Decorating a tiny, square studio
October 7, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

How should I arrange and decorate my new teeny studio apartment to make it feel homey but not cramped, and not like I'm spending all my time in my bedroom?

I just signed the lease on a great old studio apartment. But it's tiny. It does have a separate kitchen with enough room for a small table, but the main living/sleeping room is a 12x12 square. I've never lived in a studio before, and I'm feeling a bit nervous about making such a small space livable.

One great thing is that it has a built-in cupboard with sliding doors, and I'm thinking I'll put my clothes on one side and my TV and bookshelves on the other, creating a little entertainment center that can be hidden when I don't want to look at my TV. And this will hopefully help me keep clutter to a minimum.

Another helpful thing is that I really don't have a lot of stuff. I basically just have the furniture pictured in the floorplan. So I can be careful about only having things that fit the space.

The biggest thing that stymying me is how to create a somewhat separate sleeping area in a small, square apartment. I feel like the typical suggestions, like a bookshelf or even screens, would be overwhelming in such a small space.

Of course, I have pics. Here's the layout, with my tentative thoughts on how to arrange my furniture. Here are some pics of the apartment as the previous tenant was moving out: 1, 2, 3.

I have spent a lot of time on Apartment Therapy, which is great for space-saving and decorating ideas, but not so much for this tiny-square problem.

By the way, this isn't the apartment from my last post. I didn't get that apt, but I like this one better and it has a real kitchen!
posted by lunasol to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In such a small space, I think any divider would make the space feel even smaller. Is there a reason why you need the kind of privacy a "separate bedroom" would provide?

My feeling is ditch the couch and bed and get a sleeper sofa/futon/daybed and make it a living room that converts to a bedroom for sleeping.
posted by murrey at 3:29 PM on October 7, 2011

Are the ceilings high enough for a loft bed? If so, loft bed, loft bed, loft bed! They are so FUN!
Alternatively, and if you are not too lazy (I would be), spruce up your bed every morning with a throw & some funky cushions to make it look more like a seating area.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:30 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't need a couch AND a bed. Can you be super neat and commit yourself to making the bed every day? Then get a good futon. Alternatively, leave some floor space open and sleep Asian-style on a rollup floor mattress (good for your back!).

I really think that this will help you think of the space as two separate spaces for two different uses—hanging out and sleeping.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2011

I solved this problem by making my sleeping area look very put-together and lush. Lots of throw pillows, rich upholstery-like duvet, little side tables. Kind of ended up looking like a loungey harem couch. Also, I didn't have a couch, but rather two comfy chairs on an area rug.
posted by Specklet at 3:42 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd switch sides with your furniture: rotate your bed and put it beneath the window, and make a seating area in the more public side of your apartment.

If you're less concerned about complete privacy, you can define your 'bedroom' without sacrificing much visual space. You can use sheer curtains, which will allow light to pass through. Or you can use a shallow, open bookshelf. Again, light gets through without creating a looming, solid wall.

You might also consider combining sleeping/sitting in a non-bedroomy daybed, but I don't know if you could pull that off with anything larger than a twin.
posted by moira at 3:44 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

(I saw the open bookshelf in a tiny space done on a design show. It worked really well, and I wish I could remember which show it was.)
posted by moira at 3:46 PM on October 7, 2011

An easy daybed is to put two long single mattresses on top of each other, and pillows. that way if you have overnight guests you can either offer them a separate mattress or make one big bed, depending on the type of overnight guest.
posted by mareli at 3:50 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live in a loft. It's bigger than yours but has the same problem of just feeling like one room. IKEA has a number of open bookshelves in various sizes that can help break the room up without closing it off.

I particularly like the Expedit because items on the shelf can be accessed from either side. We use the biggest one to kind of set the office off from the rest of the house. Here's a pic.

Folding room dividers will take up less space but I prefer the bookshelf idea because it works as a multi-takers.

(On preview, what others said.)
posted by Brittanie at 3:51 PM on October 7, 2011

I thought about the daybed/futon route, but I know that I won't make it every day. I just won't. And I think the ceiling is a smidge short for a loft, but I'm not ruling it out.

The issue is less privacy and more not wanting to feel like my whole apartment is a bedroom.

I'd switch sides with your furniture: rotate your bed and put it beneath the window, and make a seating area in the more public side of your apartment.

This was my first thought, but that wall (the one shared with the bathroom) has recessed shelves that I don't really want to cover. However, you may be right that that's the best solution.
posted by lunasol at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2011

Also, I LOVE the expedit bookshelves but they are so bulky! Does anyone know of a "skinnier" line of open bookshelves?
posted by lunasol at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2011

The show was Dress My Nest, Season 4, Episode 2. Here's a pic of the finished living room showing the open shelf wall:
posted by moira at 3:58 PM on October 7, 2011

If you can make alterations to the apartment - fixing a curtain rail to the ceiling, specifically - I think moira's sheer curtain idea is a really nice one. Floor-to-ceiling curtains would look intentional rather than makeshift, and using sheer material would help keep the space from feeling even smaller. (Also, if it were me, I'd want to make sure daylight could still reach the bed, or I'd never be able to drag myself out of it... I wouldn't want to use opaque screens for that reason.)

Oh - speaking of light: if there's a ceiling light fixture, make sure the part of the room under it is the part you want it to illuminate!

If putting in a curtain rail isn't possible, I'd try really hard to persuade myself a loft bed would fit. If data points are of interest, I'm 5'4" and slept in a loft bed as a teenager and twentysomething, in a house with 8' ceilings. Not one head-meets-ceiling incident. The mattress was only about 5' up, though, and I have the impression that loft beds for adults tend to be a bit higher. (Because adults are shorter than teenagers and need less headroom, right? Er, no, wait...)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:22 PM on October 7, 2011

I thought about the daybed/futon route, but I know that I won't make it every day. I just won't. And I think the ceiling is a smidge short for a loft, but I'm not ruling it out.

Definitely do a futon. You might not fold it up every day, but you can do so only before people are coming over. I had this arrangement when living in a small apartment, though a bit bigger than yours, and it really helped to make things livable. You'll feel better with more space around you, but also guests will feel less like they're hanging out in your bedroom.

(If you go that route, look into the otis line of futon mattresses. We loved ours so much that we kept it when we got a platform bed. Often the assumption is that, with a futon, you're going to get crappier sleep, but that doesn't have to be the case.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2011

I'm with moira in rotating the bed and putting it under the window (head to the window). It looks like in this photo that the recessed shelving is high enough that you can use at least the top shelf as a night stand. The other shelves could be used as storage if the bed covers them. Then I would drape a sheer curtain along the side of the bed that's exposed to the room. Depending on the weight of the curtain (and it should be fairly light) you could probably get away with cup hooks in the ceiling (especially if the curtain has tabs).
posted by deborah at 5:12 PM on October 7, 2011

I live in a small studio. My bed is on the floor behind a 50's diner corner booth. Having my bed on the floor means that it is mostly out of sight when I'm using the rest of the apartment. Out of sight, out of mind. I've considered hanging some old sash windows from the ceiling along the line of the back of the booth, but I gave away the windows I had, and I haven't found anymore. The idea behind the windows would be to visually divide the space, while still letting light through.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:22 PM on October 7, 2011

I had a studio for a short while, and I made a small "bedroom" by using some open shelving and hanging curtains behind it. the space behind the shelving was just enough for the bed, and the shelves held some books and the TV. It was private enough that I could keep the bed messy without the rare guest seeing it. The shelves I had were the solid pine Ikea workshop/garage shelves - can't remember the name off hand.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:01 PM on October 7, 2011

I too would switch the bed over so the head of the bed is against the window. This will put the foot of the bed near the bathroom door and leave you in a better position to watch TV from bed (if you do that).

I'll go against other posters and recommend against a lofted bed. If you're going to spend that kind of money, why not invest in a Murphy bed? There's a showroom at 2801 - 1st Ave. Seattle, WA 98121

As for shelving - maybe you can consider the chrome open wiring shelving with wheels. The wheels would let you block off the bed during the day and easily reveal it at night.
posted by jaimystery at 7:20 PM on October 7, 2011

Rather than using the large Ikea Expedit, you could hide a low profile bed behind the lower Expedit. It's almost 5 feet tall so you wouldn't cut out the light from the window if you move your bed there. If that's not enough and you want to add privacy, Ikea has curtain rails that attach to the ceiling. You can attach sheer panel curtains that slide back and forth. You can even layer a few panels on the curtain rail.

Here's a photo of the curtain rail/sheet curtain idea here.

Here is some very open shelving that could also work.
posted by biscuits at 9:45 PM on October 7, 2011

This might sound crazy, but I'd try to put the bed in the closet if you could get the doors off of it. You said that you don't have much stuff in there anyway. I'd also raise the bed as high as I could off the floor using wooden blocks (and use the space under the bed for storage) and then search for a storage cabinet on Amazon; they have some that might work for you for around $90--don't put in all the shelves and buy a suspension pole or curtain rod to hang clothes on.

While the bed might not entirely fit in the closet, you could hide it from view by buying a low bookshelf or screen. This would preserve as much living space as possible in the studio, let you leave the bed unmade without feeling like it's publicly unmade, and give you decent space for a living room set up. If you take some time with it you might be able to make it look like it was supposed to be a little bed alcove and not like a re-purposed closet.
posted by _cave at 7:45 AM on October 8, 2011

Ikea has a wire system that you can attach to the ceiling or walls to hang curtains from
- can't remember the name of it. I got a duvet cover out of the as-is section for $5, took it apart and used the clips from the wire system to hang it up. Cheap, simple and decorative.
posted by bendy at 12:44 PM on October 8, 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions. For some reason, I thought that hanging curtains would be a lot more difficult than it seems to be - I hadn't even thought of hanging hooks from the ceiling!

I'm now leaning towards having the bed with the head against the window. I think I'll experiment with a curtain parallel to the bed and an open bookcase at the foot of it. But as I move in and see what different options feel like in the room itself, all the other suggestions should come in handy, too!
posted by lunasol at 11:17 AM on October 10, 2011

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