I am an interior designer. Here’s how I make my 350-square-foot studio apartment look bigger and luxurious.

I am an interior designer making the most of my 350 square foot studio apartment.Turn on Payter

  • I’m an interior designer in Chicago – here’s how I decorated my 350 square foot studio apartment.

  • I use mirrors and light colors to give the illusion of more space.

  • Glass and acrylic pieces of furniture and accents help make my space feel cohesive and more spacious.

I am an interior designer specializing in luxury residential design.

Luxury customers have certain standards and often a higher budget. So once I moved on to designing my own space, I had to figure out how to achieve that luxurious look I love at a more realistic cost.

Here’s how I did it:

Downsizing was crucial

As soon as I found out I was moving from Indianapolis to Chicago, I knew I had to downsize. I was able to find a place for a similar price to what I was paying before, but it was less than half the size.

I researched every single item I had and determined if it was worth keeping by asking myself if it brings me joy. If so, I kept it. If not, you sold it or donated it.

When choosing my apartment, I chose to save more space over comfort

While searching for apartments online, I knew I was willing to go into town if it meant I got more square footage.

I found that the further north I went, the more space I could take, so I ended up about 5 miles from downtown Chicago. It doesn’t look far, but my commute to the city center can take anywhere from 30-40 minutes.

Fortunately, with additional square footage, a wardrobe appeared, which in the studio apartment was almost unheard of.

My wardrobe is conveniently located as a buffer between the living space and the bathroom. Plus it fits my clothes, shoes, wardrobe and a few large baskets for extra storage.

Space planning helped me define clearly defined areas in my studio

Space planning is a crucial step in the interior design process and is one of my favorite things. To me, it’s like playing Tetris with people’s possessions and figuring out the best way for them to flow within the space.

When defining a layout for my small apartment, I created a few options to see what would be best for delineating separate areas in one space.

I wanted my studio to look cohesive but also had three distinct spaces: a living area, a bedroom, and a dining nook.

A writer's bedroom with a white bed in the middle and a dark headboard, a white ottoman storage bench in the front, and a black rug below.

I used area rugs to define the space with my bed and nightstands.Turn on Payter

To map and define my living areas, I used separate rug arrangements in each space

Excess rugs add layers to the space and make it feel more grounded while also adding texture and comfort.

It’s also great for audio purposes, which is handy because the floors in my old building tend to creak. The carpet hides the majority of this squeak and also prevents some of the noise from the lower level.

I thought about practical and meticulous storage solutions for months before moving

The writer's living room, with a white rug, white muslin curtains, a black sofa beside a small white side table, and two white ottomans in front of the sofa.

I use ottomans as decor, storage, tables, and footrests.Turn on Payter

My goal was to create hidden places to store things that flow seamlessly through the overall aesthetic of the space.

One of the ways I achieved this was by using ottomans for storage, which have multiple uses. It can be used as a footstool, coffee table and additional seating. Even the seat at the end of my bed opens up for storage.

Mirrors are perfect for making a small space appear larger

I have an extra closet and love its mirrored doors, which make my space feel so much bigger. Since I was in a smaller studio, I wanted to incorporate more mirrors.

I added a large, smaller design to serve as functional decor while making the room appear larger. I installed the mirror in a place that reflects the longest distance from the visible wall space, making the room feel as spacious as possible.

Writer taking a selfie in a large glass mirror

A mirror can make a space appear larger.Turn on Payter

Keeping your colors and materials consistent can help a space feel cohesive.

I stuck to black and cream for the overall design of my space.

I wanted to repeat this palette in each individual area to make the space feel more open and marry the apartment together as a whole. I even put black and cream colors on display in the visible part of my wardrobe from the living area.

I also kept my metal together, opting for chrome and brushed nickel finishes. These finishes are reflective and bounce off light, making the space appear subtly larger.

I also incorporated lots of glass and acrylic throughout my house to create lines and shape in a way that makes the space feel larger and more open. Acrylic accents open up the room and let light through because they take almost no eyeball but still have functionality.

TV on the light wall above a small dining set with a glass table and rug under it, plus a gray rug hanging on the wall

I hang the rugs on the wall because I like the way they look and they create noise buffers, giving me more privacy within my space.Turn on Payter

Many designers consider symmetry when working on a space – but that doesn’t always mean that there are two of the exact same elements

For example, I chose different shaped side tables to place on either side of my bed.

Changing the shapes gave the space the eclectic flair I was looking for but make sure they both have wood finishes and marble countertops that create symmetry.

In my small kitchen, I made my appliances and essentials a part of the décor

Small clerk's kitchen, with rug runner under the wood floors and appliances on the thin table

I have a background in kitchen design, so planning this area was one of my favorite tasks.Turn on Payter

Unfortunately, my kitchen only had 12 inches of counter space.

I put a stainless steel kitchen island across from my cabinets to quadruple the counter space while creating some sort of industrial look.

My kitchen also doesn’t have much storage space so I chose to make my appliances part of the décor. When buying them, I made sure they matched each other and space.

I even display black kitchen utensils and brown kitchen utensils on the bottom shelf of my kitchen island. This allows me to use cupboards as storage and forces me to keep my dishes clean as it is part of the décor.

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