Life in 500 Square Feet

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Studio Apartment

When my parents chose a studio apartment near Cocoa Beach, Florida because of its amazing river views, I wondered how they would manage in such a small space. They insisted the location – riverfront, near the beach – was worth the sacrifice in square footage. It was a great little apartment, but one room shared by two people? How could they manage without tripping over each other?

They not only managed, but the space was beautiful – my mom, who is very crafty and a whiz with a needle and thread – made a screen covered in fabric to separate the bedroom area from the living space. She used trunks to store out-of-season and seldom-used items, then stacked them three high and put the television on top. She used floating shelves to display her collections throughout the space. When she finished, the space … was still small. But it felt surprisingly roomy.

Another great way to decorate your studio apartment is to think vertical. A loft bed, for example, frees up valuable floor space. Under the loft, you can set up your work station with a computer desk and chair. Or, place a love seat and an end table with a lamp and make a cozy living room nook. Hang your television on the wall and put equipment in a small cabinet. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are perfect for displaying items. Line them with storage baskets and keep things organized. Bookcases can act as both storage and as room dividers. Go to garage sales, second-hand stores, and antique stores and find the 1970s-era macramé hanging baskets – not only retro, but useful. Hang a tiered basket in the kitchen and store fresh fruits and vegetables in it, or put one in the bathroom and roll hand towels for one and toss decorative soaps in another.

Organization is very important in any small space, but especially so in a studio. After all, you don’t have a room where you can toss clutter and shut the door when unexpected company arrives. Keep things neat by getting rid of everything you don’t need, then organize, label, and store on shelves (or in an ottoman-slash-trunk) what you want to keep. Don’t go crazy and eliminate everything – you want your space to feel personal. If you collect movie posters, for example, frame them and hang them on the walls. If you have a flag collection, use them as curtains. Maybe you are passionate about coffee cups – set them together on a shelf and use them to hold small objects and loose change. Or, drill a small hole in the bottom of several and plant a small coffee-cup herb garden. Place them on a shelf under a sunny window and you’ll have a fun, funky, and useful display.

Invest in furniture that performs double-duty – a futon or day bed can double as both couch and bed. A pull-out couch is great for company, but don’t use it as your main sleeping space. You’ll grow tired of putting the bed away every morning and pulling it back out every night and you could just end up leaving it open. Then your space will look like one large bedroom. Besides, pulling the couch out will probably involve having to move furniture around and finding a place for couch cushions.

Sometimes the location or the view makes a studio apartment worth the lack of space. If you decide to go with a studio, remember – small-scale, multi-use furniture works best, keep clutter to a minimum, and use color to liven up your space.