Tips for creating “rooms” in a small studio


The benefits of a studio: All your stuff is close by, there’s less square footage to dust and vacuum, and you have less furniture to buy. The downside: you’re in one room. All. The time.

This has been especially true since the start of the pandemic, when working from home became more common. Anyone who has called a studio apartment home for the past 2.5 years knows that sleeping, eating, working, and hanging out in the same room can take a mental toll. But thanks to inflation and the rising cost of living – rent growth in June was 14.1% year-on-year, according to a List of apartments National report on rents — a studio is the most financially viable option for many people living alone.

So what can studio dwellers do to make their lives feel less confined to a small room?

You can “create separate sitting areas, sleeping areas, and work areas that each serve a different purpose, so you can move around the space throughout the day, depending on the activity you you do”, explains Claire Shannon, interior designer in the District. “You don’t work from your bed and sleep in your bed and have absolutely no space between your professional life and your personal life.”

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

Be intentional. Think about how you structure your studio, says Denis Bayron, a knitwear designer who lives in a 280-square-foot one-room secondary suite in Oakland, Calif. In which area will you spend most of your time? The living room, the bedroom, the office? Dedicate the area with the best views and most natural light for this purpose. “My workspace is where I am 70% of the day,” says Bayron, who runs his business from home. She has placed her desk against the largest window in the space, which receives natural east-facing light and is surrounded by houseplants.

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Create a home. Even if your studio doesn’t have a dedicated entrance area, it’s important to create one, Claire says, because it gives you a moment to pause and breathe before entering your home. “If you don’t have it, I find it really easy to walk into your apartment, throw your coat on the couch, and put your mail on the dining table,” she says. “It also really closes in those walls, because it makes your whole studio feel like the entrance, as opposed to the moment after the entrance.”

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

Carpets and lighting are your friends. Claire is adept at positioning lamps in a space, especially in a studio. (“Never, ever rely on overhead lighting in any design, regardless of the size of the room,” she says.) For example, place a floor lamp by your sofa, place a table on your media console under the TV, set a table or floor lamp by your bed, or hang a plug-in pendant above your dining table. Keep them on when you are in these areas and turn them off when you are not. Turning on the lights in each section will help you feel like you’re in a separate room.

Area rugs also help visually divide a space. 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 props and other decorative items to trick your eyes into seeing different “rooms.” Art or a gallery wall can help designate areas, says Chelsey Brown of Chic urban decor At New York. For example, hang one art collection above your bed and another above your TV. Or use Command strips and Velcro to hang wall moldings to divide up a space. Peel and stick wallpaper is another option. (Pro tip: Renters can also easily apply and remove real wallpaper using liquid starch instead of glue, says Brown.)

Use your furniture. People tend to push their couch against one wall and place their TV on the opposite wall, Brown says. Instead, she recommends placing your couch in the middle of your studio, to create a designated living space. Then place a narrow credenza or console behind the sofa. This will visually separate the living room, and you can place two stools under the console table and use it as a study or dining room.

Another great option is a canopy bed, says Brown, which will create a visual barrier between your sleeping area and the rest of the space.

Repurpose the closet. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have no separation between your time during and after work. If you have a small closet, consider turning it into an office, Claire says. Empty it, then add a small desk and chair. You can either remove the door for easy access or keep it and close it when the workday is done.

Tiny cloffices – workspaces in closets – are big, thanks to the pandemic

Designate a private space. A danger of receiving in a studio: guests sitting on your bed.

“You want to control the flow of the room and how people enter your space,” says Bayron, who tucked his bed away in the corner of his studio and placed a hip-high credenza next to it to carve out a corner. night that wouldn’t cut his line of sight or block natural light. She placed several indoor plants above the credenza to create the illusion of privacy. The credenza is on runners, so she can easily move it around to make her bed or vacuum underneath.

Divide and conquer. If you want to create a strict designation between fields, consider using separators. Traditional three-panel room dividers or two-sided open shelving, like the Ikea Kallax unit, could work, Brown says. Open shelves have an added benefit: they let in light. If you go this route, be sure to keep the shelves tidy, she says, because a clutter will make the space look smaller.

Sheer curtains are another option. They will separate your space while making your ceilings appear higher and letting in natural light. Brown recommends drilling a sliding track on your ceiling or hanging curtains from Command hooks. (But make sure they’re touching the ground, she says, or the space can feel unfinished.)

If you’re willing to invest the money and effort (and your landlord will allow it), Brown suggests building a false wall with cabinet doors. Drill a sliding bracket on your ceiling and install lightweight wardrobe doors that can slide back and forth. Consider something with frosted glass that won’t block natural light.

Mimi Montgomery is a writer and editor at DC

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