Calling all small-apartment dwellers
May 25, 2015 4:54 AM   Subscribe

I am moving from second tiny studio into my third tiny studio at the end of the month. One thing I have learned is that I am definitely not into having a full-size bed in my studio.

So, tiny-apartment dwellers, how did you find a solution to this? Do you have a fold-out couch? A daybed? If you have a daybed, do you remove the sheets every day and then put them back on before you sleep? I like the idea of a couch-sized bed, but I could see myself getting really annoyed with this process; but I don't really want to sit on the sheets I sleep on in my street clothes, nor do I want guests sitting on my sheets and pillows. Fold-out couches are rarely comfortable, and the Western interpretation of a futon is blasphemy to me after having slept on actual futons for the better part of my childhood.

The daybed also doesn't seem very conducive to having, um... gentlemen or lady callers. I would just get a futon (the Japanese kind) but there's nowhere to put it during the day, which basically brings me back to square one and isn't saving me any space.

How do you maximize convenience when you have an apartment the size of a coffin and a bed the size of a crib and you're an adult?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Are Murphy beds (wall beds) in your budget?
posted by jeather at 5:00 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oooooh, those look awesome, but sadly no. I'm in the $300-ish range.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:25 AM on May 25, 2015

Look into the IKEA Beddinge; it's a fold out sofa, of a sort, but the mattress isn't that bad, if a little firm. You would need to put the cover back on every morning, but would not need to strip the sheets. We have one in our office/guest room and it's also a pretty comfortable couch. We got the storage box that fits underneath for storing linens and pillows.

And it's right in your price range, I think.
posted by devinemissk at 5:34 AM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'll add that the reason the mattress is at all doable on the Beddinge is because it's not folded; it's split, instead, so the two sides of the mattress each lay flat on the back and bottom of the sofa, when it's configured as a sofa, and the whole thing lays flat when it's a bed. I'd avoid anything that requires the mattress to actually fold, as in a traditional fold out sofa.
posted by devinemissk at 5:45 AM on May 25, 2015

Depending where you live and your ability to make changes in your apartment, you could probably find a cheap (or even free) wall bed on Craigslist. I see them listed quite often in the Bay Area. I've had them in the past, and they work quite well.

Overall, though, I think it's best to go for an actual, full-size bed and figure out a way to place it so it can feel somewhat separated. People often use IKEA bookcases for this (like this). If you can share a sketch of the layout of your apartment, we can probably suggest more specific ideas.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:01 AM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ikea loft bed?
posted by kjs4 at 6:02 AM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

How's the ceiling height? I've put a loft bed in similar apartments in the past.
posted by frumiousb at 6:11 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Meant to explain why I vote for a regular bed...I've lived in maybe a dozen or so studios, and I have always figured out a way to tuck the bed away somehow, so I think it's possible. The problem with other solutions, even the wall beds, is that it's a pain to constantly shift everything around. Especially since you mention having gentlemen callers...nothing more awkward than trying to put together a place to lie down in the moment.

Personally, I don't like lofts unless they're large spaces (basically a second floor of sorts), but I just don't like the feeling of being at the edge. It's also a pain to come down to pee in the middle of the night, and again, a little more awkward for sexytimes. Also, unless you have a lot of light, they tend to create dark shadows in an small space.

If you have a lot of leeway to make temporary modifications in your place, here's another way to create a bedroom.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:16 AM on May 25, 2015

I would consider a fold out couch with a fiber bed or (thick) memory foam topper. I slept on this combo as a guest and it was surprisingly comfortable.
posted by emkelley at 6:27 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

One caveat about a wall bed - it may not take up space during the day, but it'll take up space at night, so you'll either have to always keep that part of the floor clear or you'll have to move a couple pieces of furniture every. single. night. before unfolding it. Plus that's a whole section of wall you won't be able to use for....anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The entire apartment is 23 square meters, so I really can't create a second room. The apartments in pictures linked to so far seem gigantic in comparison to the space I'll be living in, so I don't think the bookshelf-as-a-divider idea will work at all either. It's very, very small. And the ceiling is sadly too low for a loft bed (otherwise I would do that in a hearbeat).
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 6:43 AM on May 25, 2015

Pop up trundle. Keep the upper bed looking like a daybed/sofa and pop up the trundle at night to sleep on. If you have an overnight guest, you can use the whole thing.
posted by amro at 7:00 AM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I should probably make clear that the trundle would be under the daybed during the day.
posted by amro at 7:02 AM on May 25, 2015

Seconding the loft bed, if you have relatively high ceilings. My last studio was about 250 SF; I lofted a full-size platform bed, and had room for a cozy love seat underneath it for snuggling while watching TV, though we'd take it "upstairs" as things progressed. My significant other at the time was 6'2", for reference. With the love seat, and a small fold-up wooden table and chairs, and my desk chair, I could seat up to five people cozily, if casually, and I never had to worry about others touching my sheets.

There are "full-sized" daybeds (and larger!), but you'd still have the outsiders-on-my-sheets problem. Maybe you want a trundle daybed? Need to clear space at night to pull it out, but the trundle part wouldn't have people sitting on it during the day, and the top part is sofaesque enough for casual visitors.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:05 AM on May 25, 2015

Personally I think loft beds usually look pretty juvenile, and typical daybeds also aren't great.

When I was last living in a studio, I used the West Elm Tillary Sofa. It doesn't have arms and the cushions that create its back are removable, leaving you with basically a small bed. During the day, I kept it in its sofa form; at bedtime, I removed its back cushions and popped on my bed linens. Reasonably priced and way more adult looking than most alternatives IMO.

As a bonus, it looks perfectly reasonable as a regular sofa, too. I've since moved into a one-bedroom and have the Tillary as my living room couch.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:37 AM on May 25, 2015

Here's a studio only slightly bigger than yours. Check out the "teeny tiny" category of the small cool contest on Apartment Therapy for more ideas. Some people have the bed out in the open and don't try to use any kind of divider...just kind of depends on where everything else is in the apartment. Here's 200 square feet. My last place was 240 square feet, so pretty similar to yours.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:39 AM on May 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

I vote for a good quality sofabed (I got a Castro Convertible 30 years ago, and it's STILL good! - sadly, they are no longer made) and a coffee table on casters that can be easily pushed away when it's time for living room to morph into bedroom. I think most chain furniture stores have them. Mine came with 2 matching end tables (no casters), but they were purchased as separates, so you can get just the coffee table if your space is small. Chain stores (e.g. Raymour & Flanigan) have generous no-interest installment plans, making payment fairly painless.
posted by RRgal at 7:47 AM on May 25, 2015

Day bed with a nice cover over it during the day so it looks like a sofa. Pillows in closet to keep clean and cushions on need for day time use. I used a big cheap queen sized bedspread to cover mine so it didn't matter if it got stained and covers the back for more padding and hid stuff hidden under the bed too.
posted by wwax at 7:57 AM on May 25, 2015

Definitely look through the Apartment Therapy small abode series. If you're older than early 20s, I think you'll be much happier with an actual full size bed and a smaller living area.

Your place is roughly 250 square feet. So it fits into the Teeny Tiny small abode category, and you can see all of the entries from this year's contest here - scroll down to the right category.

This place is bigger than your space but you don't need such a huge living area.

This is about 10 square feet bigger than yours and she has a bed and couch.

This is 280 square feet.

This is 200 square feet and has a bed. This is 254 square feet and has a bed, couch, and an entire wall of shoes! This is 225 square feet and has a full bed, and a sitting area instead of a couch. This is 246 square feet and is fairly simple - bed, couch and desk.

If you drew a layout with sizes, we might have ideas about how to space things out. Sleeping on a crappy bed or dealing with folding-unfolding each day gets really annoying.
posted by barnone at 8:53 AM on May 25, 2015 [10 favorites]

I would wait on it until you can afford to get yourself a Murphy Bed kit. Some of the DIY kits* work within your budget…if you're not particularly handy, it would be worth it to find a friend who is a bit handy…spot them a couple cases of beer to help you out. So, so, so worth it.

They're life-changing in small apartments. I was a decade-long studio dweller, and my last studio was by far the smallest out of the lot. The ceilings were pretty goddamn low, so lofting wasn't an option. In all prior iterations of studio life, I just used a twin bed, tucked in a corner….but when I went murphy, it was a really nice change to go to a queen size bed. My overnight guests seemed to appreciate it quite a bit too. Its worth saving those pennies if you plan on living in a studio for a few years. Next to custom-made shelving to go around the refridgerator, that bed was the best money I spent on making my studio feel a bit more 'adult' of a living space, and much less of a dorm-style zone.

*Its been so long since I built mine that I don't remember where I got it. My father-in-law installed a couple of these in their house, and my brother-in-law's house. The kit's really easy to follow, and this is the one we'll be using when we build-out our guest studio later this fall. They're pretty solid.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:57 AM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

If Murphy-type beds really appeal to you, here are some less-expensive DIY versions. (Main takeaway - simple platform, attached to wall with piano hinges.)

I can't find the link now, but I think one of the older entries in Apartment Therapy's small cool contest had the simplest Murphy set up ever: a mattress between two sets of bookcases. A heavyweight movers' strap (attached to one bookcase side, hooking onto the other bookcase's side; shelving was well-anchored to the wall) went across the mattress when it was in the up (flat against the wall) position, and a long curtain rod screwed to the front of the bookcases held drapes that hid the mattress during the day (and parted to cover the shelves at night). Bed linens stayed on, pillows were stored in a closet (but you could put them in bins on the lowest shelves, or use a storage ottoman...).

This was all done cheaply with Ikea components, but as with the options above you would have to be comfortable physically lowering the mattress each night. You would have lightweight furniture on casters in front of this set-up during the day, maybe it could be your office area. The Ikea Hackers site has more ideas.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:42 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

What about the IKEA Hemnes, which is a cleverly designed to pull out from a twin to a full and still have three drawers of storage?
posted by slateyness at 9:42 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Last time I lived in a studio, I had a futon similar to this one, with an innerspring-style mattress. The mattress made it hard to fold back up, so I ended up just sleeping on it in couch form and it was fine. I didn't really entertain in that apartment, but I would have just taken off the sheets and bed pillows if I had company over. I'm not really picky about hanging out on my bed in daytime clothes, so I didn't worry about taking the sheets off every day.

I absolutely hated having a Murphy bed. Hated hated hated. It was a pain to put away and take back out again, and a very inefficient use of space: as EmpressCallipygos says, that extra floor space you get when it's put away can't really be used for anything else. And if you like having underbed storage, that's gone. I think they're good in some situations; mine wasn't one of them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:07 AM on May 25, 2015

My partner and I sleep on a foldable futon every night.

Most sofa beds/futons are designed as mostly couches, occassional beds. They are not supportive enough for everyday sleeping, and can even break down through everyday use. Our first futon was like this.

The second futon we got was at a store that only sold futons, and they asked us how we were going to use it. After we explained that it would be our primary bed, the owner directed us to a very affordable, but better designed model than the one we had been looking at.

Our bed folds in the middle to make an armless couch. The design is such that it is easy to move up and down, and, with our good futon mattress, I find it to be the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on (including very expensive traditional spring mattresses). The whole - frame & mattress - cost us $400 CND. It's still going strong 3 years later.

My main piece of advice: don't get a futon or sofa bed from a generalist store (like Ikea), unless you have a recommendation for a specific model from someone who uses it as a bed (not mostly a couch). We got ours at a futon store, in a part of the city where a lot of people sleep on futons/foldaway beds.
posted by jb at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2015

This is the style of futon that we have - but because we told them we would be using it as a bed, they made sure that we had a better futon mattress than most mainly-couch futons have.
posted by jb at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2015

Ah, I missed the bit about not likely North Am style futons. Having never slept on a Japanese one, all I can say is that our futon is my favourite bed ever, even compared to the big, extra-deep & expensive mattress bad we used for three years at my inlaws. (I really like the firmness of our futon mattress).
posted by jb at 10:26 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

What size of bed have you been using? Queen? Double? Single? I live in a 30sq.m apartment and have a raised double bed (we're talking 70cm raised, so not a bunk bed) with built-in storage under the raised part. I've found it to be a great solution, mainly due to the storage.

A European double is the size where my feet hang off the end (I'm 180cm/5'11"), but I've noticed it's still doable, and fine for two, if you're going to have people over in that way. (If I were in an actual relationship, though, it would be Bigger Apartment And Bed time.) I avoided doubles until this apartment, only ever had queens. But my current place has a half-nook whose length is specifically designed for a double bed. I've been pleasantly surprised. It takes up less space yet is still comfy.
posted by fraula at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the Japanese-style futon would work admirably if you had somewhere to put it during the day. It would fold up to a lot less space than a traditional western bed or sofabed, so you would have options for where to put it. Even a laundry hamper might work, but certainly a footlocker or a coffee table with build-in storage. Or a shelf in the closet.
posted by katemonster at 11:54 AM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I built my own trundle daybed (will be pop up by the end of the summer) out of two twin wood frames (you can use twin XL if you prefer--I was too lazy to adapt the plans and buy wood to make new siderails for a different size) and love it, because I have a small place and also do not like people touching me when I am asleep.

I basically used these plans, but measured the height of the new holes on the head/footboards to accommodate casters on the trundle, and it works fine.
posted by Naamah at 1:32 PM on May 25, 2015

Tiny apartment dweller here. How often do you have guests? When I was deciding what kind of bed to buy, I ended up deciding that I had guests infrequently enough (4-8 times per year, and I didn't mind spending another few years being unable to host), that I could buy whatever I liked, and figure out the 4-8 days of the year as they came.

I ended up getting a daybed from CB2, with a feather mattress over it.
posted by MrBobinski at 4:07 PM on May 25, 2015

Another vote for loft bed. Who cares if it looks "juvenile", you're giving up so much space to have something more "stylish" otherwise, and probably giving up comfort to have something convertible.

The best setup i saw when i lived in a place like this was that several neighbors built a full on wall-to-wall DIY loft directly over the front door that fit their bed and a bit of extra room. This was in a place that had ~15 foot ceilings though. But still, it basically doubled the available space.

I find having a loft bed with a desk underneath looks a lot less "juvenile", but that's just me.
posted by emptythought at 6:25 PM on May 25, 2015

I don't know where you are, but World Market has two Daybeds in your price range. Get a nice blanket, comforter or textile to put over it during the day so you aren't sitting on your sheets. Get some large pillows to line the back a bit to make for better sitting like a couch. Also in terms of gentlemen callers - the daybed should be big enough, as I imagine you will want to to be snuggled up close anyway.
posted by Toddles at 8:02 PM on May 25, 2015

My current tiny arrangement: fold-out couch with inflatable full-size bed + memory foam topper, comforter and pillows go in a big steamer trunk during the day, mattress inflates in about a minute every night. NB, sanding and/or judicious use of electrical tape on the folding bed frame is wise if you choose to sleep on a large balloon.
posted by katya.lysander at 10:42 PM on May 25, 2015

Futons are awful and fold out sofa beds are the worst. However, my spouse lived for years in a studio with a European-style fold out sofa/bed thing from Istikbal and it was comfortable as a sofa and totally decent as a bed. Much like some of the IKEA ones, it is less like a fold out bed or a pad on a bending frame than it is like a mattress that bends in the middle to become a sofa. This format makes for a much more stable sleeping platform. There's a crease in the middle when it's in bed mode, but none of the sleeping-across-support-bars crappiness that usually mars sofa/bed hybrids.

Istikbal is a fine brand and all, but don't even get hung up on that. If you live in a metropolitan area, find the furniture stores where Poles, Russians, or other Eastern Europeans shop and they will have various analogues of this format if you want to check one out.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:12 AM on May 26, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! Many great ideas.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:44 PM on May 26, 2015

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