Design Ideas for Small Apartments

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

Fill 1Created with Sketch.

Published on April 1, 2020

We’re spending more time inside these days, which can be extra challenging if you live in a small studio apartment. As a Havenly interior designer, it’s my job to make the most of a space, no matter its square footage. These ideas for small studio apartments (they’ll also work for any small space) are meant to help you create a sense of calm. Staying clutter-free also has the added benefit of creating plenty of room for great style.

Thanks to Marie Kondo, the principles of simplifying and organizing are on trend. One of the best things you can do to create a home that you feel good about is to learn and embrace the art of editing. Remember: removing an item from a vignette can add just as much style as adding more to it.

A space feels most welcome with a little breathing room. In practice, that means leaving some surface areas clean and free of accessories, and leaving some walls blank rather than chock-full of artwork. Feel free to keep pieces that have meaning or can help you create balanced vignettes and décor moments, but say goodbye to accents that no longer serve a purpose or don’t work in the context of your overall space.

light home office

You know by now that organization is paramount, especially in a small studio apartment. Here are my top three tips for keeping everything in its right place.

  • Embrace boxes and baskets! Storing items in a specific place not only makes a space look less cluttered, but also helps ensure you can quickly locate them. I think stylish storage and baskets are the single décor item that makes the biggest difference in a studio apartment because they keep day-to-day clutter out of sight. With limited space, keeping things tidy and organized goes a long way in creating an inviting and welcoming home.
  • Shelving units and wall shelves are great for styling and functional storage alike. They work well in small studio apartments because they utilize vertical organization while also creating visual interest.
  • Get smart about hidden storage opportunities. Consider canvas baskets for under the bed, and storage bins for the closet.
blues interior design

One of the biggest challenges of a small studio apartment is a completely open floor plan. Of course, many people in larger homes crave an open-concept living space, but it’s harder to pull off in a place with limited square footage! In small studio apartments, it all begins with your layout. First, establish the best space for your bed, then work backwards to place your living area and a small bistro set or dining set. I often see layouts that orient the bed along the back wall and living areas closer to the front door: this creates a sense of a “retreat” to your bedroom.

Once you’ve established the layout, use rugs to set the foundation for distinct spaces, particularly in the living area to anchor your sofa, coffee table and any accent furniture. Consider different shapes and sizes, and remember you can use more than one rug! Just make sure to balance the colors, patterns and textures.

Remember, you can also use furniture to help separate a space. For example, the back of a sofa or chair can act as a makeshift wall or divider between a living room and a bedroom.

Paint is another transformative tactic that can create zones for your space. If it’s permitted by the landlord, paint an accent wall as a backdrop for your bed, or paint the entire space — it always adds dimension and personality. You’ll likely have to paint it back when you move out, but it’s worth it to customize your space.

In small studio apartments, light can help make a space feel larger — but you don’t want lighting to eat up any floor space. Table lamps and task lighting are great, small-scale décor elements that evoke style and create visual interest.

I also love plug-in sconces to add warmth and an artful touch to a wall without taking up valuable real estate in a room. For a cleaner look, go with a cord cover. Or, embrace the exposed cord for an industrial touch. If you do opt for floor lamps, arrange them in a space-saving way. That means nestling them behind a chair, sofa, or at the back corner of a bed.

Bedroom decluttering

When everything is on display from the moment a guest walks in, it’s important to keep your space clean. Luckily, it’s also easier to do with less square footage to take care of! My main tip for keeping small places clean is to ensure everything has a designated space, and that you put things back after each use. Here are a few additional cleaning hacks to consider:

  • Employ hooks right by the entry for things like coats, purses and keys to keep them out of your resting areas.
  • Laundry baskets are essential! Keep those dirty clothes out of the way. Just be sure to choose a stylish basket, particularly one with a lid. Target always has cost effective and chic options, and if you’re up to spend a little more for artisan craftsmanship and design, check out Lulu & Georgia or The Citizenry.
  • Make your bed. You’ve likely heard this tip since childhood, but you’ll be amazed how a freshly made bed will immediately set the tone for calm and order. It’ll also encourage you to keep the rest of your place tidy.
Light Grey Faux Fur Throw from CB2

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Get started with our interior design style quiz to revamp your studio in style.

Words by Heather Goerzen