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A Studio Apartment Design + Tips

A past studio apartment design PLUS some tips for small space design success!

When my youngest sister said she had leased a studio, I instantly had a studio apartment design vision of Jeannie’s bottle in the 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.

The reality of the apartment when my sister texted a walk-through video was kind of a dream-crusher. At first glance.

The apartment had a worn-out, stained beige carpet, drab brown walls, peeling linoleum in the kitchen.
It was a second-floor room in a historic brick home that had been chopped into apartments. Apartments created for function and sadly short on charm.
This little piece of square footage had ceilings that soared at least 15 feet! A trio of curving floor-to-ceiling windows, with original (albeit over-painted) woodwork! Light streaming into the kitchen area from another wall of windows! The ceiling still had its original light fixture medallion! You could almost imagine the cut-glass chandelier that hung there, maybe when electricity first came to town.
Also the stove worked, and the bathroom didn’t look like a dingy concrete slice of prison. So, overall, it was a major improvement from her first place.
I completely understood why she signed! Now I needed to come in with a studio apartment design that would highlight the charm of the space.

There are some things that just can’t be done when you’re renting. The trick is to lead the eye away from what can’t be changed – by creating some swoon-worthy focal points.

A quickly snapped “After” photo

How to Succeed with ANY Studio Apartment Design


  • A wall color, the style of that one piece of furniture you love. .choose something and carry that concept throughout the space. The smaller the square footage, the more important it is to have all the elements in the room working together.
  • Example: the tv stand and the entry stand in this studio apartment design are both made of thin dark metal and scorched-wood shelving. They’re on opposite walls so when the eye travels around, the starting and ending points have the same look. It feels like the room flows, which is restful.


  • Murphy beds are becoming more widely available as the trend towards multi-functional spaces gains popularity. A Murphy bed is my top choice for multi-purpose rooms and a great investment piece!
  • Additionally, consider a couch or loveseat that converts to sleeping if you plan to have overnight guests regularly.
  • I moved my sister’s vintage sewing machine table next to her loveseat, and tucked a chair into it too. Now it’s a side table AND a desk! And everything’s angled to be able to watch TV.
  • The other side of her loveseat has a table with a top that lifts off for storage. The top can be used as a tray.


  • Oversized furniture will only make a small room feel smaller. Instead of a big, overstuffed sectional couch, get a loveseat and 2-3 chairs. This configuration gives you more flexibility in furniture layout!
  • A couch/loveseat with legs will lend a more spacious feeling to a room. Chairs with simple lines and less cushioning also keep a room feeling spacious. Add a pretty pillow to double as back support for movie nights or cozy afternoon reading.


  • The smaller a space, the quicker it will look like a disaster zone.
  • Invest in attractive storage options like fabric or woven totes to tuck into shelves, side tables or ottomans with lift-off tops, pretty baskets or plates with high sides to drop keys, mail, pens, and other small things that would otherwise be scattered on the coffee table. Contain the clutter!

Getting back to this studio apartment design

My sister is a little bit fairy queen, a little bit rock-n-roll. I wanted to create a design scheme that would reflect her personality. So Jeannie’s bottle..but make it edgy.
Anyone else remember InStyle magazine’s “Color Crash Course” articles? They showcase a color, and give a few conventional and at least one “wild card” color pairing. I remember loving the aubergine and icy blue combo.

Romantic & Sophisticated Aubergine + Calming Cool Pale Blue = One Unique Space

Studio Apartment design mood board

After a serious deep-cleaning of the. . everything. . . we went to work on the brown walls. This was my darling fiancé Mark’s very first wall-painting experience! I will never forget his face as his eyes travelled up. . .and up . . and up those walls.

“We’re painting. . .all of this?”

“Yes, my love.”

For this studio apartment design, painting those walls made all the difference!

It’s a lucky girl who finds a man who’s willing to experiment..

We found a nailhead-trimmed aubergine loveseat that fit the space and the decor theme perfectly. Add two vintage balloon chairs I scored on Etsy + sheepskin on the seats from IKEA and we were rocking.

I found a perfectly sized piece on Wayfair to define and organize an entry zone. The smaller a space, the more important it is to keep things organized!

I love the paper stars hung from the ceiling medallion. That wasn’t easy either! I’m not crazy about balancing at the top of a tall ladder with nothing but air around me. But something had to go up there!

We kept wall decor to a minimum.

Partly to keep the focus on the windows, partly because the walls were plaster. Which makes the traditional hammer-and-nail thing tricky. They were hella textured too – so Command strips weren’t working.
These Mexican feather bird art pieces had to go up though, they were so funky!
My sister has always gravitated towards a late 60s- early 70s vibe.

I wish I had taken more photos! This was such a fun space to put together. Total spent: around $3K. That includes the Murphy bed, fireplace/TV stand, entry hall tree, loveseat, vintage chairs, brass floor light, a tall skinny dresser (see proud fiancé, post-assembly), and those heavy silver curtains! Lord, those took forever to iron out. Worth it though! Nothing cheapens the look of something like wrinkles. This applies to clothes AND curtains.

You know what makes for a fun Friday night? Tequila and furniture assembly. And ironing.

No matter where you live, make it YOURS!
That’s what makes it HOME.

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