So This Is How the Swedes Make a Tiny Apartment Look Spacious

Updated 04/08/19

In every home, clutter accumulates quickly: Magazine subscriptions pile up, shoes multiply, and small gifts and purchases add up. In a large home, these new additions get tucked away, unnoticed. But in a studio apartment, they can quickly fill up the little existing storage space. Next thing you know, your home is filled with hundreds of small items that have nowhere to go, and your closets are filled to the brim. So how do you maximize space in a room the size of a shoebox?

Take a hint from the Swedes, who have mastered the art of layered minimalism. With just a few clever tricks and habits, you can learn to become just enough of a minimalist to keep your clutter at bay and your studio apartment looking spacious and clean. No matter how many pairs of shoes you own, or how many sweaters are stored in your oven, you, too, can take a small space and make it your own—it just requires a little savvy and know-how. Here are nine simple ways to maximize space in your studio apartment.

maximize space in a studio
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Create Hidden Storage

If your space is closet-challenged, create storage where there is none. Choose a bed with high legs or under-bed storage, and store items underneath. Look up for more storage areas—if the cabinets in your kitchen don’t extend all the way to the ceiling, store entertaining pieces like a cake stand or oversize platter in the space between the cabinet and the ceiling.

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Stay Organized

If you’re keeping your personal items in hidden storage areas, make an inventory while putting things away and document it with an organizational map. That way, when you need to find your wrapping paper to prepare a gift, you can consult the map and quickly remember where you stored it months before.

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Separate Living Zones

Set up separate areas for performing distinct tasks in your studio. Be creative with your space to maximize its use—a dining zone can be extended to host a larger dinner party. When decorating, clearly separate living and sleeping spaces—either with a folding screen or shelving unit, or even simply with separate rugs.

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Purge Often

Anything unnecessary—be it an article of clothing, a handful of reusable grocery totes, or an old wine rack—that you’re not using should be removed from the premises immediately. If you haven’t used your ironing board in the last year, get rid of it. If you don’t host dinner parties, you don’t need a dozen wineglasses. If you never go to the beach, why are those beach towels taking up precious closet space? It’s easy to accumulate stuff, so take stock of your collections frequently. Purge unnecessary belongings at least twice a year.

If you come across something you haven’t used in awhile, don’t put it back where it was. Bring it to Goodwill, or dump it down the trash chute as soon as possible.

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Rotate Clothing

Every mid-May and late October, rotate your clothing. Pull everything out of your closet, and put it all back in a different order. Winter clothes come to the front of the closet, and summer clothes move to the back. The stacks of shoeboxes will rotate: Instead of sandals on the top, boots will come to the forefront. The drawer that stores bikinis becomes the drawer that stores tights. Long-sleeve dresses replace sundresses, while sweaters and scarves move into the spots previously held by beach cover-ups and hats.

Make the time to edit and rearrange your closet—getting dressed each day will become so much easier. Store swapped-out summer or winter clothes in bins under the bed or at the top or bottom of your closet.

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Use Multipurpose Furniture

If you’re looking for an ottoman, why not find one that has a secret storage area? Need side tables but have very little room between your couch and wall? Look for nesting tables that can be pulled out and used when you need them. Some side tables can double as stools when hosting a party. A daybed can double as sofa and bed; a dining table can double as a desk; a bench can also serve as hidden storage. These are the types of furniture you should invest in.

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Seek Out Perfect Pieces

Your place is small—which means that every inch counts and everything is on display. So if you don’t absolutely love a piece, don’t buy it. Keep searching until you find the coffee table that you can’t live without, rather than buying the one you sort of like out of necessity. Ask a friend whose apartment you love to help you search for the perfect piece. Apply the same philosophy for hard-to-find items. When worse comes to worst, have something custom-made.

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Remember, Less Is More

Knickknacks and tchotchkes are cute, but they make a small space feel cluttered. The less stuff you have, the bigger your space will feel. Don’t overcrowd it with furniture pieces that are too big. If there isn’t room for a traditional coffee table, turn a small side table or two into a coffee table. In essence, channel the principles of a hotel room: Only keep the bare essentials; pick pieces you love and keep surfaces bare.

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Clean Regularly

A clean house is a happy house. Your space will naturally feel bigger when it is clean and removed of clutter. Put away clothes, wipe down counters, and vacuum the rugs at least once every couple of weeks. While you clean, have a mini decluttering session, reorganize drawers, and purge excess clutter. Soon enough your space will be entirely clutter-free.

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This story was originally published on September 24, 2015, and has since been updated.

Up next, this is how often you should clean your home, according to science.

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