Studio Apartments: Making the Most out of Small Spaces

Studio Living; Honolulu, Hawaii
A year ago, I lived in a window-less studio in Seoul, South Korea.
Today, I occupy a studio with two lanais 
(lanai: Hawaiian for “patio”, in case you were wondering) 
in Honolulu, Hawaii.
An upgrade? 
Both places share one quality: a very limited amount of indoor space.  
What’s a girl to do?
Identify what makes you tick.  

In order to optimize your space, you need to figure out what exactly you’ll want to use your space for.  As a yoga student and teacher, one of my “must haves” is floor space to practice. Today, I sleep on a queen size futon bed that easily folds into a couch.  Floor pillows are stored underneath for guests to sit.  Another “must”: my job requires high energy output, so my home space must have the quality of “recharging the batteries”.  A “cozy corner” in which to read, color, dream, and catnap is perfect for unwinding and recharging.

Think Minimalism.  This is paramount in a small space.  
Clean surfaces equal a calm feeling in your small home.  Clutter will equal chaos.  Take time every day to clear any piles that, well, pile up!  File away bills and receipts at once; toss what you don’t need.  Create space in your space.  
Read on for some tried and true tips…and please share your own by commenting below!
  Making the Most out of Your Studio Apartment 
Cheat Sheet


  • Open up the space with clean whites. Avoid darks at all costs.   
  • Accent with your favorite bright (Turquoise, my favorite, takes the stage via a throw blanket, a potted plant, and picture frames)
  • Add your personality by displaying like collections.  Arrange books in clean, low stacks.  Place seashells and beachglass in a clear glass container.
  • We’re living in a studio, so let’s assume for a second we are single 20-somethings on somewhat of a budget.  Why not spend some time thrifting this weekend and come away with a DIY project?  
  • Bring nature indoors with fresh flowers and an indoor plant.  With the freshness of the outdoors comes expansiveness, even in a small space.  Don’t ask me why, it just does.   
Multi-functional Pieces
  • A futon bed folds into a couch on which you or guests can sit (top right).
  • Keep throw pillows handy to serve as extra floor seating a la Asian homes.  Throughout my time in South Korea and Thailand, no home or restaurant was without floor pillows.  This is a wonderful way to have extra seating for guests while keeping your space uncluttered with too much furniture.
A Cozy Corner
  • Find a corner to make your own little hideaway.  A Pier One Papassan Chair found at a local garage sale ($20 versus roughly $80) invites you to recharge alongside the sunlit window.  This nook has become my favorite spot to curl up, write a blog entry, read a book, or catnap on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  
In the Kitchen

  • Keep minimal dishware on hand.  Enough for you and two to three guests.  Plastic forks and knives are easy to come by when hosting.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I really need that electric chopper/blender/knife set/salad spinner?”.  Counter space is prime real-estate.  Don’t bring home anything you don’t need!  Keep it simple.

  • Cover any unfinished counter edges with a cloth to add easy storage.  My apartment came with unfinished under-sink area, a microwave, and a convection oven.  A sheet of tropical fabric covers the appliances and unfinished area where pipes can be seen. Fabric can be applied to any table outside the kitchen area, as well.
Saving the Best for Last: Keeping Your Small Space Tidy
  • Use a stylish desk organizer to stash printer paper, incoming mail, office supplies, and business cards (desk organizer pictured from Cost Plus World Imports).
  • Hide Eyesores, such as a printer or other electronics, with a white fabric. (I use a pillowcase.  Can you spy the printer in the photograph to the right?)  
  • Use under bed space for storage of extra pillows, blankets, books, etc.
  • Go as paperless-as-possible.  Create a folder on your computer’s desktop for receipts, statements, and the like.  
  • Use an expandable file for must-keep paperwork.  Throw out anything unnecessary.  Keep up with your filing at least once per week.
  • Lastly, keep surfaces clean.  Clear and wipe down tabletops and counterspace daily.  Perhaps even make it part of your evening routine, right before bed.  There is nothing like the feeling of waking up to your own calming, clean studio space!
Happy studio living, and mahalo for reading!
Please share your own tips below 🙂

4 thoughts on “Studio Apartments: Making the Most out of Small Spaces

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