Decorating a Studio Apartment

This entry will be long.

This entry is necessary because it’s a journey that’s taken me at least a year to be content with my space. And I’m still changing it.

Decorating my studio began before I even moved in, so let’s break the process down into bits for easier consumption, shall we?

To decorate a studio apartment you need the below:

  1. Ideas and Resources
  2. Budget
  3. Room dimensions & Tape Measure
  4. Your own style & Color Scheme
  5. A least a second set of hands – or White Glove Delivery so somebody else can do it
  6. Patience
  7. More patience.
  8. A Buy Nothing Group when you give up on attempting returns.

Ideas & Resources

When your living room and bedroom all together are 17′ x 10′, you better consult every Google Search for “Small Space Ideas”, and every pinterest board so you have an idea of what you can get away with.

And then what you can afford.

In my case, I had the luck of growing up in a bedroom that as an introvert, I practically lived in with the measurements of 17′ x 10′. That was consequently how I knew my studio was going to be mine. I grew up knowing just how to turn a room into 3 micro-spaces. One for sleeping, dressing, and living. For this part of your journey, you will want to hit up sites like Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and DesignSponge, where you can view room tours to see what speaks to you.

Or just stick around this website.

The resources I used were primarily:

  1. Ikea
  2. Amazon
  3. Tuft & Needle
  4. Pottery Barn Teen (I wanted a Queen-size daybed with mattress and I couldn’t afford Restoration Hardware if my life depended on it)
  5. Urban Outfitters
  6. Target’s Opalhouse line
  7. Locally-sourced Art
  8. Vintage/yard sales
  9. My local hardware store
  10. Home Goods

The entire source list can be found on the Resources Page just in case you wanted to purchase anything you see on the blog for yourself. Except for those steamer trunks. I’ve had those for two decades.

Budget

For most people, the act of moving is enough to kill any budget, much less have funds left over to also purchase furniture.

In my case, I took out a personal loan to make the move, purchase furniture, AND pay off credit cards in the process. So I gave myself a budget of $3,000. I must admit, my bed/mattress took up a good portion of that, so I got super creative with the rest of my furniture. For those with smaller budgets though, don’t leave me quite yet. Because rest of my things either came with me, were freecycled, or are DIY projects. I’ve got you.

Room Dimensions & Tape Measure

If you don’t have access to a blueprint or floor plan with dimensions, ask your landlord/property manager for your room dimensions. Bring a tape measure to help measure your doors – because you WILL need to know how wide your furniture is…

…So you can get it through the door! Bring your measuring tape with you when you go furniture shopping also. Because it’s one thing to “guesstimate” how large something is – it’s another thing to be armed with actual numbers.

Your Own Style & Color Scheme

Please keep in mind, I’m in my 30s. I’ve had a long time to figure out just how I like to decorate my spaces, but this came with time.

A lot of time.

I was 13 when I first decorated my 17′ x 10′ bedroom with ribbon yellow wall paint and bees.

I was 19 when I divided that space up into “micro-spaces”: where I crafted, read/wrote, and slept, leaning heavily into Gem tones that would later dominate my entire style.

I was 26 when I moved into my first apartment, opting for a broke!glamorous approach that was more Goodwill and hand-me-downs then it was actually “me”, but it was my first apartment and I loved it none the less.

I was 27 when I moved in with James, whose style skewed neutral tans, browns, and if the place had enough sunlight to support plants, we would have had them.

That apartment was where I painted my small bedroom a deep dark purple-gray (Sherwin Williams Special Gray) and leaned into Glitter/Shiny.

I was 33 when I moved to Seattle in an apartment that I can’t paint. One wall is a deep mocha brown, another tan, one eggshell yellow and my brightest window wall is white. I chose my color scheme not only out of a way to play well with all of my “neutral” colors but also because I was 32 when I dyed my hair teal.

You read that right. I typed teal. I knew I wanted white to be my main focus, but the teal came when I found out that teal hair dye bleeds onto EVERYTHING. All of the time. So to hide any accidental dye bleed, I opted to for teal as one of my main apartment Colors.

There’s a hefty dose of silver and crystal in there as well if it shimmers, it has a place in my studio. I wanted to keep my dark colors to operate as pops of color because the studio is indeed little, but it receives amazing daylight from two exposures.

But not everyone is so lucky, so you’ll want to hone your scheme (or go for full chaos, it’s your life) to help chase out whatever light you can get. Complexes like tucking the studios on the first or basement floors, so you will want to decorate in a way that doesn’t turn your space into a cave.

Unless you like caves. Who am I to judge? You do you.

White Glove Delivery OR a Second Set of Hands

Chances are, it’s just you moving into a studio and carrying things is great if you’re strong. But add in a loaded steamer trunk and pulling it up a set of stairs or three sounds like a great weight-lifting day at the gym.

And hell on your arms, legs, and core.

Now I know it may feel like you’d rather do anything, like go buy a drink, find a coffee shop, or chew glass then asking for help, but in this case, it’s pretty necessary.

Help usually comes with moving blankets and dollies of their own that you don’t have to store in your super tiny space.

I had a delivery company deliver my big furniture for me, mindful of my buildings angles and I’d rather guide someone to my space than bring up the furniture myself. My chairs were from Amazon, so my neighbor slid those over one day while I was passed out in bed (I didn’t hear him come in at all).

But my bed – I leaned into the Pottery Barn schtick and leaned into White Glove Delivery and Assembly. Which meant I told the crew where to put the bed; they unpacked it, assembled it, threw on the slip-cover and even put the mattress slip on so I wouldn’t have to maneuver it myself. I was already paying top dollar for a PB Teen daybed, but the White-Glove delivery meant I didn’t have to deal with packaging and box disposal either – because they took it with them.

So if you find yourself completely overwhelmed with boxes, don’t be afraid to ask for help, or pay for it. It’s worth not just your peace of mind, but your back, arms, and brain will thank you later.

Why brain?

Moving is traumatic enough. The idea of carrying my daybed parts up the stairs and figuring out my hallway – that makes me panic just thinking about it. Just remember to be patient with yourself and respect your limits.

Patience

You’ve probably figured this out already, but you’re going to need to give yourself time to put together your studio or itty, bitty one bedroom place.

Don’t be fooled by the pins you see, the Instagram posts that promise fast results in days (usually in exchange for thousands of dollars), your space and you need some time to get to know each other.

Which means you’re going to have to be patient.

I know, I know, hearing that sucks. But sometimes you need months to figure out how to make your apartment work for you and with you. Layouts will change, furniture may change, just remember that if you don’t like the way something looks – you literally have the internet at your disposal to help you change it!

Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty when you do. My dresser took me nine months to figure out just how I wanted it.

Patience

Just in case you missed it the first time. You’re going to need to be patient with yourself. Nobody is expecting an Instagram-worthy space here. But if that’s your life, by all means, go nuts.

A Buy Nothing Group

Sometimes, something you purchase for your space just does NOT work. It could be too small, too large, different style that doesn’t flow well, or it just isn’t what you were looking for.

All of which are valid reasons to either:

  • Return/Exchange the item. Which I’m terrible at doing, so I do a lot of the following – because while it may not work for me, it may very well work for somebody else.
  • Give it away. Except I’m not donating anything to Goodwill/Value Village here. Oh no, this is where the West Wallingford Buy Nothing group comes in.

Did you know these groups exist? Think the Craigslist free section except they’re your neighbors and they’re much less creepy when you can meet them on a nearby block corner rather than you know, letting said stranger into your apartment.

The gist of the group well… it is exactly what it says on the tin. You buy nothing in the group, but you’re freecycling everything and you usually have a response within minutes of posting. You can either offer a porch pick-up so you don’t actually have to see anyone, or be adventurous and go meet your neighbors. The best part is that you don’t actually HAVE to keep anything. If someone needs to borrow a tool or an item, I’ve seen them reach out to the Buy Nothing Group first.

And somebody will have that item. It’s pretty wild. My first items to the Buy Nothing group in my neighborhood was:

  1. Curtain rods (I ended up purchasing a blackout set from Amazon)
  2. A bed frame (my bed came in and I needed the closet space)
  3. A cube shelf
  4. A towel shelf that just wasn’t working for me
  5. Clothing
  6. Lights that I no longer had a need for
  7. My orbital sander. Well, I didn’t give that one away, but I did help someone learn how to use it safely so she could redo her bathroom. It came back too.

To learn more about the project, you can check it out over at https://buynothingproject.org.