It’s no secret, housing in Southern California where I live is pricey. I have been a home owner and an apartment dweller over the years and the latter is where I currently reside. I have made it my mission to transform my current apartment into a fun and individualistic home because while I may move back in to a house soon, I believe in living for today at the highest possible quality. The joy I create today will make for a lovely tomorrow!
I wanted to share some easy and fun ways of how you too can elevate a basic apartment (or condo) into a chic, appealing home.
Many people might feel hampered by the limited size of their rental, but I am here to tell you that even a small space can be transformed into a unique and exciting home. My current apartment is a mere 662 sq ft (albeit making up for that with a beautiful view and a five minute drive to the beach). The apartment came in a very bland, generic “updated” version which consisted of “cookie cutter” material choices. We are talking brownish quartz counter tops, birch colored laminate flooring in kitchen and bath, stainless steel appliances, wall-to-wall carpet (ugh) and otherwise stark white walls and trim. Boring! Like many apartments, it does not have much natural light but that too can be remedied.
- Floors- I am a big fan of rugs especially if you are trying to hide what’s underneath like wall-to-wall greige (grey/beige) carpet. You can layer rugs, spread them out, or butt them side-by-side. The more the better!
- Walls-Color on the walls is a must for me. It is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of making a game changing impact. If I had it my way, I would paint almost all of my walls including ceiling and baseboards in rich, tantalizing colors. The landlord may not appreciate such a transformation or charge big upon move-out, and that’s why I recommend accent walls for apartments.
- Lighting-Believe it or not, between overhead lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting (including candle light), a room ideally has 6- 8 light sources! In the average apartment (or condo), you will most likely find either recessed lights or ceiling fans with a light kit . If you are lucky, you may have 1-3 pendant lights over the kitchen counter or island. I recommend installing more attractive lighting like pendants and chandeliers. Put those on dimmers if possible. Most apartments don’t provide the proper outlets for that and that’s why I resorted to “recessed lighting converter kits”. It’s easier than you may think and it affords you the easy option to uninstall and take with you the whole lighting setup when you move out.
- Decorating-Wall art, furniture, soft furnishings, window treatments, decor, plants, rugs, and collectibles are all what makes a space a personal sanctuary. Color, shape, texture, and pattern are the elements that create cohesion and flair. The trick is to keep the color palette limited to 3-4 colors per room. With that in mind you can freely mix patterns, shapes, and textures to create a well rounded design that is inviting and restorative. A quick word on plants, I am fanatic about botanicals and have some in every room. If you run out of floor space, go vertical with wall shelves for plants.
- Last but not least: Scent-First impressions are usually created by sight and smell. I love an alluring scent to greet me when I enter my home. I also use aroma therapy whenever needed. However, I am a huge opponent of artificial room fresheners like commercial plug-ins. They are not only toxic but often smell very artificial. That is why I use only naturally scented essential oils, organic pot pourri, or fresh herbs and flowers to enhance my home with fragrance.
Now, I would like to invite you to follow me through my space…..
Accent Walls I had my far dining area wall painted in a very dark (almost black) matte grey which gave the small apartment more depth and dimension. It pulls the eye deeper in to the space and gives it interest and a bit of a wow effect. I painted the small entry area wall a blue/grey hue because those are my living room colors. Painting that small wall by the entrance defined that area a little more since the front door leads directly in to the living room.
Furniture in a small space should be chosen thoughtfully. I picked a round glass dining table to maximize space. The glass top helps to keep the space visually uncluttered. My living room seating consists of one large chair and a fold-down sofa. I chose a sofa option without arms which again makes it less cramped. I went without a coffee table and instead use an ottoman (a Moroccan poof to be exact) and two small side tables. That way I can easily create space for at-home yoga.
Wall Art is everything from pictures, decorative items, to mirrors. Here is the trick to visually enlarging a small space: hang things all the way to the ceiling. Draw the eye up. I love collage walls (with or without themes). Don’t be afraid of larger pieces. It will work even in a small space. I promise. I love perusing thrift stores, antique malls and flea markets. I find a lot of fun things to up-cycle and re-purpose. I find interesting pictures and paint either the frame or the mat with chalk paint to give it a fresh look. Other cheap and easy ways to create wall art is to enlarge pictures, photos, or postcards and stick them in to a cool frame. Almost all of my pictures are made from either enlarged personal or free photo stock pictures from e.g. “Unplash”, post cards, thrift store finds, or magazine tear-outs. An assortment of cool empty frames looks sassy as well. Just have fun with it!
Lighting is super important in a small space (or any space for that matter). I have overhead lighting (which I almost never use), floor lighting, and accent lighting. I light my space to be bright when I need it to be, but cozy and intriguing most of the time. I love to up-cycle lighting. It’s so easy to find a fun base and match it with a shade. The balloon pendant in my dining room was also a vintage find that I attached with a ‘recessed light converter kit’. Here again back to the fact that large items can look amazing in smaller places. On a side note, I usually like large pendant (or chandelier) lighting to hang lower but the balloon light perfectly obscures the large A/C return vent on the back wall. The aforementioned lighting kits can be found at any big box hardware store for around $18.00.
Window Treatments are a must in my bedroom. Besides adding to the coziness factor, it takes away from the “apartment with mini-blinds” feel. Always attach curtain rods higher than the window frame and let the curtains touch the floor. Not too much though or curtain “puddles” can look messy. I like large mirrors but the huge mirrored closet sliding doors were too much mirror for me. It just looked too cold. I used versatile sliding curtain panels from IKEA to visually cover the closet doors. Note how I hung the panels quite a bit above the top edge of the closet to again draw the eye up. Speaking of closets, with a wall closet (vs a walk-in closet) the space is very limited. I added an inexpensive clothe rack made from bamboo. That way I have a little bit more room to organize my clothes.
The Walls are too white for me but I didn’t want to be responsible for having to paint too many walls back. I opted for a little compromise in the bedroom and visually extended the headboard with a mini accent wall.
The Lighting in the bedroom consists of several sources. Lighting should be layered. There is overhead lighting in the fan fixture, ambient lighting with the chandelier, and task lighting with the reading light. I am particularly proud of the little vintage wooden bead chandelier which I found at an antique mall. I had to build the whole light fixture and used another recessed light kit to tie it in to the ceiling. In the evenings it emits a very soothing light. Use full-spectrum light bulbs whenever possible.
Plants are also a big must-have for me and yes it’s okay to have them in the bedroom as well! I used floating wall shelves in the living room and bedroom to utilize wall space where I had limited floor space to spare.
The Furniture in my living room is simple and functional. With limited space it is important that you prioritize functionality. I tried not to overload my book shelve as it doubles as decor display and TV console.
Wall Art is drawn up to the ceiling again. I also added a tall stand-up mirror to visually expand the room.
Rugs are an easy means of creating comfort and visual interests. It’s okay to mix and match in size and patterns as long as you keep the color palette to 3-4 hues for room.
Don’t live for tomorrow. I realized that living for today means not waiting for a bigger space or a home that I own to create the home environment that I crave. I believe that any space, no matter how limited, can be transformed into a comfortable and beautiful home. With a little creative vision and some ingenuity you too can jazz up your apartment or condo. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and sure is fun to do.
I would love to help you get your creative juices flowing and will not only style up your space but energize it with healthy feng shui flow.
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