Making more space in a studio apartment.

One of my favorite things to do is rearrange my living space. You know the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, my room is always broken in some way, and I am in a constant state of fixing. There’s some misplaced item of furniture, something unorganized, or maybe over-organized, that makes my day to day more work than it needs to be. It’s not immediately clear what’s out of place, which is why most people never re-arrange furniture after they first bring it into their home. For better and worse, I am constantly observing and moving things about. Usually it’s not much more than cleaning my desk or moving the books from this shelf to that shelf or to the closet.

Yesterday, my partner and I re-arranged our entire studio apartment. What started out as an endeavor that “shouldn’t take any more than 20-30 minutes” took at least 5 hours. But the space looks so amazing I had to write about it. I want to compile some of my takeaways from this experience. And maybe this will help someone else who lives in a 400-500 SF studio.

Before.

Here’s layout of the room, from yesterday morning.

Some of the problems with this layout:

  • The projector sits on an upturned wooden box right next to my half of the bed. When it’s on, it blows hot air right at me. There’s very little surface area left for me to use as a night stand, meaning I use the arm of the couch as well. It looks very crammed between the bed and the couch.
  • The two chairs opposite the couch take up a lot of space in the room, but they mostly function as storage. One is the “plant chair” and the other ends up carrying things that need to be moved off the table when we eat dinner.
  • We can watch movies in the projector from in bed or sitting on the couch, and we find that option means we usually prefer to lay in bed. This encouraged us to lay down more than we should.
  • The closet door could not be shut, because there was not enough room between the bed and the wall for it to swing out.

After.

Here’s what the room looks like now.

What’s improved?

  • The door can swing shut, which hides the hanging clothes, and provides more wall space.
  • The projector is a little further away from us when watching, so no uncomfortable hot air.
  • The desk can function as my nighstand
  • Because the plants against the window are lower and the chairs in the middle of the room have been moved, the entire window is visible, making the view from the couch more enjoyable.
  • Sitting on the couch, we are no longer in line of sight of our neighbor’s kitchen window.
  • There’s enough room on the dresser for a large mirror that’s been hiding in the closet. It makes the room seem brighter. It’s so big, and you’d expect it in a larger space. I think that makes this space seem larger too.
  • The tree serves to cover up the projector a bit. The bright green also contrasts with the white projector nicely.
  • There’s a comfortable amount of space on either side of the bed.
  • The floor lamp can dual function as a reading lamp and a desk lamp.

What’s lost?

  • The couch received a lot of sunlight where it was, and the leg of the L was a perfect spot for photosynthesizing. Now that the couch has been moved, it does not receive direct sunlight.
  • An extra chair is now stuffed in the closet.

Takeaways

Wall Visibility

The more covered your walls are, the smaller the space feels. I have a hunch the bottom of the wall is most important- being able to see the molding and where it meets the floor. When furniture is crammed together, you end up with less wall visibility. Certain furniture that’s open underneath (desks, tables) should be distributed around the room so that wall wall-meets-floor space is visible everywhere you turn.

Window Visibility

Similarly, don’t block any window space! Things can look good in front of windows (ie plants), but there’s an effect gained from having an entire window frame clear and free, like a picture frame. Even if the window itself is unblocked, make sure the line of sight to the window from important parts of the room is also unblocked.

Plant Cover

Somewhere in your room, especially if it’s a studio, there’s likely something that has to be there, even if it doesn’t look so great. A router, an extension cord, a projector, something like that. Use your plants to keep those items accessible but hidden from view! In our room, I’ve hidden most of the desk wires in the corner plant chair, and the projector is less of a focal point thanks to the tree beside it. In fact, the projector looks good now that it has a plant partner.

Oversized Piece

In a studio apartment, where space is limited, there’s not much space for anything big. That also, I think, makes anything big stand out. Use something big, like a picture, a painting, or in my case, a mirror, to draw your eyes and fool your eyes into thinking you’re in a much bigger room.

Comfortable Spacing

Leave some space between furniture! Anything pushed together will act like a single piece, so if it doesn’t match and serve or extend the same purpose, think again.

Balance of Use

We were spending nearly all of our time on one end of the room. The only exception was my desk, which wasn’t the only place I did my work. Moving the couch to the other side means we’ll be distributing our time in different areas, and it will probably feel bigger just because we’ll have different perspectives than we’re used to having.


This was a lot of fun and has truly made a huge difference in the enjoyment of our space. I encourage everyone to examine their interior layout more critically. There’s a lot you can accomplish with just some re-arranging!

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