After a long commute on the subway, standing between a grandmother with shopping bags and a burly guy playing Threes!, all you want is a place to relax. Unfortunately, if you live in a studio where your sleeping, eating, and working spaces overlap, your home can feel as crowded as public transit. Especially if you live with your significant other (by the way, here’s how to live happily with your S.O. in a tiny apartment).
One of the biggest challenges of studio apartments is deciding how to multiply rooms when you only have one. You could hire an incredible design firm to build a levitating bed, vanishing dining room, and pop-out kitchen like YO! Home’s.
Or you could implement a few of these simpler, cheaper tricks to create multiple living areas in your studio apartment. As much as we’d love to see a video of your YO! Home, we recommend the latter.
1. Envision your floor plan, and don’t forget to include “doors.”
Before you even think about dividers, you should know the space you want to create. Decide which corners and areas of your studio will become your bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen.
Once you map this out mentally, begin grouping (or planning to buy) furniture that fits both the space and function of each area, and remember to include entryways. It may all begin in your head, but like any floor plan, it has to remain as accessible as possible.
2. Think outside the wall with bookshelves.
When one of your goals is to maximize space, the more practical a solution is, the better. Set bookshelves perpendicular to a wall to divide living areas and add valuable storage space in your small apartment. The bookshelves don’t have to stretch to the ceiling, but for the sake of illusion and the extra room, go tall.
3. Think thin walls, as in curtains.
In a studio, like in any tiny apartment, every square inch counts. So if you want to physically separate your sleeping quarters, choose curtains.
When extended, curtains give you plenty of privacy yet take up millimeters of space. When you’re ready to get out of bed and expand the room, all you have to do is slide them out of your way with one hand.
Oh, and if you lack carpentry skills, don’t worry. A rod and fabric couldn’t be easier to hang.
4. For movie buffs: Install a projector screen.
When most people think of essential living spaces, they probably list dining area, bedroom, and study or lounge. Houstonite Chris Nguyen, however, wanted a personal home theater, so he added a projection screen to the foot of his bed. The installation is simpler than you might expect, and the sheer panel allows light to pass through, keeping the small area open.
5. Color-coordinate each living area.
Whether or not you add physical dividers, every living area in your studio needs tonal separation. Your mind should sense some distinction between sleeping and dining areas, and color accents can do the trick.
For each separate space in your apartment, choose a subtle color and theme to make it psychologically distinct. As a whole, your apartment should flow together, but even little choices, like pairing a blue throw blanket on the couch with a ceramic bluebird on your coffee table, can separate each living area.
6. Hang pendant lamps.
Because you need a well-lit apartment anyway, invest in some hanging pendant lamps to create another division. Not only do they save floor space because they hang from the ceiling, but pendant lamps are also easy to DIY.
Hang two or three strands of light to create an understated and practical barrier that separates your kitchen and dining area from your couch or bed.
7. Buy a bar cart.
You don’t need a separate room for your kitchen to create a separated kitchen. Use a bar cart to divide the area organically and add valuable counter and storage space for your baking and boiling endeavors.
A bar cart is also an economical solution in every sense of the word. Many bar carts only occupy a couple square feet, and you can find inexpensive options just about anywhere. Including at IKEA, which sells a $29.99 RÅSKOG utility cart that you can easily hack into a bar cart.
8. Create a floating closet.
Unless you’re renting that rare unicorn of a studio apartment with four closets, you need a place to store your clothes as much as any other living area.
While you can send seasonal clothes off to storage, you still need to make space for the rest, and we suggest building a floating closet. Like the brilliant design above, floating closets can maximize storage space while adding a unique magical element to your tiny home.
9. Put your couch at the foot of your bed.
Separating your living areas doesn’t get easier than this trick, which works for almost any studio apartment. Set your couch at the foot of your bed so that your back faces your sleeping area whenever you’re seated. With or without an additional physical barrier, the psychological division is clear.
10. Invest in a space-saving bed.
Maybe the best way to separate your sleeping quarters is by tucking them away, either against the wall with a Murphy bed or up near the ceiling with a loft bed. Both space-saving beds have their pros and cons, but either one would free up floor space for a living or dining area. Another plus: They can be ridiculously beautiful.
11. Clear out the clutter.
Fitting multiple living areas into one room is a tall order for anyone. The best designs and floor plans won’t amount to much if your studio is brimming with books, coats, and shoeboxes of old photos (here’s how to store old photographs without ruining them) and letters.
So as you plan how to divide your studio into separate rooms, be sure to also organize your apartment. Keep things that you need and/or make you happy; put the stuff that you love but don’t need right away in storage; and throw out, recycle, donate, sell, or gift the rest.
The result: a clean studio apartment with multiple customizable rooms in which you’re only surrounded by the objects that make you happy. And who wouldn’t want that?
This article was written by David Michael McFarlane, a writer from Texas and Oregon who lives in New York and loves smart design and organization.