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Special Request: Studio Living

by Grace Bonney

Thursday: Small Quarters

Rather than moving on to the living room (my original plan for today), I thought showing some fabulous examples of how even the tiniest apartments can be tidy would span room tips—and square footage. I’ve compiled some critical sections of apartments to get us warmed up before I leave you with an amazing studio tour and DIY office nook that will have you all heading to the hardware store, I hope!

Photograph from Apartment Therapy.

*These folks are lucky enough to have beautiful high ceilings, and they really make the most out of it! It’s like a closet-media center-office-attic combo. But even if you don’t have high ceilings the tip to take away here is that if you have one bare wall in your apartment, use it to store everything you can—then cover it with a breezy curtain when not in use. That way, you focus all of the stuff into one part of the room while the rest of the flat is free for living in.

Divider photograph by Undine Prohl and from Unplggd.com. Kitchen shelves photograph from Pink Wallpaper via Apartment Therapy.

*Some studio owners stick with the open plan while others still try to get the walled in look. If you prefer the latter, I think this bookshelf option would be tops. Depending on the height of your ceilings, you might be able to find a bookshelf to do the job, but this may be something for the Weekend Warrior to tackle. (Anybody for a honey-do list?!) I especially love how the backing for these shelves is translucent, because it helps the space not look so cramped—probably more of a DIY touch, too.

*When I first saw this picture, I asked my hubby, “Do ya think they’re feeding an army or something?” And with deadpan delivery he said, “It’s for decoration.” Thanks for the insight, babe! Anyway, if you’re a collector (or feeding an army) and live in a studio, well these would be just what you need. I think you would most definitely have to DIY these too, though, if your ceilings are higher than the average. But there’s hope for those of you with two left thumbs! I have seen kits for floor-to-ceiling shelves at IKEA and Target. Although I’m sure Home Depot and Lowe’s would have something as well.

Photograph from MarthaStewart.com.
*This is an amazing apartment tour from the now defunct Blueprint magazine via Martha Stewart. I just pulled my faves but if you’re dying for more, then click on over after this post! Let’s start with the kitchen. You can see the use of the floor to ceiling storage like this post’s first photo, but this apartment shows more common ceiling heights for the average apartment. I would still use those boxes at the tippy top for storing things like out-of-season clothes and holiday decs versus kitchen tools, as you won’t want to reach up there every time you cook.

*And you can just see the floating shelves off to the right of the kitchen. If you have tons of books like this gal, then adding open shelving wherever there’s free wall space is your ticket to keeping the look uncluttered and not having to yard sale your four editions of “Pride & Predjudice”.

*As for the living room, there are more floating shelves but you’ll see she’s also chosen double duty coffee tables with tall shelves—meaning there’s enough space under the table surface to stack books (as pictured) or even store taller things like pitchers. Just make sure that most of your furniture has a streamlined look so it doesn’t overwhelm the space.
*There’s also a desk off to the right of this photo. If you’re in a place that’s this confined and have to have your desk in the living room, consolidate by using one of your living room chairs as your desk chair, too.

Photograph from ReadyMade.

*I’m covering offices tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist adding this one here! If you have built a sturdy divider, this is a great DIY desk nook as metal tubes support the glass surface. But even if you don’t have the walls (hello, studios!) to do this, you can modify this idea by adding a second filing cabinet on the opposite side. If your cabinets aren’t tall enough for your liking, try stacking coffee-table books you don’t read (can buy for pennies in bargain bins if you don’t already own them) to get the desired height. Just remember to put some rubber feet so the glass top doesn’t slip.

Photograph from MarthaStewart.com.

*Finally, here’s the bedroom before and after from the previously mentioned studio. See how cramped those full drawers at the side make the room feel? So the makeover mavens moved the bed to the center of the room, ditched the drawers, and ended up with a whole lotta room (OK maybe a decent amount of room) on either side.

*If you look closely you might see that the skinny nightstands’ shelves have been filled with lidded organization boxes. And you don’t have to go to IKEA every time you need one of those; I often cover shoeboxes with fabric using strong glue (or cleverly hidden staples in a pinch!).

*An alternative to the double nightstands would be to replace the drawers with floating shelves that start above the bed and move up the wall. You could store anything from books to sweaters to collectibles and push the bed completely against the wall, which creates even more space on the other side.

I hope this little jaunt off the room-by-room path has been fruitful for you all. As I said at the start, organization is highly personal so even if you only come away with one tip a day, that’s just fine with me!

Tomorrow is my last day on the D*S guest blog, and I’m planning an office post (complete with a few tips on how to make your electronics work for you). You all have been such an interactive crowd. Given that, if there is anything you’re dying to see, leave a comment! If there are more than a couple, I’ll do a second post on Friday especially for special requests!

Happy cleaning! x

Suggested For You


  • I LOVE floor to ceiling shelves with a ladder. I’m longing for a modern library with high ceilings and just such an arrangement and if my book collection keeps growing, I’ll need one.

  • THANK YOU for this inspiring post! I recently moved into a studio apartment that I share with my fiance and we’ve had to get very creative with our storage space. Floating shelves have been a life saver and it’s fun to show off our little collections of books, plates, cups, etc.

    We also use old trunks as coffee tables, side tables, and bed side tables. We love our small space so much!

  • Great ideas for such small spaces! I have been trying to help my boyfriend decorate his studio and I know we can use some of these tips.

    What ideas can you share for teeny closets (every single one in MY apartment!)? I have big trouble getting everything to fit and finding what I need without getting frustrated!

  • ck: Have you tried having multiple racks in your closet? You can always try those collapsible hangers, too. I know the ads are cheesy for them, but I think they’re worth a shot!

  • This is the best d*s week ever! I am eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s office organization post – that’s my project for next week when I’m off! Our office is located in our foyer and is constantly a messy first impression of the house.

  • Love the idea of continuous stacking racks or shelves.It is the recipe of the new age …to have enough storage and have a place for everything we need.Love the desk also…in the corner creating quite a nook for writing and spending time in peace and silence.

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