New York City Apartment Refresh

Today I am really excited to share one of my most recent decorating projects, which has been a fun challenge and a real contrast from all the other projects that I have done so far. Last year my sister got married and moved into her husband’s 400 square foot apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and this summer I worked with her to give this small space a big refresh! When I first visited her apartment, I could tell right away that it had two major problems: 1) some of the furniture pieces were too big and bulky for the space, and 2) the apartment felt very dark, due to the limited natural light, dark wood floors, and primarily dark furnishings.

To give you a sense of what I’m talking about, here’s some before shots of the space:


Because my sister and her husband are hoping to move in the relatively near future, they didn’t want to spend a lot of money on all new furniture that might not work in a different space. However, I did help to convince them that some of the larger pieces had to go. If you live in an apartment that is less than 500 square feet, every piece of furniture needs to be really versatile and whenever possible, specially designed for small spaces. While I could tell that the overall layout of the space was actually working quite well, their desk and dining table were both far too large. Fortunately, IKEA does a really wonderful job of designing very clever space-saving furniture, so they got this brilliant dining table, which can seat 2-4 people when fully expanded or collapse to be less then 12” wide. They also bought folding chairs which could be collapsed and stacked in a corner when not in use as well as a much smaller desk. Just replacing the dining table, dining chairs, and desk made an enormous difference! See how much more open the space already feels once they removed those pieces:


The next problem to tackle was the lack of light. Their apartment is on the ground level of a brownstone, and while it does have a few windows, they are fairly small and face into a courtyard with an overhanging deck, so they do not let in a lot of light. Furthermore, although the walls and ceiling are white, the wood floors are very dark and all the dark furniture was blending right into the floors and absorbing all of the light. So, I suggested that they add a light rug, which would help to cover up the dark floors and define the living area. The addition of the rug also helped their black couch to “pop” in contrast with it, whereas before, the couch had almost disappeared against the floor. I also suggested that they replace their small square coffee table with a rectangular ottoman, which fit the shape of the space better and could double as both an ottoman and a coffee table. Since the couch is black, it was important to lighten and brighten it up through adding fun and colorful pillows and a throw. My sister loves West Elm, so she visited the store and showed me some of the pillows which she liked, and I pulled together a very basic mood board for her that demonstrates visually how all these elements work together. I also created a version of their apartment in Floorplanner, so that my sister and her husband would be able to visualize what the space could look like with some of these changes.


And finally, here’s the after shot of how their apartment looks now:

The rug, throw pillows, and ottoman totally transformed this space into a bright, modern, stylish New York apartment! Most importantly, my sister and her husband have really loved all of these changes and are enjoying living in their home so much more now. There are still a few more things they could do for the space, like improving the lighting and adding some better storage options, but they’ve already made such an enormous improvement to their home—and on a pretty tight budget too! It just goes to show what an amazing difference even small changes can make!