In your search for a place to live, you've probably come across listings for studios, efficiencies, and 1-bedrooms. While you may know these are all types of small apartments, you may be wondering about the differences between the three.

All three types are simple units with prices that often appeal to renters. Still, each type of apartment has its own features and floor plan, so don't assume an efficiency is the same as a 1-bedroom. (Spoiler...it's not).

Along with the descriptors, studio, efficiency, and 1-bedroom apartments might be referred to as small. But remember, different parts of the country have different meanings of the word "small" when it comes to housing. What is considered small in Atlanta is known as mid-sized in New York City. So, make sure to check the square footage of your unit before moving in.

What is a studio apartment?

Stylish studio apartment interior
Just because studios are small doesn't mean they can't be stylish. | Photo credit: Minette Hand for Apartment Therapy

Think of a studio apartment as one big room. Because that's what it is. With no permanent walls separating living, sleeping, and cooking spaces, there's a lot of open space and not much privacy. But don't worry, the bathroom is a separate room with a door.

Studio floor plans usually fall within one of two main arrangements. One is a large rectangle, with everything in one open space. Another is an L-shaped room, with the sleeping area tucked away from the rest of the apartment.

If you like to cook (or just want to save some money by cooking at home), make sure to pay attention to the kitchen area. Some studios contain complete kitchens with full-size stoves, ovens, and refrigerators. Others have more of a kitchenette with a two-burner stove and mini-fridge.

What is an efficiency apartment?

Stylish efficiency apartment interior
Efficiency apartments fit all your needs into a small space. |  Photo credit: Edward Partners for Apartment Therapy

If studio apartments aren't quite small (or inexpensive) enough for you, take a look at efficiency apartments. Just like studios, efficiencies have a cooking area, living area, and sleeping area all in one large room, as well as a separate bathroom. However, they tend to contain less square feet than studios. Along with a smaller footprint, efficiency apartments usually come with a kitchenette rather than a full kitchen. So, you may have to get a little creative when cooking.

What is a 1-bedroom apartment?

Stylish 1-bedroom apartment interior
A separate bedroom offers increased privacy. | Photo by Yasmine Boheas

If you're looking for a little more privacy and some more real estate, consider a 1-bedroom apartment. Unlike efficiencies and studios, these apartments have a separate bedroom. That's right, your sleeping area comes with a door!

One-bedroom apartments are often larger apartments than studios and efficiencies. With this extra space, the layout varies between each individual apartment. It may have a designated living space, dining room, and separate kitchen. Or, it may have one main room used for a variety of purposes.

Which rental type is best for me?

Now that you know the differences between these three types of apartments, it's time to figure out if any of them are for you. To help you decide, it's smart to ask yourself some questions.

What's my budget?

Efficient wallet with minimal cash
Smaller spaces = less cash. | Photo credit: Lukas

Unsurprisingly, smaller spaces come with decreased costs. Therefore, efficiencies are less expensive than studios which are less expensive than 1-bedroom apartments. While rent is the major cost associated with an apartment, remember that utility payments usually decrease as your space decreases.

How much stuff do I have?

Cluttered home office
Can your new apartment fit all your stuff...with room for you to live? | Photo credit: Mark Wallace

A smaller apartment comes with less space to store your stuff. Depending on how you look at it, this can be either a pro or a con. On one hand, you have less room for clutter, so it's easier to keep your space clean and organized. It also might inspire you to downsize and cause you to question if you really need a walk-in closet.

On the other hand, storage space is limited in smaller apartments. If you need your belongings on a regular basis, it's best to look for an apartment that can comfortably fit them. However, if you're staying somewhere temporarily, consider putting them in a storage unit for a few months. This will allow you to rent a smaller place and decrease the amount of clutter in your apartment.

How much privacy do I need?

Curtain room divider in multi-purpose bedroom
Curtains and room dividers can help with privacy. | Photo credit: Leanne Ford Interiors for House Beautiful

The first thing to consider regarding privacy is if you'll be living alone or with another person. Privacy is less of a concern if you'll be living alone since you'll have the whole place to yourself. If you're splitting an apartment with another person, ask yourself if you want some space to call your own. You don't want to end up hunkering down in the bathroom because it's the only place you can close the door on a bothersome roommate.

Will I be cooking? How often?

Clean, sleek, and efficient kitchen inside an apartment
Note what space and appliances you have in your kitchen area. | Photo credit: John Hickey-Fry

Although all apartments have some kind of kitchen and cooking space, this can vary quite a bit. If you're a real foodie, make sure the kitchen space can handle your needs. For example, do you need a four-burner stove? Or will a two-burner stove or hot plate do the job? A related aspect to consider is if you need a dining area or if you're okay eating on the couch.

How to Live in Small Spaces

When looking at smaller units in apartment buildings, you're probably looking at how many square feet the unit is. While this number tells you how large the area actually is, other factors impact how big the space feels. Check to see how many windows there are and how big they are, since natural light helps a space feel larger. High ceilings also make small spaces feel larger.

Even if you're limited by your floor plan, you can get creative with space-saving options. Murphy beds fold up into the wall when they're not in use, providing extra space. You'll have so much room for activities! However, you probably won't be installing a Murphy bed yourself, so look for them when you're searching for rentals.

Another great way to save some space is multifunctional furniture. With lots of small rentals in places such as New York City and Los Angeles, many companies produce furniture for the modern studio. Think coffee tables with built-in storage and flip-down dining tables.

If you're looking to break up your big room or add some privacy, consider using a room divider. You can even create a home office space with the use of a room divider and a nice tray table.

Bigger Isn't Always Better

If you're looking for an affordable rental in a high-demand area, don't rule out these small apartments. With some creativity and an open mind, they can provide a clean and cozy place to call home.