Today’s post isn’t the prettiest. The content isn’t the most glamorous. The photography surely isn’t perfect. My little studio kitchen isn’t as gorgeous as the other stunning kitchens you see all over Instagram (seriously – head on over to #LTKHome account and you will have all the dream home inspiration you’ll ever need). BUT, my little studio kitchen is real life for a 22-year-old living in her first apartment in Chicago. SO, if you’re right there with me, dreaming of beautiful cabinetry and granite countertops, but your budget calls for something a little less than that, today’s post is for YOU!
If you’re living in or moving into one of your first apartments, especially in an expensive city, I’ve got some tips for you! I’m talking all about how to affordably style your studio or apartment kitchen. First, let me give you a tour of my linoleum-topped, metal cabinet kitchen that I truly love so dearly.
One of my absolute favorite parts of my studio was the little kitchenette area it had in it. It was so unique compared to all of the other studios I toured and made my apartment feel much more like a one-bedroom apartment. So, whether you are decorating a studio with a kitchen nook or a small apartment with a little kitchenette, here are a few space-saving tips:
Find a table that fits your space.
- There were SO many cute kitchenette tables and chairs out there that I so badly wanted to buy, but I KNEW the dimensions would overflow this little space and the cuteness would be taken away by the crammed-ness. Finding a table that was foldable was really helpful for me! I LOVE my table pictured above and believe it or not, it was right around $100. Wait until you start shopping for tiny tables. You will be shocked at how expensive they are. I swear if I could build a table I would… But this table was by far the least expensive I found and also happened to fit my space so perfectly.
- Money-saving tip: I bought this table unfinished and actually loved the natural wood color, so I just put a quick layer of seal on it and I was good to go! Buying furniture unfinished is a great way to save $20-$50 or so on each piece you buy. Plus, then you can decide to leave it as a natural finish or give it a quick paint.
Stick to basic chairs.
- Again, there were SO many cute chairs out there I would have just LOVED to put in this space. But, I am so glad I chose more basic chairs because those fun ones would either have 1. not fit in the space at all or 2. would have been super uncomfortable. Here are the chairs that fit perfectly in this little space and are incredibly comfortable. I love styling them with mix-and-match pillows that I will be changing seasonally.
Add drapery above and to the sides of your windows.
- If you have windows in your kitchenette/dining room, adding drapery can add a bit of coziness and dimension. However, if you mount them too low or over the top of the windows, it’ll also make your space feel much smaller. To really open up your space, mount your drapes about 6-9 inches above your window and let the rod hang past the the sides of the windows 6-9 inches as well. My drapes are only covering about 2 inches of the window itself, which gives the illusion that my windows are much bigger than they are.
Keep decor to a minimum.
- This is hard advice to give, and had advice to follow through with on my own – ha! In the kitchen, less is absolutely more. In a small-space or studio kitchen, you don’t have a lot of room, so you are constantly moving things around. I often use my little kitchenette table for extra counter space when meal-prepping. So, decorations all over the place just get in the way. I added greenery to the window sill (which have recently been replaced by fresh herbs – so even more practical!), and all other decorations come from the necessities.
Now we are on to the kitchen itself! As I’ve mentioned, it certainly isn’t my dream kitchen. (Who dreams of linoleum countertops and metal cabinets?) But, I absolutely love this little spot that I’ve made my own. I love to cook and a beautiful kitchen would be fantastic, but when you’re looking at your first couple of apartments, you can’t have everything. (Especially if you’re living alone – its amazing to have a space all to yourself, but be prepared to make some sacrifices, too. You can’t have everything! Such is life.)
One of my favorite parts about styling my kitchen was gathering all of my tableware. If you read my post on styling a bar cart, you already read a few of my tips for stocking up on affordable glassware. When looking for bowls, plates, and more, I’ve got a few more tips for you:
Mix and match you tableware.
- Mixing the prints and styles of your tableware adds so much interest and personal style. It also allows you to interchange pieces without having to replace your entire set, which will save you so much money in the long run. (There Nantucket plates are my favorite and mix so well with different feminine styles!)
Splurge on the timeless pieces.
- I’m all about mixing highs and lows in your home and believe there are some things you just need to spend the money on. I have a few less expensive pots and pans and a few nicer ones, and let me tell you, the nicer ones are INFINITELY better! I received my La Cruset pan as a house warming gift from my parents, and if there is ever an opportunity to use it, you bet I am. It is such a fantastic piece in my kitchen and one that’ll last me years. I also love my Martha Stewart pots and find that they spread the heat so much more evenly than my other pans. Absolutely worth the splurge! Save your money on your plates and cups, but invest in kitchen pieces that’ll last you longer.
Keep countertop items to a minimum.
- In a small place, countertop space is not the most expansive. Only put out what you absolutely need to have on your countertops.
Get creative with carts.
- The minimal countertop space contingency can be quite challenging, which is why I definitely urge you to look into rolling carts for your small-space kitchen. Shown above, next to my fridge I have a cart that has both my microwave and my convectional oven on it, since there is no space for either of those on my countertops. In some studios I toured, there was quite literally ZERO countertop space at all – just an oven and cabinets (city living probs…). If that’s the case for you, you should look into a rolling cart to use as your countertop space for preparing meals. Small space living can be tricky, but there are certainly things out there to help us get by.
And there you have it – a sneak peak into the kitchen of a Chicago-living twenty-something! Styling your kitchen in a small studio or apartment can certainly be challenging with your limits on space, but you can absolutely make the most of it with a few of these tricks. Do you have any kitchen styling tips? Drop them below! XO
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