I’ve heard it many times before. You’re absolutely sure that your space won’t look good, no matter what you do. Or you just don’t have the eye for it. Well it can be a challenge, yes. But I’m here to tell you that you can make any space look good – and I have examples to prove it.
1. The first example above shows us the power of closed storage. The before image looks like many home offices — mismatched cabinets, clutter, and little color. To solve this problem, the owners installed Ikea’s Akurum cabinets with dark brown doors along the entire length of the wall, leaving a gap for seating. This eliminates the uneasy look of the original mismatched storage, and also provides a ton of hiding space for all the clutter that used to live out in plain view on the work surface. To supplement the sleek look of the cabinets, some colorful artwork has been hung on the wall behind.
To achieve a similar effect in your own apartment, be sure to choose cabinets with doors to hide everything. A simple black or white finish will give your space a contemporary feel, and will allow you to choose any color scheme for your wall art. And don’t be intimidated by the artwork part of the process; grab a couple of plain black frames at Target, and fill them with anything from an interesting magazine ad to a finger painting from your niece.
2. This combination office and second bedroom shows the difference a coat of paint can make. Here, they’ve painted not only the walls, but also the closet doors and the molding. Replacing a dresser with a long desk provides a functional work surface, while a set of filing drawers still lends some storage space (and the dog crate occupies the unused space underneath). This setup is doing three jobs at once, while the old one only did one thing. Another major change is the addition of a geometric rug. The old adage is true — a rug really does tie the room together.
Many landlords allow you to paint the walls, so why not try a dark color like the gray above? It’s the easiest (and cheapest) way to give any room an entirely new look. Think you don’t need a rug because you already have wall-to-wall carpeting? Think again. You can layer a rug over the carpet, which will give your room some added visual interest.
3. In this case, the occupants could only afford a studio but wanted to give it a one bedroom feel, so they installed dividers that separated the bedroom area from the living space. In addition to a new layout, they also streamlined the space by keeping most elements white, then creating one major focal point on the wall.
If you live in a studio too, be sure to consider your personal priorities in your own space; are you the type who likes to socialize and have people over? Then you might want to maximize your living room space. More of a homebody who likes to sleep in? Give yourself some extra square footage for you bed.
4. The tan wall color and wooden tables made this living room feel dated, and the bulky couch occupied too much real estate. Although the after shot is taken from a different angle, the overall transformation is quite apparent. The room feels more modern now that it has mostly cooler tones (blues, greens and grays) and a combination of different textures. Good lighting also makes a huge difference here – there is plenty of natural light streaming in through the windows, and you’ll also notice multiple light fixtures that will keep the space bright and welcoming in the evening hours.
There are a few lessons to be learned here — although large, overstuffed couches may be comfortable, they do nothing for the visual appeal of a room. There are plenty of sofas out there that are smaller and more streamlined, but just as comfortable. If you have enough space, there’s no law against placing it right in the middle of the room as shown above. And If you’re having trouble pairing colors, choose neutral colors like gray, black and white, then add different shades of one color for accents.
5. Next, we have an amazing unfinished basement transformation. Obviously, a makeover like this requires a gut renovation; but the design principles still ring true for anyone re-doing their space. The load bearing beam has been decorated with framed artwork, taking advantage of the existing architectural elements. Being partially underground, the lack of natural light gave it a cozy, library-like feel — so the owner decided to run with that aesthetic and create a “study” with rich wooden elements and built-in shelving.
When decorating your own apartment, take advantage of the underlying vibe of the space. If you live in a loft, consider going with an industrial vibe. Living in a the middle of the city in a studio with lots of historical details? Pick undersized pieces with an antique feel to complement the existing style of your space.
6. The blue trim in the this space gave it a strange, country sort of vibe, but the fireplace was an attractive element. The surrounding wall was painted black to highlight the stonework, which also made the artwork stand out (and the television recede into the background). Adding layered rugs in warm colors further accentuated the inviting feel that the fireplace gave off. They also chose a lighter sofa to offset the dark wall color.
Don’t be afraid to try a bold color, but be sure to create a sense of balance by pairing it with a neutral. Your room will make a statement without feeling overwhelming.
Hopefully the before and after photos above have inspired you to give your apartment a makeover of its own, even if you don’t feel confident in your decorating abilities. Just remember to use a mix of textures, pair bold colors with neutrals, and maintain a sense of balance in both scale and color. So go ahead, give it a try!