Tips for creating “rooms” in a small studio apartment


The advantages of a studio apartment: all your things are close by, you will have to do less dusting and vacuuming, and you will have to buy fewer pieces of furniture. The downside: you are in one room. All. That. Time.

This is especially true since the pandemic began, when working from home became more common. Those who have called a studio home for the last 2.5 years know that sleeping, eating, working and hanging out in the same space can take a mental toll. But thanks to inflation and rising living costs — rent growth in June was 14.1 percent year over year, according to an Apartment List National Rent Report — a studio is the most financially viable option for many people living alone.

So what can studio dwellers do to make it feel less like their lives are confined to a small space?

You can “create separate seating areas, sleeping areas, and work areas, each serving a different purpose, so you can move around the space throughout the day depending on what activity you’re doing,” says Shannon Claire, interior designer at the Quarter. “You don’t work from your bed and sleep in your bed and you have absolutely no space between your work life and your personal life.”

Here are tips from Claire and others on how to create different zones in your studio.

be intentional Think about how you structure your studio, says Denise Bayron, a knitwear designer who lives in a 3,000-square-foot studio in Oakland, California. In which zone will you spend most of your time? The living room, the bedroom, the office? Dedicate the area with the best view and most natural light to this purpose. “I’m at work 70 percent of the day,” says Bayron, who runs her business from home. She placed her desk in front of the room’s largest window, which receives east-facing natural light and is surrounded by houseplants.

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Create a foyer. Even if your studio doesn’t have its own entryway, it’s important to create one, says Claire, because it gives you a moment to stop and breathe before stepping into your home. “If you don’t have that, I find it really easy to walk into your apartment, toss your coat on the couch, and put your mail on the dining table,” she says. “It also really locks itself into those walls because your entire studio apartment feels like the entrance as opposed to the moment after the entrance.”

Claire recommends putting a small table against the wall by the front door to put your keys and mail. If you don’t have space for this, hang key hooks, a small wall shelf, a mail basket or even just a mirror near the entrance.

Carpets and lighting are your friends. Claire is a fan of placing lamps anywhere in the room, especially in a studio. (“Never rely on overhead lighting for any design, no matter the size of the room,” she says.) For example, put a floor lamp next to your sofa, put a table lamp on your media console under the TV, put one on Table or floor lamp next to your bed or hang a plug-in pendant light above your dining table. Keep them on while you’re in these zones and turn them off when you’re not. Turning on the lights in each area makes you feel like you’re in a separate room.

Carpets also help to visually loosen up a room. Claire recommends placing one under your sofa and another under your bed to define separate areas and add texture.

Accessorize wisely. You can also use accessories and other decorative items to trick your eyes into seeing different “rooms”. Art or a gallery wall can help mark zones, says Chelsey Brown of City Chic Decor in New York. For example, hang one art collection over your bed and another over your TV. Or use command strips and Velcro to hang wall moldings to divide a room. Removable wallpaper is another option. (Pro tip: Renters can also easily apply and remove real wallpaper with liquid starch instead of glue, Brown says.)

Use your furniture. People tend to push their sofa against one wall and put their TV on the opposite wall, Brown says. She recommends placing your sofa in the center of your studio instead to create a designated living area. Then place a narrow sideboard or console table behind the sofa. This will visually separate the living area, and you can tuck two stools under the console and use it as a desk or dining area.

Another great option is a four-poster bed, Brown says, which creates a visual barrier between your sleeping area and the rest of the room.

Repurpose the closet. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you don’t have a separation between your time during and after work. If you have a small closet, consider turning it into an office, says Claire. Empty it and then add a small desk and chair. You can either remove the door for easier access, or leave it on and close it when you’re done.

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Set a private space. One danger of entertaining in a studio apartment: guests sitting on your bed.

“You want to control the flow of space and entering your space,” says Bayron, who placed her bed in a corner of her studio and placed a waist-high dresser next to it to create a sleeping nook that wouldn’t cut off her line of sight or block natural light. She placed several houseplants on the dresser to create the illusion of privacy. The dresser is on sliders so she can easily move it out of the way to make her bed or vacuum underneath.

Divide and conquer. If you want to create a strict association between zones, consider using partitions. Traditional triple room dividers or shelves that are open on both sides, like the Ikea Kallax unit, could work, Brown says. Open shelving units have an added bonus: they let in light. If you go this route, though, be sure to keep the shelves tidy, she says, because clutter makes the space seem smaller.

Sheer curtains are another option. They separate your space, make your ceilings appear higher, and let in natural light. Brown recommends drilling a slide rail into your ceiling or hanging curtains on Command hooks. (But make sure they touch the floor, she says, or the space can appear unfinished.)

If you’re willing to put in the money and effort (and your landlord will allow it), Brown suggests building a faux wall with closet doors. Drill a sliding shelf into your ceiling and install lightweight cabinet doors that can slide back and forth. Consider something with frosted lenses that don’t block natural light.

Mimi Montgomery is a writer and editor based in DC Tips for creating “rooms” in a small studio apartment

Chris Estrada

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