The Art of Studio Living

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Are you under the impression that it is impossible to live elegantly in a studio? With all one’s rooms rolled together into one unit, you might think it an uncomfortable, awkward, graceless way to live. Humans are not built to live in one small space, you might say. Humans need to have quarters for sleeping, for eating, for entertaining, for working. That’s what I thought, until I discovered that, with just a few little tricks, some tweaks to the lifestyle to which I had become casually accustomed, and a shift to a Polly Pocket approach to homemaking, size doesn’t matter. Yes, I’ve moved into a studio, and it now seems like all one needs.

Having decided to give studio living a try, I spent a week viewing potential habitats all over Bristol, each more box-like and gloomy than the last, my heart sinking with the fear that this lifestyle choice might necessitate folding myself up into as small a ball as possible and gradually turning grey from a lack of light. That was until the seventh day, when a door opened into the room I now call home: a high-ceilinged, pale blue and white room with a vast window. It’s a dinky flat, of course, and not everyone would be content sleeping in a bed that nudges up against their oven, washing machine and recycling bin. I certainly had concerns. For the first few days and nights, it felt utterly bizarre not to have the option of leaving one room to enter another.

The adjustment was bumpy, involving some discomfort, some terrible culinary misjudgements, and a lot of needless trips outside just to stretch the legs that were feeling bereft without corridors and stairs. In the course of adapting to the nooks and angles of my studio, I’ve stubbed my toe three times, the latest one so severe it warranted a trip to A&E, and have numerous bruises on my elbows and knees from ill-dodged furniture. After three weeks here, I now feel in a position to offer some insider tips on how to retain elegance, poise, injury-free extremities and fresh-smelling linens when occupying a studio.

Never cook haddock. Even studios at the higher end of the market will not have an extractor fan powerful enough to allow for cooking haddock. Your clothes, bed linen, cushions and towels, all of which are basically in the kitchen, are going to suffer immeasurably and require several cycles in the washing machine. No smoked haddock chowder is worth three days of laundry. Favour plain, virtually fragrance-free foods for cooking at home, and satisfy any cravings for pungent victuals when dining out.

Choose your furniture wisely. If you intend to entertain in your studio, it is imperative that you have something people can sit on other than your bed. Nobody feels comfortable sitting on the host’s bed. Get some chairs that you can fold away. If your bed must double up as a sofa, make sure your throw is large enough to cover the pillows, removing any associations with slumber. Avoid coffee tables with sharp corners; with such little space, you are just asking for bruised shins.

Keep the space pale and uncluttered. A studio will drown if you introduce too many colours, cushions, throws and posters, however cosy and den-like this might seem at first. By far the better strategy is to become a minimalist. Leave the walls blank, the curtains pale, and choose white or glass crockery and ornaments.

Learn how to fake it. When you’ve only one room, it’s important to develop a knack for faking room distinctions. Turn the room very deliberately into a bedroom by changing the lighting and turning back the bed sheets. If you’re having friends round, disguise the bed completely with a throw and move everything around to create a social space. When cooking, expect the entire studio to become a kitchen/diner.

Gradually, as the lifestyle takes hold, one’s domestic expectations naturally adjust. It becomes perfectly normal – preferable, even – to sleep, sup and (in my case) scribble within just a few square feet of carpet. In my second week, friends who live in normal houses came to visit and were surprised, a little enchanted. I mentioned to one visitor that I was contemplating squeezing in a writing desk and wondering how to do it; she cannily advised me: “Try a foldy-outy one. Think ‘What would Polly Pocket do?’”

There is definitely a childlike satisfaction in living in such a compact way. It brings to mind those days off school spent constructing a house using sofa cushions and demanding that everything be brought in to you: television, tea, toys, teddies. The challenge, and the joy, was in finding out exactly how much living it was possible to achieve in a tiny little space before having to part the sofa cushions and go into the outside world. And who could fail to enjoy a lifestyle reminiscent of heady childhood afternoons spent playing house?

So, you see, life in a studio can have just as much style as life in a house with rooms. It can even offer a sense of achievement and satisfaction; you’ve got to take great care and pride in using your space wisely, and you can expect approving glances and comments from friends who think your efficient, self-contained lifestyle quaint and delightful. You may not be able to offer them a drawing room for their pre-prandial, and a smoking room for their brandy, but you can bet they will be quietly relishing the elegant simplicity of a life played out within one dinky room.

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