surface.

Photo By: Bethany Nauert

Use See-Through Furniture

Contemporary Seating Area With Barcelona Chairs

Contemporary Seating Area With Barcelona Chairs

Two Barcelona chairs and a lucite coffee table carve out a contemporary seating area perfect for relaxation or conversation. Abstract art adds a bold splash of citron yellow to the design.

Photo by: D2 Interieurs

D2 Interieurs

Decorate with furniture that's transparent. Wicker, slatted wood or Lucite chairs and tables will make the space seem bigger if they blend into the surroundings.

Hide Storage Behind Artwork

Photo by: Sam Zachrich

Sam Zachrich

That word art on the wall not only displays a sweet sentiment, but it's also a cabinet that conceals jewelry, makeup and other personal items.

Tour This Tiny Apartment Makeover

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Combo of Open Shelves and Closed Cabinets

Storage was implemented on an empty wall in an area that serves as a walkway between rooms. Plain white cabinets were used on the white walls to keep the storage "hidden in plain sight" and keep the space bright. The open shelving displays favorite books for these avid readers.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Dog's Bed

The upper cabinet keeps the dog’s accessories organized. There are hooks for leashes and dog bags and towels to wipe off wet paws. An attractive dog bed in the color scheme of the home blends with the carpet and makes for a comfy nap spot.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Use the Back of the Doors

A tiny whiteboard on the back of the cabinet door keeps track of the week's schedule.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Never Lose Keys or Sunglasses Again

Below the dog's cabinet is another cabinet with hooks for keys and a designated place for her purse and his wallet. Having all the stuff you grab on your way out the door in one place will help you stay organized and on time. 

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Hide the Shoes

Hidden storage for shoes keeps them organized and out of sight, and a shoeless home is cleaner.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Battery and Hardware Storage

The ends of batteries should not touch in storage because they can lose some of their power and corrode. This handy DIY battery station keeps them separated and lets you know when you need more.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Wrangle Cords and Tuck Them Away

A power strip mounted on the back of a drawer provides a place to charge devices and keep the cords organized and out of the way.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Movable Furniture

A wood coffee table on casters can easily be docked against the wall and out of the way when not in use. Same for the light accent chair, it can also be moved around as needed for TV watching or for entertaining.  

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Expandable Dining

A table with a leaf is great for small homes. Expand it to full size when entertaining then retract it when the company goes home. 

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Still Big Enough for Intimate Dining

By taking out the leaf and docking the table against the wall, the small space feels bigger. Since the two homeowners usually eat together, there is still plenty of room at the table for nightly dinners without having to open it.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Dining Room Storage

A shelf above the storage cabinet creates an additional place for dishware and decor. By installing a hanging glassware rack under the shelf, wine glasses and goblets find a home and remain dust free in their upside-down position.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Before: Living Area

The two shallow and small sofas took up a lot of floor space. Plus one of the homeowners is 6’5" tall, so he couldn't quite get comfortable on this furniture. 

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

After: Living Area

One larger, deeper sofa fits the space and offers the right scale for the tall homeowner. A smaller scaled accent chair can be repositioned with ease for social evenings or TV watching. 

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Before: Bedroom

The bedroom had furniture that was too big for the space, the nightstands especially. The bed offered no storage. 

After: Bedroom

Smaller scale nightstands provide more room while a platform bed with storage allows clothes to be tucked away neatly. Wall sconces free up space on the nightstands.

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Fold-Down Vanity Table

To free up more space in the bathroom, a flip-down vanity table was added to the bedroom. A mirror in a prime location provides a place for morning makeup to happen outside the over-crowded bathroom. Also, to keep clothes nice and neat, a lower kitchen cabinet was repurposed to create a laundry sorting station. 

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Cosmetic and Jewelry Storage

A wall cabinet above the vanity hides makeup and jewelry, including a custom wooden makeup brush holder made with just a variety of drill bits. A grab-and-go makeup bag holds items the homeowner takes with her daily. Picture hooks hold earrings and a small dowel rod helps corral bracelets in an easy to see spot. 

Photo By: Sam Zachrich

Don't Be Afraid of Large Furniture

Custom Sectional in Small Apartment

Custom Sectional in Small Apartment

This custom-built sectional provides loads of seating as well as a bed for houseguests — the sofa was designed to sleep two. Guests can also sit on the wide sofa back. Photography by Anastassios Mentis

It seems counterintuitive, but sometimes a sectional sofa works best in a small space because the corners are used for seating and not an accent table. Go for furniture without arms or with slim-line arms to avoid bulkiness.

Build Versatile Furniture

Original-Laurie-March-ODOC-kitchen-fold-down-table_s4x3

Original-Laurie-March-ODOC-kitchen-fold-down-table_s4x3

If a kitchen table or a desk takes up too much real estate, build a flip-down table that you can fold up when not in use.

Stage the Entry

Photo by: Bethany Nauert

Bethany Nauert

Fake a formal entry by placing a credenza by the door. Use it like foyer table to drop your keys and bags. Plus, you can use it to store shoes and sweaters.

Employ Curtains

Cozy Studio Bed with Luxurious Fabrics

Cozy Studio Bed with Luxurious Fabrics

A readymade bed was painted and built-in to look like custom cabinetry. Airy, floral curtains separate the bed from the rest of the apartment

If your bed or desk is in an alcove, simply hang curtains to lend some privacy and hide clutter when guests come over.

Divide With Storage

Orange Wall in Modern Studio Space

Orange Wall in Modern Studio Space

High, exposed ceilings automatically make this 700-square-foot apartment seem much larger. HGTV fan rbaby separated the bedroom from the living room and dining area with a cubicle bookshelf. The look not only provides additional storage but gives the bedroom some privacy from the rest of the space. Tip: Spice up a small studio with a vibrant focal wall in red or orange.

Shelving units make great wall dividers with a purpose. They can still allow you to have a full sightline across the apartment, yet they can create zones to separate living and sleeping areas. Plus, they provide extra spots to stash your stuff.

Use All Vertical Space

Remodeled Master Bedroom With Hanging Wooden Bookshelf

Remodeled Master Bedroom With Hanging Wooden Bookshelf

This renovated master bedroom includes interesting details, like a hanging wooden bookshelf with small metallic vases.

From: Fixer Upper

Photo by: Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images

Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images

Install wall shelves wherever possible. Not only will it increase your storage, but it will draw the eye up and make the room feel bigger.

Go Big on Mirrors

Photo by: Bethany Nauert

Bethany Nauert

Mirrors are the oldest trick in the book when it comes to making a room feel bigger.  Don’t be afraid to go bold with a large reflecting glass. Get more tips for decorating with mirrors >>

Make It Mobile

Put castors on furniture like coffee tables, storage cubes and side chairs. Now, they can easily be moved out of the way or serve a dual purpose.

The House Counselor

Find more small-space design ideas and tips on getting ready to buy your first house.

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