Author Topic: Efficiency/studio living tips  (Read 8109 times)

mc6

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Efficiency/studio living tips
« on: March 12, 2014, 09:14:03 PM »
I'm guessing there could be a number of Mustachians residing in efficiency/studio apartments due to their typically low costs and usual close-in locations to commuting hotspots. 

Does anyone have efficiency horror stories?  Success stories?  Favorite blogs on efficiency living?  I've perused apartment therapy a bit already.  I appreciate any firsthand knowledge sharing.

I saw an as-is efficiency with a realtor this week and am considering it.  I'm currently in a 903 sq ft condo, and the move would put me in 562 sq ft. 

dragoncar

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2014, 09:18:48 PM »
I'm living in around 350 sqft.  No complaints.  Just expect it to be temporary, as my SO has already stated that it's too small for two.

edit:  It's like a hotel room plus kitchenette.  And people typically pay $100/night for such rooms.

Dr. A

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2014, 04:28:40 AM »
My wife and I lived in an an almost-one-bedroom (two rooms but the French doors that separated them were long gone) that was +\- 425sf for 3 years. We loved it, and only moved because we planned to have a baby. It was Midtown Manhattan, so there were limitless things to do out of the apartment, which certainly helped.

Creativity is key, but small spaces can be great. It definitely gives you good perspective one the needs vs. wants.

mc6

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2014, 04:39:41 AM »
Thanks, Dr A. and DragonCar.  I would expect to live in it 14 yrs.  It's 2.5 miles from the corporate office and in walking distance of the post office, barber, grocery, restaurants, etc.  Unit needs some work.  Tempting!

limeandpepper

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2014, 04:49:59 AM »
I've never lived in a studio unit before, but I would do it (and even with a partner, if they don't mind). I currently live in a 2-bedroom, and I'm sharing with a couple. I mostly stay in my room, and use the toilet/bathroom and kitchen, but rarely use the living room at all, unless I'm entertaining guests. So I don't think a studio apartment will be too difficult. 562 square feet sounds good to me, in fact it sounds quite generous for a studio, I've definitely inspected apartments that size and smaller.

You might find some more helpful insights here as well:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/welcome-to-the-forum/tiny-houses

jfer_rose

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2014, 05:38:27 AM »
I'm very passionate about this topic, so much so I sometimes wonder whether I could make money out of helping people make the most of their small spaces. I've been living in an efficiency for the last 10 years and made the decision that I would like to continue to do so (when I moved in, I assumed I would want to upgrade to a bigger space sooner than later). I'm really into transforming furniture and the like (installed a murphy bed as soon as I moved in).

You asked for blogs and resources. I recommend LifeEdited.com. They profile a lot of costly products, but I've found there are DIY ways to adapt some of the ideas. For example, the Life Edited apartment has a $4000 table called the Goliath table that stores under a counter height breakfast bar. You can remove the table from under the breakfast bar and expand it for a dinner party. Well, I had someone build me a counter height peninsula in my kitchen (which doubled my counter space, hooray!). I had it built so a vintage gate leg table could store underneath and there is an overhang so I have two stools there for everyday use. The table is quite narrow when the leaves are folded, but when I put in in the middle of my room and unfold the leaves, I can seat 6-8 for dinner.

If you can avoid the pricey product plugs and focus in on the ideas, shoeboxdwelling.com is another good one.

Honestly, the one you are looking at is huge! I can't imagine needing so many space saving tricks in 562 square feet. I thought my place was big for an efficiency and it is 100 sq feet smaller.

Edit to add: This is my 300th post. Whoohoo!
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 05:40:03 AM by jfer_rose »

Osprey

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2014, 05:52:42 AM »
The best tip I ever got about living in a small space: don't try to replicate something at home when you can easily get it somewhere else.

This applies to the obvious things like using shared public spaces as an extension of your living room/garden (e.g. pubs and parks). Less obvious areas include your kitchen (do you really need to be able to make fondue, cappucinos and cupcakes in your own kitchen? do you even need a dining room table?) and electronics (rethink your desktop computer and TV/consoles).

At some point this way of living begins to get expensive but it's possible to find balance. I also think that it works better for extroverts who are happy to sit at a coffee shop all day, rather than people who would rather have all their needs met in the privacy of their homes.

ETA: "Horror" story: my partner is on the hoarder/collector spectrum so our place is becoming more claustrophobic by the day. Also, find one area/"room" that you absolutely love to spend time in and try not to skimp on it. This way you won't feel deprived.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 06:05:22 AM by Osprey »

plainjane

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2014, 07:13:59 AM »
I lived in 450sq ft with my partner for several years and it worked very well (times like now where I wish we had stayed renting instead of buying).   

Key things:
- lots of natural light & big windows
- flexible furniture (we had a drop-leaf kitchen table, stools instead of kitchen chairs)
- nothing single purpose
- built ins
- all storage goes all the way to the ceiling
- strict one-in, one-out

I also lived in a horrid space before that one.  Key difference was the amount of light (the bad bathroom layout and mice were secondary) and poor local amenities.  The only change in furniture was that kitchen table & a loveseat instead of two comfy chairs.  Very similar square footage.

dragoncar

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2014, 12:14:15 PM »
The best tip I ever got about living in a small space: don't try to replicate something at home when you can easily get it somewhere else.

This applies to the obvious things like using shared public spaces as an extension of your living room/garden (e.g. pubs and parks). Less obvious areas include your kitchen (do you really need to be able to make fondue, cappucinos and cupcakes in your own kitchen? do you even need a dining room table?) and electronics (rethink your desktop computer and TV/consoles).

At some point this way of living begins to get expensive but it's possible to find balance. I also think that it works better for extroverts who are happy to sit at a coffee shop all day, rather than people who would rather have all their needs met in the privacy of their homes.

ETA: "Horror" story: my partner is on the hoarder/collector spectrum so our place is becoming more claustrophobic by the day. Also, find one area/"room" that you absolutely love to spend time in and try not to skimp on it. This way you won't feel deprived.

Exactly. 

I don't have a desktop computer, printer, scanner, fax machine, landline telephone, etc. -- I use that stuff at work.
I don't have an oven -- there is a full kitchen in the building's common room (which I've never used) and I make frequent use of the BBQ grill on the common patio.
I don't have a TV -- there's a big screen in the building's common room, with cable/satellite, but again I've only used this once or twice.
I don't have a home gym -- I do some bodyweight exercises at home and use a gym near work for $10/mo.

windawake

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2014, 10:03:40 PM »
Check out this site, it's all about maximizing efficiency in a studio: http://www.lifeedited.com. It's really cool.

I lived in about a 250 sq ft apt a few years ago and loved it. The layout was really interesting so I had enough space for a living room area and a bedroom area even though there weren't walls. I had a love seat instead of a couch and a very small table with two chairs that folded down halfway and could be expanded for guests.

You could consider some sort of lofted bed; I've come across some interesting designs for those. It frees up more of your space for living. I loved living in that little space. Have fun with it! For example, I put a short bookshelf on top of the radiator cover due to limited floor space, and another bookshelf was right against the refrigerator to hide the ugly refrigerator back. My mom also helped me sew a cushion to turn the rest of the radiator cover into a window seat. I still dream about that apartment often.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2014, 08:47:14 AM »
Tiny house blogs would also be helpful. I have a 700 sqft house, but we could easily live in the ~400 sqft living and kitchen area if needed.

Love seat, small desks, no coffee table. We have one long wall with bookshelves.

Futon (either couch or literally a Japanese roll out mattress) or a Murphy bed would be a good idea.

In a lot of ways, a studio is easier to optimize than a separate bedroom, because there's no wasted corners in the sleeping area.

As long as you have lots of natural light, they can feel surprisingly spacious!

Melody

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2014, 05:17:00 AM »
I lived in a 376 square feet (35 SQM) apartment. I wouldn't have wanted to share it, because of the noise/light issue (unless you and your partner have very similar sleeping patterns or are super sound sleepers.) For one person it was more than enough space, although the building design helped:
-large communal gardens including BBQ areas
-bike parking
-gym
-shared laundry
-clubhouse with pool table etc
-dumpster (put trash into a grocery bag and carried it out each day, so didn't need a large kitchen bin)
The shared facilities made entertaining easy, and bike parking helped a lot.  I had a galley kitchen, where I once cooked for 20 (mexican party so it was simple food... I had to borrow the large pot of a friend), people sat on my desk, couch coffee table etc. We made it work.
I guess it depends on if you have hobbies that take up space or not. But for sleeping, cooking, eating (mine had a kitchen counter/breakfast bar, perfect for two), studying, watching TV, reading etc it was completely fine.
The only big "uncool" is having guests to stay, although a futon would help (I didn't have one).

As another posted mentioned: Ikea. The one near me has 35SQM, 50SQM and 70SQM spaces set up (the 70SQM is set up to comfortably home a family of four!) Amazing stuff!

Big Boots Buddha

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2014, 06:09:23 AM »
Go for it!

I lived in an apartment that was created out of a front porch or deck of an old house. I was only 22 at the time and lived there only a year, but I bet it was about 150 sq ft. The bathroom was just a shower stall with a toilet, no sink, etc. The kitchen was 6ft by 6ft. And the room was big enough for a desk and a loveseat, which I put a single matress UP against the wall behind, and then at night it went on the floor, filling the room. That was it. BUT it was almost all windows, as it used to be a porch or something.

I now live in a 40sq meter apartment. 8 years and counting. I moved almost everything out of the room and installed a huge squat rack and bench. SO I have a single bed, a desk, squat rack and a bookshelf. Think big, live small, do your squats.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2014, 07:21:40 AM »
Think big, live small, do your squats.

I'd buy that T-shirt. ;)

Elaine

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2014, 07:30:51 AM »
Hi! I live with my SO in 475 sq. feet. It's plenty big. My advice is to begin approaching your housewares the same way you approach your MMM budget. While pre-MMM many people think "I NEED cable" or "We NEED two cars", many of us here know that isn't true. Small space living is the same thing. Figure out what you actually need. I wrote an article on my blog a while ago that might be helpful, it's mostly about bathroom organizing but it can definitely be applied to all rooms: http://smallthingsgood.com/2014/01/19/my-little-bathroom/

I would start by minimizing your number of single use items, and focus on your true lifestyle- not your aspirational lifestyle. Do you need 8 seats in the living room? How often do you really have that many people over? Maybe one couch and a few folding chairs that can be hidden in a closet will do. Do you need a dish set for 10? How often do you really make dinner for 10 people? Those kitchenaid stand mixers are super popular right now- unless you use it upwards of 3 or 4 times a week, it's not worth it. You don't need a food processor and a blender. Microwaves are optional too, lots of plates can go from fridge to oven. You don't need 4 sets of towels for the bathroom, two is sufficient- same goes for bed sheets. A roll away air mattress is perfectly acceptable for guests.

Everyone has different needs, but I think that this style of approach is effective for nearly anyone. Just like with your budget, it's a matter of stopping and saying, "wait, why exactly do I have this?", rather than just going along with what is typically done.

Melody

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2014, 07:46:10 AM »
Hi Elaine,love your blog thanks for linking it! Will.certainly be reading more.of it as i am moving.to.my.new small.space this weekend!

clarkfan1979

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2014, 10:31:31 AM »
I shared a 500 sq. ft. studio with a roommate for two years. We made bunk beds. This was in Mission Beach in San Diego from 1998-2000. The rent was $550/month ($275 each) and lived one block from the beach. It was tight but totally justified being that close to the beach. Oh and we had parking which was rare. The guy I lived with was a difficult roommate. Difficult roommates tend to be more difficult in smaller spaces. However, in the end it was worth it.

If I can do it with a roommate I think it's possible with just one person. I would try to be greedy on location. If you are looking at a studio you might be able to get a better location than you think.


annod

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Re: Efficiency/studio living tips
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2014, 12:01:52 PM »
I used to live in a studio apt- twice. layout is key. I had an eat-in kitchen both times. It helps to have at least 2 distinct spaces. (for example, eat-in kitchen+living/bedroom, or open kitchen with a a long-room that you can divide into separate sleeping/ living room area)

Also look for these things:
-an balcony or some access to outdoor green space would make you feel like you are in a larger space
- large windows or lots of windows, or windows on at least 2 sides
-large closet to hid mess and lots of built-in shelves
-I would look for a L shape or long rectangular shape layout to it is easier to have separate "centers" even if you don't have a wall or dividers.
-high ceiling or pitched roof helps too.

You can see many of the tiny houses had at least 3 of the above criterias. Square footage is only part of the story.

When I used to live in an studio, I didn't have many windows or outdoor space (in one studio, my window is next to the parking lot at almost ground level, and the other is next to an alley dumpster, so I didn't want to have windows wide open most of the time. I felt pretty cooped-up easily and ended up spending a lot of money on going to cafes, 'cos I just can't stand to be home for more than a few hours at a time.

So based on my experience, if I have to live in a studio again, unless it is a "garden cottage" or a tiny house in a backyard surrounded by green space, I will look at apartments that is at least on the second floor, that way, you can have more natural light.

good luck!
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 12:08:03 PM by annod »