5 Tips for Styling a Studio Apartment

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“My tiny apartment is trying to suffocate me!”

…Scream thousands of millennials as we simultaneously reach our breaking points in our cramped little apartments, wondering if we’ll ever be able to live in an American-dream-grown-up-house.

After several physical altercations with your closet that seems about to barf up the clothing it’s stuffed with and one too many heavy, high-heeled footsteps from the neighbors above you, it’s hard not to feel like your apartment is trying to drive you insane.

I’ve been there. Oh, I’ve been there so hard.

My fellow studio apartment dwellers, I am here for you and your studio apartment decor DIY journeys!

I swear to you - I SWEAR! - there is a way to regain your sanity in your small apartment. I know this from 10 years of small apartment life, including 3 years of what basically amounted to a closet in NYC.

Believe me, I am well versed in small space living. And since I’m also a Type-A style addict who simply refuses to come home to disorganized chaos, I’ve put obsessive effort into making each of my small apartments over the years into stylish oases where I can feel relaxed and at home.

But I realize not everyone has the desire, or the time, to put that kind of obsessive energy into figuring out how to make their apartment beautiful. If you’ve never really decorated before, how are you supposed to know where to start?

That’s really why Moda Misfit is here; to act as your guide and demystify the act of styling. I’m here to obsess over this stuff and make it all feel super attainable! I’d love it if someone other than myself could benefit from my obsession. 🖤

Yours truly in my tiny kitchen, which is so tiny that this is the only way to have a seat inside.

Yours truly in my tiny kitchen, which is so tiny that this is the only way to have a seat inside.

So without further ado, here are 5 simple things you can do to instantly make your studio feel prettier and more relaxing.

 

#1: The Big 3 - Bed, Couch, and Desk

Try limiting yourself to only three large pieces of furniture in your studio.

I personally think these 3 things should be your bed, your couch, and your desk. I also think the Big 3 should be the very first items you buy or place in the apartment. Everything else can orbit around them and can easily be small - coffee tables, accent tables, bookshelves, even TV stands. But your Big 3 are the pieces that are worth investing space in.

If you’re about to move into a new apartment, or you’re about to redecorate your current one, this is a nice, simplified mindset to be in when you’re shopping or choosing which items of yours to keep vs which ones to sell or donate.

Because moving into and decorating your apartment is just plain overwhelming. If you just prioritize the Big 3, you’ll find that everything else in the room falls into place a bit more easily.

Why do I designate the bed, couch, and desk as my Big 3? My reasoning is super simple and just comes from thinking about functionality (and to many of you it may even be stupidly obvious). It’s all about comfort, company, and productivity. (I tried my darndest to continue that alliteration but I just… couldn’t… do it.)

To break it down so simply that it's almost stupid:

  • Big bed = comfort

  • Big couch = better for company and hosting your friends

  • Big desk = better for productivity and organization (although I have seen some amazing small desk styling on Instagram and Pinterest. If you can figure out how to make a small desk for you while still keeping it organized and clutter free, then go for it!)

Again, pretty much everything else besides the Big 3 can be small and still be comfortable and functional. But the Big 3… in my book, these things need to be big in order to be comfortable and functional, and if you only have the space for a limited number of large furniture pieces, it should be these 3. Which brings me to tip #2...

 

#2: Divide and Conquer 

In my studio apartment, I have divided the space into three specific main “rooms”: the living room, the bedroom, and the office. This is where the Big 3 really come into play, as each Big 3 piece acts as the main anchor and definer for each “room” - the couch defines the living room, the bed defines the bedroom, and the desk defines the office.

Not only does it make functional sense for your couch, bed, and desk to be your three large pieces of furniture in your studio, but they also can be extremely helpful in defining each “room” within the space.

Here's another little trick to creating division in a space: AREA RUGS. I'm telling you, area rugs can take a big lump of undefined space and not only define it, but really anchor it. They give your eyes somewhere to land and clue you into what space is what.

Why define each mini-room as its own distinct space? What does that actually achieve? Take a look at my studio in the photo below. My "living room" is all up on my "bedroom" - a tight fit for sure. But it works because the they are each clearly defined spaces. 

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In my Before & After post about my studio, I talk about the couch really being a key player here: 

I decided to do something that felt right, but also counter-intuitive: placing the couch in the middle of the space.

You placed a big couch in the middle of a small space??

Yes. That’s what I did. And it ended up being the solution to the apartment’s lack of walls. My couch acts as a kind of wall; it’s a visual divider that separates the “living room” area from the “bedroom” area. And bonus: if I’m feeling really lazy after a long Netflix binge, I can get from my living room to my bed without my feet even touching the ground. I can just sloth on over from couch to bed. Living the dream, right?

The main takeaway here, aside from the major lazy girl goals I’m achieving, is that the key to making a studio work is to divide the space into ‘mini rooms’ by using furniture to create separation in a space that is not naturally separated.
— Before & After: My Studio Apartment in Downtown Seattle

#3: Cute Storage

Galvanized metal bins  can give your storage a rustic vibe. Perfect for storing remotes, random knick-knacks, or even just some pretty flowers.

Galvanized metal bins can give your storage a rustic vibe. Perfect for storing remotes, random knick-knacks, or even just some pretty flowers.

This one’s a fun one. Or at least it is for me. I think a lot of other Type-As will understand me when I say that this one’s especially gratifying because it marries the sense of satisfaction you get from being organized with the aesthetic pleasure of cute boxes and bins. Not to get too weird here, but I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

Not a Type-A personality? Don’t get a thrill from organizing things into pretty boxes? That’s totally fine. Think of it in a practical sense: you want your space to feel more relaxing and stylish, and a simple way to keep the clutter at bay is to store it out of site. What makes it fun is that you can put some creativity into it and have your storage reflect your personal style and even match the vibe you’re going for in your space.

Below are just a few inexpensive, cute storage options I put together that will take your clutter and make it cuter. I went with a rustic vibe when selecting these storage pieces, but you can find storage for any style using the good old Google thing.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to my lovely readers. I only link the things I love!

 #4: Mirrors

If you’ve ever caught an episode of any HGTV show, you’ve probably heard about using the magic of mirrors to make a space look bigger.

There’s a reason why mirrors have such great space-enhancing reputations: they work. If you want a simple way to open up your space, just hang a mirror! I’m also a fan of large floor mirrors propped against a wall, if your space would allow for that.

When I lived in LA, my apartment had this mirror from Ikea and it was KEY in making my room look bigger and more chic. Ikea never seems to stop selling this mirror, so you can totally still buy it if you’re interested. It served me well for five years.

Here are some mirrors to give you some inspiration:

#5: Avoid clutter AT ALL COSTS

Clutter is the death of interior style. It may sound a little dramatic, but seriously, I bet if you simply decluttered your apartment, it would instantly look more chic.

And if you already have a nicely decorated apartment, clutter will immediate negate all that cute style. It’s like a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, only Clutter would be a move that beats everything.

This even goes for accessories to an extent. There is a fine line between accessorizing and cluttering, and oh man, I am always walking that line.

I LOVE me some cute accessories in my room. Candles, books, flowers, trinkets - I love them all and have a hard time practicing self-restraint when it comes to them (I could never be a minimalist). But there is a point where accessorizing becomes clutter.

To know the difference, you kind of have to go with your gut. Unfortunately, there is no formula here. My suggestion is to look at a space you’ve accessorized and just simply tap into how in makes you feel. If it makes you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or just a bit off, move things around. Keep experimenting until you feel that “ahhh” feeling. It’s a bit of a Goldie Locks feeling of “this one’s just right”.

If you just take ONE thing away from this post, it should probably be my thoughts on clutter, just because it’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective thing you can do to make your space more inviting and manageable.

Don’t believe me when I say clutter makes a huge impact on the aesthetic of your apartment? Just look at the difference it makes in my own studio:

Same studio, very different looks. I'll admit something to you: soon after I staged the clutter for these photos, I had to immediately clean it all up afterwards. I was starting to get twitchy. 🙃

Well there you have it - your 5 tips for styling your studio apartment. Even if you carry out just one of these tips, you’ll probably find that your apartment will already feel more stylish. If you do them all… well you will have pretty much just leveled up your decor game through and through, and you’ll be able to just hang out in your super cute digs!

Do you have any questions about studio apartment life? Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below!

P.S.

If you want to stay up to date on all the interior decor & fashion stuff on Moda Misfit, click here to subscribe! A Moda Misfit email is like getting a nice little treat in your inbox. When you’re in need of a good, hearty dose of inspiration, I’m here for you. ♥︎

 
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Hey there! I’m Steffi, creator of Moda Misfit - a style blog that aims to inspire you to embrace who you are and express your creative self through decor & fashion. We're all Moda Misfits here!

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