How to Arrange a Teeny, Tiny Apartment

Tiny apartments, especially tiny studio apartments, present a set of challenges to the dweller. Storage is one challenge: With the exception of the handful of lucky folks who score rent-controlled apartments and stay for years, it’s not worthwhile for most renters to buy built-in storage units for their apartments. Creating a separation between the living space and bedroom space is the other major challenge. I live in a studio apartment, and I’ve learned how to stay organized and to maximize my space. I’ll tell you what works for me, and a few other tips that I picked up from Linda Merrill, a fabulous and pragmatic interior designer who I work with.

How to Maximize Space in a Studio Apartment

  • Multi-tasking furniture is your best friend: Instead of trying to squeeze a couch, a guest bed, and a linen closet into my apartment, I bought a daybed with a storage space built in under the mattress. I store my sheets, towels, and (oddly) scrap paper in the hidden compartment under the mattress.
  • Forego the coffee table and opt for a corner credenza instead: Filling every inch of floor space with furniture is a mistake that studio apartment dwellers often make. Only open floor space feels like, well, open floor space, and it is at a premium in studio apartments. I have a corner credenza that I use creatively. When company comes over, I use the top surface as a buffet. Day-to-day, I use the credenza’s surface area as a staging area for items I need to eventually store or get rid of. Although the credenza is across the room from my “kitchen,” I use its drawers for dry food storage (how hard is it really to walk 8 feet to get a tea bag?), which solves the problem of not having kitchen cabinets.
  • Hang as much as you can from the walls, ceilings, and rafters: I am lucky that my studio has exposed metal beams. Instead of taking up valuable floor space with book shelves, I bought cheap wall mounted modular book shelves and hung them from a beam using C-clamps and karabiners. I have a teeny, tiny bathroom with no space for shelving, so I store my bathroom toiletries in a wire mesh basket that I screwed to the bathroom wall.
  • When it comes to storage, think outside the box: Is it “normal” that I store my cosmetics in my top “kitchen” drawer? No, but the drawer is the right size and it happens to be adjacent to the bathroom. Creativity is the studio apartment-dweller’s ally.
  • Reflect light: Designer Linda Merrill suggests using Lucite and polished wood furniture in order to reflect light throughout a small studio apartment space. Lucite furniture also allows you to see more of the floor beneath it, creating the illusion of more open floor space.

How to Separate Your Bedroom from Your Living Space in a Studio Apartment

  • Use furniture to create an alcove: Linda Merrill suggests placing a freestanding bed behind a sofa, so that the back of the sofa creates a boundary between your living area and bed area.
  • 4-poster beds with curtains: The bed’s curtains create a natural boundary between the bed and the rest of the room. If you can afford a 4-poster bed, it’s a very efficient way to create a private bedroom in an open floor-plan.
  • Alcove spaces make great bedrooms: If you have an alcove space in your studio, placing a mattress on the floor is an efficient option. Even if your mattress extends beyond the alcove, placing shoji screens around it is a way to squeeze the most out of an alcove space.
  • Build a loft bed: I am lucky to live in a studio with a built-in loft, which is where I have made my bedroom. I have seen some very clever lofted bed arrangements. Depending on the height of your ceiling, temporary loft bed options include everything from grown-up bunk beds with home office spaces underneath to DIY platform beds with storage below.

The bottom line in studio apartment arrangement is to reduce your clutter, keep decorations to a minimum, buy furniture that works double duty, and be creative.

Guest post by Chaya Goodman is the editor of Networx. To read more home advice like this, check out Networx.

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David - April 11, 2010 Reply

Incredibly inexpensive but sturdy and practical upholstered furniture with built-in storage is the specialty of Home Reserve: It’s delivered via UPS–so you can get the pieces into very small spaces, up stairs and through doors–and you assemble it yourself. You can also buy multiple fabric sets to redecorate when you wish. Very sturdy, and thus very durable as well…not to mention surprisingly comfortable.
…and no, I have no connection with them, but I know plenty of folks who have bought from them and are very happy with the results.

    Jacqui - May 12, 2012 Reply

    Hi David. I have actually been looking into getting some of their furniture for a very long time. Being as broke as I am though, I still have yet to buy. I love it…it’s made from engineered wood! The kind of wood that houses are built from. That’s why it’s so sturdy. I can’t wait to get it. 🙂

jillian kay - April 11, 2010 Reply

Great post! My studio has a hallway between the kitchen and main living space, and I put hooks on the wall to hang my folding chairs. I pretend it’s modern pop-art – but really it’s just a way to get them out of my hair!

April - April 11, 2010 Reply

Good suggestions. Murphy beds are also a good option for people who aren’t renting. There’s some good links in this reddit post (

Louise - April 12, 2010 Reply

I love posts like this! More small space living tips, please.

Valerie - April 12, 2010 Reply

I built a Murphy bed using the Create-A-Bed mechanism ( I needed to put my bed into the wall, but the Create-A-Bed plans are designed to create a cabinet that stands next to the wall, anchored to the wall studs at top by screws. It’s minimal enough that it would work fine if you’re renting. In my case I just built the cabinet as designed and then sunk it into what had been a closet. The plans are very easy to follow, come with a video, and gave me confidence to tackle other home improvement projects!

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Robin - August 3, 2012 Reply

Wow, your place sounds big. There’s no way I can separate living space and bed space in my tiny place. It’s the size of a bedroom. That’s it. The kitchen opens up to the front entrance and across from it is a bathroom that shares a faucet between the sink and tub.

I’ve had a sofabed, but even it seems huge in my tiny apartment. I’m getting rid of it soon and replacing it with a chair-bed, so about half the size. Doing that will open up the media that’s been behind the sofa… I’m hoping that will cut down on my space issues a bit.

Cheryl G - September 22, 2012 Reply

I enjoy reading articles about maximizing space. I live in a 350 sq. ft. efficiency and after a year I am still trying to make it perfect. My unit has a dining area and that is where I have my bed (full size). I had a sofa and love seat but decided to give away the love seat so that I would have more space. Luckily I have a decent size closet and my bathroom has 2 drawers and pleny of room under the sink. I would love to read more about small apartment living.

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