What is a Studio / Efficiency / Bachelor Apartment?
A studio (aka efficiency or bachelor) apartment is a one-room apartment, combining living area, bedroom and kitchen(ette) into a single space. The bathroom is a separate room (not counted in the official "room count"), and though it often comes with a full bath, many studio apartment layouts include only a shower in certain areas.
While the term studio apartment is probably the most common name used nationwide (the national real estate websites use that term), in certain regions these floor plans are referred to as bachelor apartments, or efficiency apartments.
Studios, efficiencies and bachelors can be found in all types of apartment buildings, from walk-ups to low-rise pre-war buildings to luxury high-rises, and tend to be the smallest units within a building, usually between 300 and 600 square feet (though we have seen them smaller). Smaller units tend to be in older buildings, and are often smaller than would be legally allowed if they were built today. As building codes have evolved, older units were often grandfathered in.
Decorating Challenges and Solutions
Because of the obvious spatial constraints, pretty and practical small apartment decorating ideas and cleverly-designed studio furniture are in high demand. For example, decorating your apartment in contrasting colors—whether with paint, art work, wallpaper, rugs and flooring, or slipcovers—can enhance the sense of scale.
Hanging a giant mirror on the main wall is another obvious way to gain "optical space". Delineating your space with smaller furniture (a sofabed with its back turned to the kitchen area, or using a loveseat instead of a full sofa) or even with folding panels or shoji screens concealing a bed, for example, also helps to enhance the visual flow of the room.
Glass top dining tables, as well as glass top coffee and side tables give you functional furniture, but the see-through of the glass makes the furniture seem like it takes up less space. Another decorating trick is to use iron or metal frame dining chairs, instead of wood framed, as the iron is usually thinner than wood but able to support the same weight.
If you have enough space for a chair along with your sofa or loveseat, consider getting one without arms, such as a so-called "slipper chair" (no, they are not shaped like slipper!). Not only do they take up less room, they don't have arms you that you can bump into as you maneuver around your limited space.
Many people who live in studio (or efficiency or bachelor) apartments furnish the room with a futon, which can become a couch by day, and then a bed by night, or a fold-away sleeper sofa, in order to maximize their space. Depending on your studio apartment layout (and ceiling height!), loft beds are also a quite common solution to the small living space challenge.
We've seen queen-sized loft beds, with shelving and cubby-hole storage space underneath (found closet space!), above living areas (complete with couch, coffee table beneath), above home office space (desk, file cabinets, shelving, etc.), and even above kitchens, though without an high-powered stovetop fan, we're not really convinced by this solution.
And don't be shy about bringing that big wardrobe, extra-long couch, or giant poster into your studio apartment home. Large-scale pieces of studio apartment furniture can work, especially if your ceilings are high. Most interior decorators will tell you that have a few well-chosen big pieces is a better idea for a small room, rather than cluttering up the space with too many smaller items. That said, sometimes the layout just won't accommodate anything but smaller pieces. As they say, YMMV.
Another common piece of studio apartment furniture is a butcher-block kitchen island, which can function as kitchen-counter space for prep cooking, storage space for pots and pans, dishes and glassware below, and even as an intimate dining table, with a table cloth thrown over the top when the meal's ready to be eaten.
Floor cushions that can double as sofa pillows (or that can be stashed away on a loft bed when not in use) are an easy way to add seating for gatherings. And any piece of furniture that can also be used as storage space—a steamer trunk that's both a coffee table and a linen "closet", for instance, or a captain's bed with built-in drawers that can double as a dresser—is also a good bet.
Sometimes studios will have full size kitchen appliances (including a dishwasher and microwave). Other times they may have slightly smaller, "apartment size" appliances. If you do a lot of cooking or baking in the oven, you may want to measure your cookie sheets, roast pans etc. to make sure they will fit. Most will, but some larger sizes won't.
Studio apartments are occasionally outfitted without a full (or even mini) kitchen, and will have what is called a kitchenette. A small two burner stove top, with a small refrigerator (often dorm room size), and sink, may be all you have. Newer versions often include a microwave, or microwave/convection combo. If you're someone who eats out a lot (like many New Yorkers, for example, where the number of restaurants in all price ranges is staggering), then this may be a good option for you.
Rarely seen today (but sometimes found in older buildings), is what is called a pullman kitchen. It's essentially a kitchenette, but it's hidden behind bi-fold closet doors. Out of sight, out of mind!
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