At some point, most of us have to sacrifice space in order to save money. We’ve gone through the headache of dealing with roommates, and after living paycheck to paycheck, keeping up with the price of a one-bedroom turns us into a workaholic. Even with excellent budgeting, there comes a time when you have face facts and make a change to salvage your personal happiness.

Unfortunately, the main alternative you have to living alone or downsizing from somewhere else (aside from moving into your parents’ basement) is a trusty studio apartment. It may not be glamorous while you’re going to school, living in a big city, finding a new job, or pursuing a dream, but within that sacrifice, you can still have a fulfilling space that improves your lifestyle.

If you’re in a small space and are looking for ways to feel more at home, here’s how to get the most of your studio life:

Choose a Design Theme

What makes a studio apartment feel like a hodgepodge mess is when the room has no sense of direction. In one corner you have a huge La-Z-Boy chair, an armoire jetting out from the wall, a queen-size bed taking up too much floor space, while your hotplate sits on a cubby full of shoes. There’s no way to generate a clear thought, let alone find a moment of relaxation when items are sprawling every which way.

To combat this chaos, you have to choose a home design theme that allows you to organize your belongings and bring semblance to your routine. This is an opportunity to explore some design ideas you like, but more importantly, you can discover just how much stuff you need to live comfortably and what you can throw out.

Here are some popular interior design themes to follow that are perfect for studio living:

  • Minimalist: Keep things sleek and clean with simple, useful furnishings and less clutter.
  • Bohemian: Hanging plants and wicker furniture only. Leave tons of open space.
  • Mid-century Modern: Vintage wood and velvet furnishings with a touch of nostalgia.

Pick the Right Kind of Furniture

Once you decide on a theme, your next step is to pick the right kind of furniture that’s both affordable and effective. Getting the most out of your studio apartment means conserving space, so finding pieces that perform double duty instead of single functions are a jackpot.

For example, start with observing your square footage and narrow down your furniture needs to what’s crucial. Obviously, you need a bed. Next, you may want a desk to get some work done. Finally, a dining table isn’t a bad idea. With those things in mind, now it’s time to see what’s versatile.

For your sleeping area, a couch that folds out into a bed or a murphy bed is a great way to conserve space and provide you with more than just one seating option. To create a home office, search for a table that folds down and can be slid against the wall when it’s not in use. This way, you have somewhere modest to work, and then when company comes over, you can unfold it entirely to offer a dining room for guests. Another cool furniture idea is to buy a bookshelf and use it as a room divider to separate the living room from the kitchen area. Plus, it gives you extra storage for smaller items like photos, bills, electronics, and of course, books!

The right furniture is “hackable,” which means it allows you to crack into its full potential and kill two birds with one stone.

Buy Useful Appliances

After you’re done with your furnishings, what’s really going to make your small apartment stand out are the appliances.

Remember, a studio apartment has limited space, so a washer and dryer or dishwasher are most likely a no-go. In some rare occasions, you may find a place with built-in perks, but in all seriousness, you’ll be lucky if there’s a full oven, stove and fridge when you move in.

As someone who lived in a small studio apartment by the beach in San Francisco for several years, I was paying upwards of $2,000 a month for nothing but a half-broken hotplate, a miniature bar sink, and mold in the closet…and that’s a good deal for the area!

Nonetheless, it’s your mission to buy useful appliances to make your space feel worth it. Also, you don’t want to break the bank. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Kitchen Area

Your kitchen is your source of fuel, so you need appliances that work fast and offer a variety of cooking methods. To get the most out of your kitchen, think about purchasing a…

  • Toaster: Cause everyone needs toast in their life.
  • Rice Cooker: You can make soups, mac & cheese, rice, stews, lentils; all without taking up counter space.
  • Hotplate: If you don’t have a stove or oven already, a hotplate is your new best friend. Fry an egg or make a bowl of ramen in just a few minutes. Get used to it, this is studio life.
  • Refrigerator or Mini Fridge: You may already have one, but sometimes you have to buy your own upon moving in. If that’s the case, look for an affordable fridge on Craigslist or one on-sale. Even a mini fridge is great for simple items like milk, sodas, leftovers, veggies, lunchmeat.
  • Microwave: But a small one. Not some monster, radioactive beast.
  • Dish Drying Rack: After you use a plate or cup, give it a quick wash and place on the rack to dry. It eliminates kitchen buildup and looks trendy

Living Area

You may not need too much else in your sleeping quarters, but these appliances make your tiny home feel more comfortable and safe despite a lack of square feet.

  • Air Purifier: Because if you don’t have ample windows or a ceiling fan, an air purifier keeps your lungs healthy amidst dust and grime. You can buy a stellar one for under $200.
  • Carbon Monoxide Sensor: Your landlord should provide this for you, but if they don’t, hit up a hardware store and buy one. Smoke is easy to detect, but carbon monoxide is a silent threat that can be stopped for under $20.
  • Portable Heater: Many studios don’t have ample heating units (at least mine didn’t), so a portable heater is a life-saver during the winter months. Especially if you have several windows, getting a heater to keep pumping out warmth is key. Although don’t sleep with it on!
  • Vacuum & Dust Pan: Just accept that you’ll be cleaning every day. Studio apartments need maintenance, which means dusting and vacuuming. Get yourself a compact vacuum and dust pan to have on standby.
  • TV & Netflix Account: You are human, right? What else are you gonna do to pass the time? Enjoy your tiny apartment and curl up with a good binge session.

Bathroom

The only other room left to deck out is your lavatory. It’s not really the ideal place for appliances, but there are a few items to incorporate that make a big difference.

  • Etagere: You may not be able to pronounce it, but this piece of furniture (not really an appliance) sits behind your toilet with open shelves to fit towels, washcloths, or toiletries. They’re super cheap and stylish, and extra storage space is clutch.
  • Portable Fan: Every bathroom should come with a ceiling vent and fan to release moisture, but some studios are completely stripped down to the basics. To avoid mildew and mold buildup, get a small fan to blow out vapors and make sure to open a window or leave the door open.
  • Compact Washer: Running to the laundry mat is a headache, and a compact washer for small loads of clothes is perfect for your bathroom space. Just add a little soap, fill it up with water, and run a quick cycle before going to bed. When you’re done, just empty it out in your tub. Viola! Clean clothes whenever you want for under $200.

Only Keep the Essentials

With everything in place, your last responsibility is to only keep the essentials. It’s easy to get swept up at IKEA, buying every little accessory or going overboard with decorating ideas, but the name of the game is minimalism.

The only way to truly enjoy studio apartment living is to maximize the space you do have. Cluttering every square inch with clothes, tchotchkes, or bulky furnishings quickly transforms your safe haven into a prison.

For me, I was the happiest in my studio when the floor was bare. I’d walk in to see my boho couch and coffee table perfectly adjacent to my work desk by the window. My single orchid plant barely clinging to a sliver of natural light that shone through the alleyway. If things weren’t neat and tidy, it became a dungeon sucking the funds from my checking account.

The last thing you want is to be a slave to where you live, so stay simple, stay clean, and do your best to be happy. Maybe join a gym or visit a local coffee shop to get out more. That helps too!

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Chase Maser