Some Thoughts on Interior Design
December 25, 2021
One of the best things that’s come out of my four years at USC is living in my own studio for the latter two. In this post, which I’ll probably come back to and update periodically, I’ll detail lessons I’ve learned about functional interior design as well as some ideas I have for future living spaces.
Over the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I interact with my apartment, from chores like cleaning, picking clothes, and charging devices, to more exciting stuff like playing drums, using my computer, and cooking. While I may have a terrible grasp of visual design, I’ve definitely tried to optimize the studio for how I use it. In each subsection of this article, I’m gonna try to outline the things I’ve done right, any mistakes I’ve made, and maybe some new ideas I’d like to try in the future.
In my current studio, there’s just enough space for a double if I shove it in the corner of the room. While it would be nice to have something even bigger in the future, I imagine this is one of the most room-dependent considerations. Just remember, you spend over a third of your time in bed, so you should spend a proportionate amount of time perfecting how it’s arranged.
- If there’s only one occupant on average, you only need to make one side of the bed accessible. Plus, having the bed against at least one wall gives you something to sit against.
- It’s convenient to have the bed on a lifted frame. This provides storage underneath, makes it easier to get in and out, and makes bedside tables or drawers more viable.
- Speaking of which, go with bedside drawers as opposed to tables. They’re more private, offer more storage, and you can hide wires inside them if you wish.
Thinking about it now, there were a couple issues with my studio sleeping arrangement.
- There wasn’t much convenient storage for extra pillows or blankets. If it was hot, these often ended up on the ground besides the foot of the bed.
- I didn’t make use of the space on the wall above the head of my bed. Perhaps I could have put shelves up there to address pillow and blanket storage. Just remember you’re not supposed to put shelves above your bed if you live somewhere prone to earthquakes.
- My bed was right under the window, and while I didn’t mind for the most part, there are two things to consider. First, most outside noise seeps in through the window. Second, you’re next to the obvious natural light source, so you’ll want pretty robust curtains if you sleep in.
- There should be a clock conveniently visible from bed. Make sure to account for how blind you are without glasses when finding a spot for it…
…and by working, I also mean gaming. I spend an incomprehensible amount of time on the computer. A lot of that is coding or other productive stuff, but I also play a ton of games. I have two 27” monitors I run off of a small form factor computer I built in sophomore year. Around that time I switched from a traditional keyboard to the Ergodox EZ, a split ortholinear keyboard. More recently, I also purchased a deskpad and made the upgrade to a wireless mouse.
A couple of things greatly improved my work experience and productivity, and they all revolved around clearing surfaces. For whatever reason, I find it a lot easier to focus when I have a clean, empty desk.
- Especially if you have monitors with bulky stands, purchase a dedicated multi-monitor stand. The dual-monitor stand I ordered from Amazon helped me reclaim a ton of space two individual monitor stands would normally take up. Moreover, it made room for my mouse hand, which is integral if you play games on a low sensitivity.
- Try to have a place for everything that might end up on your desk. Headphone hooks under your desk, shelves for laptops, USB hubs to minimize cabling, etc. It’s super easy to clutter up your desk, and it’s a huge pain to declutter it.
- A downside of having huge monitors is that the space behind them can easily become inconvenient or entirely inaccessible. I’m not sure what I’ll do about this in the future besides maybe having low profile bins for electronic odds and ends.
Speaking of ergonomics:
- Make sure your desk is tall enough for you.
- Make sure you get a hella comfortable chair, even if you have to splash for it. I made the mistake of getting a cheap one off Amazon, and I’ve crushed the cushions to the point of it being actively uncomfortable to sit on (lmao).
As a side note, you should spend as much on peripherals (mice, keyboards, headphones, monitors, etc.) as you do on the computer. To that end:
- Wireless headphones are a must, especially if you cook or like to lie in bed while watching stuff.
- While you’re at it, you might as well go for a wireless mouse, especially if you play shooters.
- 1440p is a minimum for 27” and larger monitors; the visual clarity, particularly for text, is invaluable. IPS panels are preferable for multi-monitor setups, as it’s difficult to find perfect viewing angles.
And with regard to room layout:
- The coaxial socket may be in a super inconvenient place, so you’ll at least want to put a shelf there for your modem. However, it’s probably best to simply put your desk wherever the coax is, so you can be directly connected to ethernet.
- The one stipulation to the above is that you should avoid being backlit at all cost; it’s super unflattering on webcam. The first consideration for desk placement should be natural lighting, since it can’t really be changed.
- Desks are another thing that can occupy a corner. In fact, desks are a particularly good use for corners since you can set up at a diagonal and have bonus legroom. However, be cautious with curved corners, as they can be uncomfortable for some elbow positions (and aim styles).
- Try to avoid having your desktop somewhere that’s easy to kick or run into with your chair. Also make sure it has decent airflow and avoids obvious dust sources.
- The above also applies to your modem and router, since accidentally jostling either can disconnect you from the internet. I’ve definitely never done this at least 40 times.
In my next apartment, there are a couple of pretty easy improvements I’d like to remember to make. Mostly these are pretty straightforward:
- I’d like to have a bigger desk with more drawers for stuff. It’s probably also about time for me to get a proper filing cabinet and fireproof strongbox for important documents and stuff.
- I need a phone charger properly on my desk, preferably with a stand, so I can see notifications. There are probably nice wireless charging stands that do this.
- I’d like the floor under my desk to be entirely clear so there’s nothing I have to worry about kicking.
- I should install an under-desk mount for hanging my wireless headset.
- I need more granular storage for all the stuff in my current desk drawers.
- If I have enough space for a big desk, I’m gonna set aside a well-lit space for writing stuff by hand. It’s super annoying to shuffle around a keyboard, mouse, deskpad, etc.
As a quick aside, I had this idea that it’d be really nice to be able to watch YouTube or Twitch or Netflix while cooking. Since I’m already always wearing wireless headphones, I’m planning on investigating solutions that I can cast to from my PC.
- The first thing that comes to mind is having a TV that’s visible from the kitchen. I’d probably attach a Steam Link or Nvidia Shield to it, or maybe both. That way I could stream my desktop directly.
- Another option would be to simply get an iPad and come up with some multiplexing system that feeds into my headphones. This seems rather complicated though.
- Also, it would be fire if I could adjust said TV to be visible from bed, perhaps via some kind of wall mount. That seems super dependent on the geometry of the room though.
I’d like to spend much more time listening, practicing, and playing music. I have some of the hardware already—a guitar, electronic drum kit, in-ear monitors, etc., but I don’t really have an ergonomic way to use them at the same time.
- The first order of business will probably be to set up an electronic drum kit. While large, this can go anywhere in the room. I’ll also try to build a damping platform to avoid driving the neighbors insane.
- Since the drum seat can rotate, I’ll try to arrange my laptop, audio interfaces, and other hardware around me radially. This would provide an easy way to both play music to practice with and record directly from the instruments.
- It would be nice to connect my guitar amp to this system as well, though getting direct monitoring set up for multiple audio interfaces may require some fancy hardware.
Having spent the last two years almost exclusively cooking for myself in the tiniest kitchen ever, I’ve figured out plenty of tricks for staying clean and using space efficiently.
- If you don’t have a dishwasher, it’s super convenient to have a large drying rack. This is especially true if you’re lazy about putting away stuff that’s dried.
- If your stove hood permits it, install hooks above each burner for the utensils you’re cooking with. It’s super convenient, and you can avoid having to clean a secondary dish constantly.
- Get a tall, cleaver-style kitchen knife. These make it far easier to cut stuff down to the board, as your wrist can stay neutral with your fingers out of the way of the handle’s path.
- Having chopsticks on hand is hella convenient. Alternatively, you can purchase cooking tweezers, which accomplish the same task.
- As a gift, I got these little plastic apples that contain packets that absorb moisture and gas from leafy greens, keeping them fresh longer. They seem to work, so I’d recommend them.
Consequently, I also have a wishlist for things I’d like to improve in my next kitchen. Some of these are super dependent on the space, but they’re all worth considering.
- I’d like to have more sizes of cutting boards. While extra large cutting boards are convenient for cooking, they’re super annoying to clean in small sinks. Having a couple different sizes can alleviate this if you’re preparing smaller stuff.
- Having nice knives is a culinary game changer. Besides the traditional chef/utility/pairing trio, also have a good bread knife and perhaps a cleaver depending on what you cook.
- I’d like to have a more convenient method for organizing spices and ingredients. I think rotating racks actually have a place here if you can find something that fits the available space. Otherwise, consider putting your spices in alternate containers that can be arranged more accessibly.
- I need easy-access storage for fruits and vegetables. Apples, bananas, and the like should probably go on a counter or table, but I could probably settle for wicker baskets for onions and potatoes.
- If my next apartment permits, I’d like to hang my pots and pans from the ceiling. I’d also like to have some normal pans alongside the non-stick ones I currently have.
When you have a surplus of stuff and a shortage of space, efficient storage is paramount. I’ve found a couple ways to address this, but some of them are still somewhat of a work in progress. At the end of the day, everyone has at least one “tetris closet”.
- Have hooks every you can possibly have them. The easiest place to put them is over doors, but walls may also be fair game depending on where you live. Hooks are insanely useful for backpacks, coats, sweaters, bags, towels—you name it. In my current studio, I even have my rollerblades hanging off two hooks on a closet door.
- When it comes to the closets themselves, I try to set up racks so more stuff is accessible at once. How easy it is to take something out and put it back should correlate with the frequency of its use.
- For clothes, use hangers for shirts to avoid having to fold them. Pants and everything else are fair game for shelf storage. This is probably less applicable if you have many or actually nice clothes.
The biggest obstacle presented by my LA apartment is not being able to drill into the walls. Thus, the majority of what I’d like to improve in the future revolves around shelving:
- In the future, I’d like to use vertical space as much as possible. Ideally, I’d have shelves over most of the already-busy walls; it’s nice to leave some open wall space so you can still breathe, though this is a matter of personal taste.
- Shoe racks are important for keeping doorways clear, and as I’ve steadily amassed shoes, I’ve realized that this is something I’m sorely missing.
- Speaking of doors, always have convenient bins for dumping stuff like wallets and keys.
Bathrooms are especially tricky. The clutter you face also largely depends on how intricate your skincare and shower routine is. Since I don’t have too much stuff in my bathroom, I try to keep most of the surfaces clear. Here are a couple of short notes I’ve come up:
- Keeping surface space clear makes it easy to consistently clean. It also prevents germs and bacteria from floating onto your stuff.
- Get a hanging rack for shower stuff to avoid staining the tub or walls.
- Shelves are super convenient, especially if they close to protect whatever is inside. You should try to have cleaning stuff separate from everything else, since the chemicals they contain can be corrosive or otherwise dangerous.
- Having multiple towels on hand can be clutch if you have guests or forget about laundry.
- Since you’ll probably get mop water from your tub faucet, it’s nice to have space for a bucket or bin in your bathroom storage.
I couldn’t find anywhere to really put these, but here you go:
- Having a lamp that’s not a harsh fluorescent color allows you to have nicer low-light ambience. This should probably be separate from your desk lamp.
- Have one alternative sitting spot, preferably a chair, but alternatively a beanbag. This is useful for guests, but also for chilling.
- Try to keep open space in the middle of the room. This can come in handy for a variety of reasons, from guest air mattresses to assembling furniture to simply sitting on the ground or stretching.