An interior designer shares a studio + tips to improve it

  • I’m an interior designer in Chicago. This is how I decorated my 350 square foot studio.
  • I use mirrors and light colors to give the illusion of a larger space.
  • Glass and acrylic furniture and accents help my space feel cohesive and more spacious.

I am an interior designer specializing in luxury residential design.

Luxury customers have certain standards and often a higher budget. So once I moved on to designing my own space, I had to figure out how to get that luxurious look I love at a more realistic cost.

Here’s how I did it:

Downsizing was crucial

As soon as I found out I was moving from Indianapolis to Chicago, I knew I had to downsize. I was able to get a seat for a similar price to what I was paying before, but it was less than half the size.

I looked at every item I had and determined if it was worth keeping by asking myself if it brought me joy. If so, I kept it. Otherwise, I sold or gave it away.

When choosing my apartment, I opted for more space than convenience

Looking for apartments online, I knew I was willing to move further into town if it meant I had more square footage.

I found that the further north I went, the more square footage I could afford. So I ended up about 5 miles from downtown Chicago. It doesn’t seem far, but my trip to the city center can take 30-40 minutes.

Fortunately, with additional square meters came a dressing room, which is almost unheard of in a studio apartment.

My closet is conveniently located as a buffer between the living space and the bathroom. Plus it fits my clothes, shoes, dresser, and a few large baskets for extra storage.

Space planning helped me clearly map specific areas of my studio

Space planning is a crucial step in the interior design process and it’s one of my favorites. To me, it’s like playing Tetris with people’s stuff and finding the best way for them to move through space.

When designing a layout for my small apartment, I created a few options to see what would work best for defining separate zones within one space.

I wanted my studio to look cohesive but also have three distinct spaces: a living room, a bedroom and a dining area.

The writer's bedroom with a white bed in the center with a dark headboard, a white storage ottoman in front and a black rug below

I used area rugs to define the space with my bed and nightstands.

Payner Rhed


To map and define my living spaces, I used separate rug arrangements in each space

Additionally, rugs add layers to a space and make it more grounded while adding texture and comfort.

They are also great for acoustics which is handy as the floors in my old building tend to creak. Carpets mask the majority of these squeaks and block out some lower level noise as well.

I thought about functional and subtle storage solutions for months before moving in

The writer's living room, with a white rug, fluffy white curtains, a black sofa with a small white side table beside it and two white poufs in front of the sofa

I use my poufs as decoration, storage, tables and footstools.

Payner Rhed


My goal was to create subtle places to store things that fit perfectly into the overall aesthetic of the space.

I achieved this in particular with my storage poufs, which have multiple uses. They can be used as a footstool, coffee table and extra seat. Even the bench at the end of my bed opens up for storage.

Mirrors are great for making a small space look bigger

I have an extra closet and love its mirrored doors, which make my space feel so much bigger. As I’m in a smaller studio, I wanted to incorporate even more mirrors.

I added a tall, slimmer one to serve as functional decor while making the room feel larger. I wedged the mirror in a place that would reflect the longest distance of visual space on the wall, which made the room as spacious as possible.

The writer taking a selfie in a large glass mirror

A mirror can make a space look even bigger.

Payner Rhed


Keeping your colors and materials consistent can help a space feel cohesive.

I stuck to black and cream for the overall design of my space.

I wanted to replicate this palette in each individual area to make the space feel more open and to marry the apartment as a whole. I even displayed black and cream colors in the part of my closet that is visible from the living room.

I also kept my metals together by opting for polished chrome and nickel finishes. These finishes are reflective and reflect light, which can subtly enlarge a space.

I also incorporated a lot of glass and acrylic throughout my house to create lines and shapes in a way that made the space look bigger and more open. Acrylic accents open up the room and let the light in as they take up virtually no eye room but still have functionality.

A television on a light wall above a small dining set with a glass table and rug below it, and a gray rug hanging on the wall

I hung rugs on the wall because I like the way they look and they create noise absorbers which gives me more privacy in my space.

Payner Rhed


Many designers consider symmetry when working on a space, but that doesn’t always mean having 2 identical elements.

For example, I chose different shaped bedside tables to go on either side of my bed.

Changing the shapes gave the space the eclectic style I was looking for, but ensuring that the wood finishes and marble tops created symmetry.

In my small kitchen, I integrated my appliances and my essentials into the decor

The writer's tiny kitchen, with a rug on the hardwood floor and appliances on the thin counter

I have a background in kitchen design, so planning this space was one of my favorite tasks.

Payner Rhed


Unfortunately, my kitchen only had 12 inches of counter space.

I placed a stainless steel kitchen island in front of my cabinets to quadruple my counter space while creating a sort of industrial look.

My kitchen doesn’t have a lot of storage either, so I chose to incorporate my appliances into the decor. When buying them, I made sure they matched each other and the space.

I even show off my black cutlery and beige cookware on the bottom shelf of my kitchen island. This allows me to use the cupboards as a pantry and forces me to keep my dishes clean since they are part of the decor.

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