I recently received a call from a friend who was at wit’s end with her adorably small, but dingy apartment. With the heat of August came a restlessness and the urge to do some serious sprucing up in her apartment. She wanted to make her environment productive, peaceful and beautiful. With the desperation of Princess Leia, she pleaded, “Help me, Erin. You’re my only hope.”
We couldn’t reinvent the wheel. Because of her small budget, we had to use the furniture she already had in the apartment. But, I reassured her, with a few new decorative touches and a major dose of creativity, we could transform her apartment into the retreat she was looking for.
Painting is always the least expensive way to freshen up your home. We painted the apartment in coordinating sages and light blues. This instantly added a soft palette to work with and a breath of fresh air.
She had a small dining room, several old, mismatched chairs and no dining table. She insisted she wants to entertain on occasion, but a big issue was her need to store a vast collection of books that were currently piled and stacked throughout the apartment.
We took the initiative and repurposed her dining room into a library. We found some inexpensive shelves and lined one wall with them. For a dining table, we bought a cheap 48” round folding table that would comfortably seat 4-6guests.
She had an old, but colorful quilt collecting dust in the closet, so we used it as a table cloth and put a piece of glass on top. This would serve as a dining table, but also as a workspace and a great place to display a pile of her favorite books and some pretty accessories. The mismatched chairs would be a fun touch around the table.
We found an inexpensive but cheerful wallpaper on discount and cut it into pieces to fit into frames – we now had an art collection to hang in the library!
Her living room seemed drab because it was uninviting. I asked her to think about how she used the room and how traffic flowed through the space. We rearranged it to be more open and welcoming as you entered the room; no sofa back to walk into and an open but intimate arrangement for easy conversation between two people or a group of people.
We used orange in small doses as a fresh accent color; that worked well with the almost-neutral sage color on the walls and it really brought a bit of spice to the room. To add some interest to a neutral sofa, we found a throw to drape across the back and new pillows – all on sale.
She had a pair of small chairs to recover. To do this, we bought some fabric remnants at a tremendous discount. Because the remnants were so small, we used one fabric on the fronts of the chairs, and a different but coordinating fabric on the backs. This was simple, and an homage to French decorating!
We took down the vertical blinds and fashioned some new window treatments out of burlap panels (burlap is an inexpensive material to work with). This added an interesting texture to the room, and we trimmed them with a gorgeous green trim to coordinate with the wall paint.
For cheap art, we bought several 8×10 canvases from an art store and painted them with leftover paint from the bedroom (a soft blue). We grouped them together as a collection and hung them over the sofa.
In the bedroom, her old, pine dresser got new crystal handles; this was a bit of a splurge, as we went the antique route, but it added such a feminine touch and made the dresser look like it was back to its 1920s glory.
Her nightstands were so tiny and could barely accommodate a decent reading lamp. We found some inexpensive glass pendants to hang above the nightstands instead. This solution provides great light for nighttime reading, and doesn’t clutter up the surfaces.
At the end of our project, we looked around and could see that her apartment had been refreshed into a peaceful and functional space – a place where she could joyfully ride out the rest of the dog days of summer!