At one point or another, all of us – with the exception of Greek shipping heirs and royalty with unfortunate-looking patriarchs – have to endure the trials and tribulations of the tiny apartment. Miniscule studios (affectionately known among the real-estate set as “bachelors”), often lacking a real kitchen and any sort of closet space, are a rite of passage that falls somewhere between the frat house and suburban sprawl; while they may not be the ideal man cave, they’re a necessary evil along the road to becoming a truly Made Man. Luckily, you don’t have to wait until you can afford your own Playboy mansion to make your place livable. Just use our tips to put the ‘fun’ back in functional and you’ll be living in the swingingest ‘bachelor’ this side of Clooney’s Lake Como pad.
Tip #1: Buy furniture that does double- and triple-duty
When you’re working with triple-digit square footage, maximize your space by ensuring that most of your furniture can serve at least two purposes. Ideally, one of these uses will be storage, but it can also be as simple as having a shelving unit that also doubles as a room separator. Look for stools and benches that double as storage spaces, bookshelves that also act as coat racks, and anything that minimizes the number of pieces of furniture you have in your home.
Tip #2: Make every nook count
That space above your bathroom door isn’t being used for anything, so why not put a shelf up there to hold extra toilet paper and cleaning supplies? Look to unused walls, cabinet tops and corners in your apartment to uncover a wealth of extra space; with the simple addition of shelving (corner shelves utilize an otherwise useless spot without taking up much room, and anything wall-mounted will both serve as a spot for knick-knacks and add to the visual interest of a room), you can make every bit of your apartment as efficient as humanly possible. Just like you… when you’re feeling motivated.
Tip #3: Keep clutter to a minimum
Clutter can make even large rooms look miniscule, so you need to be extra diligent when living in a small space to make sure that everything has a place. Keep a basket next to your couch to catch things (magazines, remote controls) that you’d otherwise throw on a table or countertop, and put a table or small shelf next to your front door where you can deposit your cell phone, keys and pocket change. Then, instead of piling up in the corner of the room, all of your odds and ends will be right at your fingertips when you need them.
Little things often become big messes, so keep a container on your desk or kitchen table to catch miscellaneous office supplies like paperclips and pens, and designate a bowl or drawer in your kitchen to hold twist-ties, garbage tags and other small items that could otherwise end up on the floor. Paper clutter, which gets out of hand quickly, can be corralled by putting a paper sorter on your desk or in your front hallway, with a basket below it for recyclables and junk mail. Not only will it help you remember to pay your electric bill, but it’ll also keep you from looking like a hoarder who should have his own show on TLC.
Tip #4: Wall-mount everything you possibly can
We aren’t living in the 1980’s anymore, which means that shoulder pads are far less common and television technology has come a long way since the gigantic, outdated sets of yore. Since you’re saving so much scratch on rent for your ‘economy’ crib, you should be able to afford a flat-screen TV that can be mounted on a wall, thus ridding yourself of the need for a giant entertainment center that takes up half of your studio. In fact, you should be able to afford a few other accoutrements, like an under-the-counter toaster oven, floating paper towel rack and unpronounceable Swedish organization tools , that will enable you to hang everything from your spice rack to your dishes under the cabinets in your kitchen. Lest you think you can’t fit a bar in your tiny abode, look to the walls for inspiration; you can string everything up from glassware to your wine rack for all to admire, saving your precious counter space for more important pursuits like laying out a do-it-yourself martini buffet at your next get-together.
Tip #5: Use visual tricks to make your small space seem large
Finally, employ some magical thinking/straight up visual deception to make it seem like you don’t actually live in a shoebox. Use floor-to-ceiling drapes to make your ceilings seem higher; paint your walls slightly different shades to create “zones,” like an office, living room and bedroom zone, even if you don’t have walls separating them; place a few large mirrors around the place to give the illusion of greater depth; and mix in one or two large pieces of furniture, like a stylish sofa or an antique-looking armoire, to distract from the actual size of the room. Former Domino magazine decorator Tori Mellott explains that "it’s counterintuitive, but having one or two oversize pieces can fool the eye by making the rest of the furniture seem smaller." Guests will also "comment on the 25"-wide lamp because it’s such a surprise," thereby taking their attention away from the fact that nothing else fits on that side of the room because the wall is only 26” long. Just be sure to limit it to two focal pieces at a time, though, lest people mistake your home for a storage unit.