10 Clever Studio Apartment Design Ideas That Will Help You Live Large

a large living room with a fireplace and a mirror above, a curved gray sofa, light mauve daybed, decorative molding on walls and ceiling, tall curtained windows, amorphous shaped rug, half moon cocktail tables
Live Large With These Studio Apartment IdeasNoe DeWitt

If you have hunted for an apartment solo in a pricy metropolitan area like New York, San Francisco, or Miami, you’ll doubtlessly be inured to some all-too-familiar trade-offs. Sign a lease for a place with prewar details and fantastic light? Prepare to live off of peanut butter sandwiches for the next three years. Find a spot that’s just two blocks from the subway and allows for you to pay off that journalism degree? Better get used to living in the cozy confines of 500-square-feet. That’s right, we’re talking about the unique joys of living in a studio apartment.

For the uninitiated, let us explain: a studio apartment—sometimes called an efficiency apartment—is a one-room dwelling, with the living area, bedroom, and sometimes kitchen all contained in a single space. While the bathroom, blessedly, is generally tucked away behind its own door, you’ll likely face some challenges in creating separate zones for sleeping, eating, and entertaining. Fortunately, interior designers are here to tell you it is indeed possible to create the studio apartment design straight out of your Big City Carrie Bradshaw dreams.

Just ask Dallas-based interior designer Jean Liu, whose spectacular New York City one-room pied-à-terre was featured on our April 2024 cover. “When it comes to laying out furniture in a studio apartment, one should start with figuring out where all the basic and most important functions of living will take place: where to sleep (bed), where to eat (dining table), and where to sit (sofa),” she tells us.

“Having the same colors run throughout the pieces of furniture, artwork, and accessories will allow a studio apartment to feel bigger and more spacious.”

Once you’ve determined that, she adds, it’s important to choose furnishings that do double, or even triple duty. “My laptop is my TV, I got rid of my phone line so I wouldn’t have to look at another phone sitting on the counter or cord running to the wall. The table where I host dinner is the same place I work all day when I’m in NYC, and the daybed where I sleep happens to be one of the main seating areas when guests visit,” Liu tells us.

“Studio apartment dwellers need to embrace the edit.”

You can also make your room feel bigger through a few other decorating hacks, such as hanging your window treatments higher than your windows to make your ceiling heights feel loftier. Liu also suggests working in the same color palette, in her case, dusty pinks and beiges. “Having the same colors run throughout the pieces of furniture, artwork, and accessories will allow a studio apartment to feel bigger and more spacious,” she says. “In similar fashion, consider grounding the entire apartment with one solid rug instead of a couple of smaller ones.”

Most importantly (and perhaps most obviously) take a hard look at the amount of stuff you have. “Studio apartment dwellers need to embrace the edit,” Liu insists. “Be conscientious about how much is being brought home and where something is going to live. Can it be stored, where will it be displayed, how will it look with my other things? For me, this was crucial to living large in a small space.”

Feeling ready to make your puny studio apartment feel like a palace? Good. For more inspiration, here are 10 clever ideas to help you live your life to the fullest…without cluttering your space, of course.

Studio Apartment With Period Details

When designer Jean Liu was the tender age of 22, she made a savvy investment: the purchase of a studio apartment in a Gilded Age manor that was originally built for newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer. With the spectacular details still intact, all Liu needed to do, really, was a “fluff and a buff.” But she also need to ensure that the one-room space worked like a Swiss army knife, while maintaining a chic and relaxing atmosphere for herself and for guests. Screens, she said, help her create privacy, while furniture that has multiple functions (a table that doubles as both a nightstand and side table, for instance) frees up space. “This might be random but I’ve found managing cords running throughout the apartment and having consistent lighting temperatures in a small space can make a huge difference,” she adds. “Make cords be as invisible as possible; make sure all the bulbs in the apartment are the same color temperature, and you’re well on your way to making the space feel even bigger than it is.”

a woman with long dark hair wearing a striped top and black skirt stands next to a daybed, curved gray sofa, amorphous rug with lines, two half moon cocktail tables, end table with lamp, curved floor lamp with silver globe
Noe DeWitt

Maximalist-Yet-Mini Pied-à-Terre

Hostess-with-the-mostest Rebecca Gardner describes her Manhattan pied-à-terre as “the size of a nipple”—but that doesn’t stop her from entertaining or decorating with her signature maximalist panache. To accommodate her frequent dinner parties, she’ll unfold this table—never mind that it’s in her bedroom. Pro tip: if you find yourself short on space, find foldable furnishings that you can stow away when not in use.

a small room with sage walls has a bed near two windows with a beaded, rose colored fabric canopy and a multicolored spread, a crystal chandelier, and a set dining table and chairs with leopard seats
Annie Schlechter

Art-Filled Studio Apartment

Nobody puts baby in a corner...except when baby is a custom blue velvet sofa. In designer Charlie Ferrer’s Manhattan studio apartment, a curved couch tucks conveniently into a nook in the small living room while a coffee table, in turn, nests into the sofa. This space-saving layout allows for unencumbered views of the charing fireplace. Shelving that traces the perimeter of the room, meanwhile, draws the eye upward while allowing Ferrer to display his collections.

charlie ferrer apartment lounge
Stephen Kent Johnson

Bedroom Niche Studio Apartment

This pad clocks in at just 575 square feet. Yet advertising exec Robert Row wanted his Big Apple pad to feel like “a bungalow in the city.” It was a tall order, but he managed to achieve just that with a hot mix of furnishings and antiques. But the cleverest solution might just be the “bedroom” which takes up a niche near the windows. Rowe elevated the bed on a platform so that it felt like its own discrete space. “People sitting on the sofa always ask where the bedroom is because they don’t even see the bed,” he told us. “Their eyes just fly right over to the window.”

a living room with a rounded arch and built in bed by the window and linen sofa with studs and a black and yellow oriental screen and other furniture
Björn Wallander

Eclectic Studio Apartment

Can a tiny footprint work with a magpie’s proclivity for collecting? It can if you’re designer William Cullum and his partner, Jeffrey Rhodes, whose New York studio is a maximalist’s dream. “If we love it, we make it work,” Cullum told us. Here, the combined living room and lounge got a coat of “a beautiful frothy lilac,” and the pair piled on antiques and patterns from there. One space saving trick? Consider a canopy bed. That way, when guests are over, you can simply conceal your “bedroom” by drawing the curtains.

living area with blue velvet sofa and silk pillows, a papier mache cocktail table and antique majolica side table, four poster bed with curtains and pillows covered in dries van noten dresses
Kirk Davis Swinehart

Neutral Oasis Studio Apartment

There are so many small space lessons to be learned in this neutral oasis of a studio apartment. designed for a New York theater director. The designers at Studio Kenyon first unified the scheme in a soothing palette of beiges, creams, and browns. Then, they chose furniture to maximize the floorplan, like the corner banquette that serves as the “dining room” and a daybed that provides extra seating and a place for guests to crash in the “living room.” Studio Kenyon tucked the bedroom away behind a glass partition, which the designers softened with a dramatic curtain. Show time!

a living and dining area has a dark burl wood table, a corner banquette against a frosted glass wall, a three armed pendant above table, a daybed in a dark fabric, an end table, a brown suede sofa opposite, and artworks

Working Overtime Studio Apartment

Small-space dwellers who need a WFH set-up needn’t work in their bed all day (though hey, we’re not judging). With the right amount of spatial finagling, you can fit a small desk into a studio apartment. Ferrer was lucky enough to have a preexisting nook, but you can achieve the same with a narrow desk, small lamp, and overhead shelving for stashing away books or office supplies. Bonus points for a striking accent wall, which, in the case of Ferrer’s apartment, makes this small office feel like a chic den.

charlie ferrer apartment home office
Stephen Kent Johnson

Double Duty Living Room Studio Apartment

No niche? No problem. In Rowe’s New York City apartment, the “office” simply pushes up against the living room sofa. Stacks of books and flower arrangements make it feel like a chic console table while a lamp—conveniently—lights both the desk and those curled up on the couch.

a dark wood triangle pedestal table with books and a lamp behind a sofa and a coromandel screen in the background
Björn Wallander

Space-Saving Apartment

Ok, this 490-square-foot apartment is technically a one bedroom, but there are myriad ideas to steal from this multi-purpose space, thanks to designer Nina Barneih Blair. The living area, for instance, also serves as the homeowner’s yoga studio, but—due to a small pink loveseat and small side tables—it can be reconfigured in a snap. The bedroom just beyond is concealed with transparent doors, giving the owner privacy when guests visits. Pro tip: a single statement artwork can help to unify your color palette and draw the eye upward.

nina barnieh blair west village apartment
David Land

Minimalist Studio Apartment

Never discount the power of a partition in your studio space. This 700-square-foot apartment in Italy already featured great bones and plenty of light—it just needed some spatial differentiation. Here architect and furniture designer Alessandro Preda designed a sheet-rock partition to conceal the bed, making sure it didn’t extend to the ceiling to allow the sunshine to still permeate. Don’t have the budget (or super) to allow for architectural elements? Go for a pretty screen.

studio apartment design ideas
Ottavio Tomasini

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