Interior designer Courtney Lake shares his experience working
with a young professional to decorate their first apartment. Find tips on how
to decorate your first abode with style and flair while sticking to a budget!
Moving from the parental home is a rite of passage many young adults take after college graduation. Many of these young adults have dreamed of living on their own and are full of lofty ideas on how they will decorate their first place. But the reality of living on one's own is far from glamorous. Freedom often means roommates, cramped spaces and, worse, shared bathrooms. After paying for rent, food, transportation and the occasional beer run, extra funds for decorating can be scarce. This month we will be discussing how a young professional can create a stylish and hip first apartment without breaking the bank!
As a graduation present, the client was given a design consultation by his parents. The client was a young man who wanted to create a space that was reflective of his maturing tastes and not reflective of his parents' love of traditional furnishings. After an initial conversation, work began to transform his 500-square-foot studio into a masculine, sophisticated retreat that provided space for lounging, sleeping, working and even entertaining with some smart design choices.
It may sound like a broken record, but space planning is key when working in a small space with a confined budget. A well thought out floor plan avoids costly mistakes and ensures maximum usage from the square footage available. For this project, five "zones" were created: entry, library, office/entertaining, lounging and sleeping. Each zone was assigned a set of functions and furniture was selected to accommodate those activities. A seating nook was even squeezed into the small foyer to create a place to put on shoes and sort mail!
Stick with one central theme to create a unified and cohesive look. The client's love of the '50s and '60s inspired the design. A medium-tone gray paint was used throughout the space, while crisp white was applied to the trim and ceiling to emphasize the architectural details and the studio's height. Pattern was limited to an antique Persian rug and the bedspread, both items that could be easily swapped out. Antique pharmaceutical-themed paraphernalia was sprinkled through the space, referencing the client's profession.
While the client scoured flea markets, thrift stores and the web for unique finds, some of the best deals were found right in his own backyard. Don't be afraid of borrowing furniture from friends and family to save money. People are often quite happy to give unused furniture a good temporary (and often permanent) home. While beggars can't be choosers, be selective on what you borrow. In this case, the client looked for pieces that had a midcentury feeling, ensuring that when mixed with new furniture like the sofa, the space had depth and character that can't be obtained with all new big-box store purchases.
"Design rules" dictate purchasing the best sofa you can afford. I disagree. At this stage in life, the best sofa one can afford will probably not be a sofa you will have long term. Invest in a great chair — it will last longer than a sofa and be more flexible when you move into a new space.
Rather than installing drapery, the client asked the landlord to install wood blinds by stating that the initial investment would mean less wear and tear on the unit than drilling into the walls to install drapery rods. A bold request, perhaps, but it saved the client a considerable amount in the budget and allowed him to splurge on accessories.
In a small space, you want to put in the least amount of furniture possible, since small pieces eat up valuable space. In the studio, we selected items that could do double duty, like a side table that could sub as a stool, or the desk that can play triple duty as an office, entertainment center and dining table easily seating four to six.
Don't skimp on accessories, as they are the final layer in making a space feel like a home. Display your collections in interesting ways, like using vintage cloches or vintage trophies to store kitchen utensils. However, the key is to purchase accessories because you love them, not simply because they fill an empty space.
Live it up and have fun with your first apartment! Decorating your first home should be a fun-filled experience that you remember fondly. The first year out of college will be a roller coaster, so take the time to create a little oasis to call your own. And don’t forget to call your parents!
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