The lifestyle choice where size isn't everything

Short on space but low on rental costs, studios are a popular choice for busy professionals. By Fiona Brandhorst
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The Independent Online

When budgets are low and aspirations high, renting a studio flat could be the answer. With examples including former servants quarters in period properties, purpose-built modern developments or carved up from larger flats, this one-room style of living can have its advantages.

For some, it means living in the best location, perhaps near to inner-zone transport links and shops, at considerably less than the next jump up to a one or two bedroom flat. In Clerkenwell, a studio flat starts at around £350 a week, whereas a one-bed loft-style apartment can cost around £750 a week. A furnished studio in Chiswick near the Tube costs around £200 a week; a one-bedroom flat around £275 per week.

The size limitations of a studio usually mean it's seen as somewhere to crash at the end of the day, not somewhere you would want to spend a great deal of time.

Mark Barnett, owner of Iglu estate agents in Battersea, says studios are surprisingly popular from ex-council to riverside settings. "Single people who have just moved to London with a limited budget use the traditional studio as a stop gap while they find their feet, but they don't tend to stay more than six months."

Studios with a separate kitchen, even if it is tiny, rent more quickly, and those with features such as pull-down beds give more floor space.

Rachel De Thample has been renting a studio in W1 for 18 months with her partner, Robbie. "I shared a massive flat before so it was a bit of a shock to come down to one-room living, but I wanted to stay central and it was all we could afford."

De Thample admits that studio living is probably more suited to singles than couples and is definitely not for home bodies. "We have to be very disciplined about keeping the place tidy – you can't leave clothes lying around on the floor, and if something's out of place, it's very noticeable."

De Thample's studio was unfurnished so they had to buy furniture to fit the space available; these won't necessarily be items they would want in a bigger property. "We have a futon, bookshelf, linen trunk, folding table and a couple of cube-style cushions that we push together to make a sofa if we are watching a video," she says. They do not have a TV; her computer doubles as a DVD player.

Working from home as a journalist, De Thample feels secure in her small space, although she often takes her lap-top to one of the numerous local cafés for a welcome change of scene. "We mostly eat out, but we do have just enough space to have a couple of people for dinner. We have found that living so centrally, friends ask to stay over if they've missed the last train. It's difficult waking up in a studio to find someone at the end of your futon!"

Suzy Maas, from The Final Touch, often furnishes studios for clients entering the rental market and says that practical furniture doesn't have to be boring. "Obviously, foldaway furniture is ideal for studios but tenants should consider quirky ideas like hanging funky folding chairs on walls to clear maximum floor space." She suggests a low-level coffee table and bed to create the currently fashionable Eastern look, furniture on wheels for easy repositioning and as much floor to ceiling storage as possible.

"For small kitchens, we always make use of the wall space to hang items off hooks and bars and when cupboard space is non-existent the ceiling is a great place for hanging pans from," says Maas.

"Up-lighting is better than down-lighting to create the illusion of space; paint ceilings white and over dado rails and cornicing to prevent them breaking into the room," advises Maas. "Simple blinds instead of curtains will let in maximum light and mirrors will also help reflect it. Avoid dark colours and jazzy patterns and invest in attractive storage boxes,from places like The Holding Company to stack any clutter away neatly."

Studio living is a lifestyle choice, according to Tim Trudgian of estate agents Stern Studios. "They generally appeal to younger people, but older professionals, fed up with daily commuting and looking for a pied-à-terre, often chose a studio to rent within walking distance of their office." It seems that space is sacrificed for convenience and time spent travelling. Increasingly, Trudgian is seeing the small kitchens in studios becoming studies. "People may want a microwave – traditional ovens are rarely used – but they do want somewhere to put the computer. The kitchen space is ideal."

Buy-to-let investors are also gaining better yields from buying two studios in prime areas for the price of one flat and achieving a higher yield renting two properties instead of one.

Warehouse loft apartments have redefined studio living and these rental properties are far from being at the lower end of the market. Young professionals with bigger budgets and a definite idea of how they want to live have flocked to the large, open-plan apartments in inner city streets and along the river. Landlords have been realistic with their tenants' expectations, furnishing properties to a high standard with contemporary styling.

Tim Trudgian has good advice for renters on low budgets. "Studios are sometimes a great deal bigger than some of the one-bedroom flats I've seen for rent at higher prices. Faced with the choice of a poky bedroom or a reasonably spacious studio with separate kitchen and bathroom, I know which one I'd choose."

Iglu 020-7585 3585; The Final Touch 020-7733 2562; Stern Studios (sales only) 020-7244 7301