The Room by Room Guide to Decorating your Studio Apartment on a Budget

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Your first apartment…freedom, confidence, excitement….lack of space. Most likely, if you’re an urban millennial and moving into your first apartment, a studio apartment is all you can afford. You may bypass the minimal square footage at first, because the excitement of living on your own, in a big city no less, overshadows this issue.

After the glitz and glamour of this taste of freedom and young adulthood wear off, the tiny space becomes more and more of an issue. You want to make your first apartment into a functional home. So you head to Pinterest.

Looking at these images of tiny studios, professionally photographed of course, with beautifully arranged “clutter” on simple open shelving and a galley of tastefully arranged wall art, you think, ‘I could live in a studio apartment if it looked like that’.

Then you try the method of doing it yourself and you become of those ‘Pintrest failed projects’. Why doesn’t your space look like the one you saw on Pinterest, or Houzz, or one of the many home improvement and design magazines?

First, just like people, each space is different. If you’re trying to replicate that charming vintage studio, but lack the brick walls and bay window, you may be disappointed at the end result.

Second, many of the well designed studio apartments are not quick and easy D.I.Y. fixes. Custom built-ins, renovated kitchens, and other new construction may be involved to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing space.

Problem for most young adults however is that we can’t afford these big cost remodels, especially if we are renting a space. Most landlords don’t want you to alter their units with home improvements, leaving you with that initial problem of ‘How can I make this space work? How can I make it feel like a home?

Fear not! There is a solution to this problem. You can still achieve a cute and charming decorated studio apartment without breaking the bank (or any walls for that matter). Here are some tips and ideas for decorating your studio apartment that don’t require any demolition, construction, or major remodeling.


Use a Shelf instead of a Console Table


Still want to make an impact when entering your studio? To have a place that says, “Welcome to my home”?  Instead of a console table, have a shelf function as your entrance furniture. Arrange a mirror, a few accessories, and voila, a cute yet practical solution.

Create a Mock Wall-Unit


Instead of spending the money on a custom wall cubby unit for hanging your coats, storing your shoes, etc., create your own mock unit with wall shelves and a storage bench. This one offers the additional benefit of utilizing a trunk for extra storage.

Don’t Forget the Corners


If you have a larger entry way, put that neglected corner to use by creating additional storage with wall shelves. You can make a mock unit like this one, or pile on the vertical storage to mimic a bookcase.


Try a Loft Bed


Loft beds are a great way to divide a space, especially if you have tall ceilings. You free up a lot of square footage which you can use for other purposes, such as creating a cozy living room area or having your home office underneath.


Create a Cozy Nook


Dedicate a small corner of your studio to house a bedroom nook. Adding tall furniture pieces, such as a bookcase or a wall divider helps to block off the space, clearly marking which area is the bedroom.


Get a Murphy Bed

If you hate making the bed, a Murphy bed may be for you. Usually replicating built-in shelvings, a Murphy bed folds out of the unit and can easily be hidden away when not in use.


Or a Daybed


Another practical solution to a studio is to get a daybed. This is ideal if you are living in the space by yourself, as most daybeds use a twin mattress.

Living Room

Use your Sofa to Divide the Space


If it works for your apartment, a sofa can act as a divider between two different areas. To further break up the room, a console table behind the sofa functions as that transitional piece of furniture between the two spaces.

Two Armchairs vs One Sofa


End Tables that aren’t End Tables


Instead of resorting to your basic end table, maximize on your potential use for more storage by using furniture that can function as an end table, but house more of your items. For example, this chest is a great use of extra storage.

Dining Room

Create a Breakfast Nook


Butt two benches against one another in a corner to create a cozy little breakfast nook. Opt for a round table to visually create the illusion of more space.

Push a Table Against a Wall


This simple solution allows you to visually create a dining area. You can add art above the wall to help maximize the effect.

Have Bar Seating


Who needs to go out for a drink in order to sit at a bar? Create your own bar seating with a hightop table and a few stools shoved underneath. You can even use wall shelving instead of a free-standing table to maximize on floor space. This is a great option if you are severely lacking eating space.

Home Office

Have a Wall Office


Using a wall-shelf desk offers more floor space by using vertical space instead.

Home Office or End Table?


Why not both? Pushing your desk up to your bed and using it as both an end-table and work surface makes a dual use out of a good piece of furniture. It also helps transition the space from bedroom to office.

The Invisible Home Office


Unless you work from home, you really don’t need that much space for a home office. Most people have laptops now a days, and just need a little space to do work like paying bills and such. Utilize another surface area in your apartment, such as your dining table, for the moments when you do need to do some work. In the meantime, file your office needs into a cute basket so that they are neatly kept.


Add Some Shelves

Interiors kitchen open shelves subway tile backsplash

Why hide your cute mugs or fancy serving bowls? Instead, arrange them on a shelf as a practical display while freeing up your cabinets for some uglier appliances.

Hang it on the Wall


Items such as pots, pans, and even some utensils can be displayed hanging on your wall. They are easier to access and free up more counter and cabinet space.

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