Making a Home in Less Than 360 Square Feet

by Shilpi Paul

Molly Howard’s Studio

Here at UrbanTurf, we’ve recently become quite fascinated by small dwellings and the ingenuity necessary to make them comfortable. And, it appears that as the world’s population continues to grow, urban dwellers will have less and less space to deal with.

Currently, three UrbanTurf readers are making good use of their small spaces and shared some tips as to the ways that they’ve made it work.

Molly Howard, 26, lives in a 360 square-foot studio in The Chastleton, a stylish building on 16th Street populated with many modestly sized studios and one bedrooms. In addition to comfort and livability, Howard, a kindergarten teacher, wanted her space to be easy on the eyes, so she designed the studio to be visually appealing and unified from every angle.

“I kept the color scheme consistent: red, tan and black,” Howard told UrbanTurf, explaining that from every vantage point, you see the same tones echoed in the furniture, rugs and wall art all against a white background.

Howard conscientiously spaced out her decor, clustering wall art above the dining table to create a distinct dining area. She also arranged for pathways throughout the unit, making it easy to get around furniture and creating a visual separation between living, dining and bedroom areas. Her bed is recessed in a nook, which helps distinguish the sleeping quarters from the kitchen just ten feet away.

Finally, Howard chose her furnishings carefully. “I think the big thing in a studio is playing with scale,” she said. “If you get everything too small, it will make the place feel smaller. I opted for a full-size couch and some over-sized accessories (like the red lobster hanging on the wall and the geometric thing above the couch).”

View from Howard’s “bedroom”

Trisha White, a 43 year-old writer, shares a 308 square-foot Dupont Circle studio with her two cats. For seven years, she’s made the space work by finding multiple uses for each piece of furniture and paring down her belongings.

“That closet ain’t getting any bigger, so I have to keep my wardrobe practical,” White said. “The same standard applies to the bookshelves and pantry. When new things come in, old things go out.”

White created a table out of two Ikea butcher blocks and a tabletop, and uses that for essentially all countertop and table needs. “Make everything serve double duty,” she advises. “Just like a futon is both my couch and a bed, my kitchen island is a prep space and a table, and my night stand is an end table or a coffee table.”

White also makes use of vertical space to keep the floor clear. Hooks high and low hold coats, shoes, a bicycle and a fan, and a vertical spice rack in the kitchen keeps the tabletop open. “Note the hanging fruit basket,” she added. “Even the ceiling has been put to work!”

Trisha White’s futon serves double duty

Just when we thought that it couldn’t get any smaller than 308 square feet, a reader (who wished to remain anonymous) wrote in about the 306 square-foot studio he lives in near Thomas Circle that wins the award for small space design, literally. Last year, his clever furniture solutions won him first place in a design contest held by the building’s management.

The capstone of this individual’s place is a custom-made sectional that serves double duty. Frustrated by the wall space consumed be a Murphy bed, the resident went to Vastu on 14th Street and put in a special request: he wanted a King-size bed that separates into two couches the size (and comfort level) of twin mattresses. Vastu was able to deliver, and the mattresses lock into a bed with a linking mechanism and look just like modern couches when serving living room duty.

While innovative furniture design and creative layout schemes are a necessity when living in a small space, it is clear that there are just some things that you need to go without in order to be comfortable.

“There is no room for excess or typical American consumerism,” Tricia White said of studio living. “I quickly became accustomed to — and even reveled in — a spartan lifestyle.”

See other articles related to: studios, smaller homes, editors choice, dclofts

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/making_a_home_in_less_than_360_square_feet/4480


  1. Ben said at 2:13 pm on Friday November 4, 2011:

    Some awesome ideas in this article. I live in a place that measures out at just over 400 square feet and am going to look into the King sized bed turned couch option.

  1. Matt said at 2:22 pm on Friday November 4, 2011:

    Love it.  Makes my 600sf apartment seem positively decadent.

  1. Mike said at 4:42 pm on Friday November 4, 2011:

    Having lived in NYC, Japan and other countries where space is a luxury, I find these small apartment layouts quiet familiar.  We are likely to see more smaller size dwellings.

    I bet we are the last generation that can afford large living spaces.  Economic and other factors will make it practically impossible for the average home owner to aspire to what has up until been “typical size” residence among many.

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