Where small is made beautiful

Where small is made beautiful

With studio apartments being sought after by students and small nuclear families, Priti Kalra offers tips to transform a small space into a cozy home.

The studio apartment syndrome - seemingly the biggest war being waged by students, bachelors and small nuclear families in today’s changing economic scenario. A studio apartment or an efficiency apartment is the smallest and least expensive apartment rental option on the market. With limited storage and square foot area, a home like this presents unique challenges. Design has to be based on an open space concept where living and sleeping areas get combined into one. In addition, such flats come with kitchenettes or open kitchens, which seamlessly blend in with the dining area. Today, let us look at effective design solutions for studio apartments, in which neither functionality nor aesthetics are sacrificed.

The hardest thing about setting up a studio apartment is, undoubtedly, finalising on the right layout. One should start with finding out which walls share the load of the structure and which ones can be broken down. The structural engineer of the apartment building can provide an insight into this. With the tearing down of walls, the apartment gets altered into one continuous space. This space could then be divided using movable partitions, hanging screens or curtains, allowing rooms to expand or diminish in size on demand. Solid masonry walls make the layout rigid. The idea of a studio apartment is to be flexible.

It is important to understand the traffic flow or circulation through the flat. The main living area may need to function as an entrance, bedroom and living room combined. It is prudent to ensure that this area is central to the kitchenette and bathroom. While arranging furniture in these spaces, one should try and visualise the pattern of movement between them. It is practical to define roomy pathways and avoid clumsy detours through the furniture.

It is also essential to anchor furniture placements in such a way that the furniture seems like it belongs where it has been placed. Due to space restrictions, this cannot be done with heavy walls. The greater the number of divided rooms in your studio apartment, the smaller it will seem. Suitable alternatives like screens, planters, rugs or wall hangings can be used to create virtual walls which define spaces. Note that storage is always an issue in these apartments. Use the walls! Open shelves which extend from floor to ceiling not only lend additional storage space, but also contribute to space demarcation. These imaginary boundaries keep visual connectivity through the house intact, while doing away with physical borders.

Flexible furniture

An interesting idea to think about is flexible furniture. The most common one is the futon, which can be used as both a sofa and a bed. Sofas which swivel out into beds are also available in the market today, among other pieces of convertible furniture. Footstools which double up as centre tables provide handy storage beneath. A drop leaf table pivoted to the wall can reincarnate itself from a dining table for six, to a workstation desk, to a narrow hallway shelf for storage. In many cases, these tables come with built-in storage systems for chairs.

Even if it is not designed to transform from one function to another, furniture can intelligently be used to double up for multiple purposes. If a workspace requires only a laptop, one could use a bookshelf rather than a full fledged desk. A small mezzanine floor on the far end of the apartment could cater to various functions such as extra storage, a neat office or library, or a bedroom much similar to the bunk bed concept. If not a ladder, this bunk bed could be accessed by wooden steps which conceal drawers in each step. As evident, the possibilities are endless.

A few helpful details should be kept in mind. Sliding doors for toilets and wardrobes occupy no space in comparison to hinged ones. It is necessary to go vertical, even if it is something as simple as hanging a painting higher up as opposed to resting it on the dresser. Movement of the viewer’s eye from the floor up makes a space feel expansive. One should let in maximum light and stick to lighter colour schemes. This helps the place look larger.

Despite the fact that it is nice to experiment with different colour schemes in different areas, restricting oneself to an overall theme will prevent the apartment from looking chopped up and tiny. Mirrors also help impart some amount of vastness to a space. If there was ever a better time to de-clutter and get rid of old things, it is now. Modular closet hanger systems will help manage clothes and other belongings efficiently.

Downsize on furniture. Furniture that looks good in cramped spaces is generally square. One should personalise spaces with artwork. It is vital to refrain from looking at a studio apartment as a makeshift home, and consciously decide to get comfortable in it.

“Less is more.” We’ve all heard this phrase in one situation or another. When architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, one of the pioneers of minimalist modernism, first stated this theory, he meant to propose that simplicity and clarity lead to good design.

His statement finds renewed meaning in the context of the studio apartment. The two key concepts of space-saving layout and flexible furniture emphasise his notion. The overarching idea that these concepts are integral to, is that of minimalism in architecture, which essentially brings down a building to its most necessary elements. For example, mathematically, a curve occupies more area than a straight line.

By the same token, a circular table or a curved wall takes up more unnecessary room than a square table backed up against a flat wall. Minimalism employs clean straight lines and orderly uncluttered spaces to achieve maximum functionality. Simply put, if a studio apartment is in question, Mies is the answer.

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