They’re charming. They’re horribly painted, with maybe marble here or there. They’re a free shelf. A fake bed frame. Character. Pretend or real. Maybe 120 years old. In any case, they’re here to stay, and you gotta figure out what to do with it. Here’s what we did with ours. Print is from the National Gallery of Australia. Bottles are from a flea market + and an old kale juice pressed. Salmon pot from Target. Books, sadly, and most likely, Amazon. Ooh lala.
I began writing this on the first day of spring. It was snowing. Which means that for the majority of the last — FOUR MONTHS — I’ve stayed inside, hiding from the hideous winter elements. Which is hilarious because that means that 1/3 of the year I’m staying inside a tiny space while living in a huge, ridiculously amazing city. So, I can’t be Carrie and keep my shoes in the oven. I can’t live in an ugly box that I pay too much for, only to be outside and enjoying the world every day. It means I need a space that’s warm, organized, comfortable – home.
So here’s my first list. If I were to move ANYWHERE, especially in a city, these are the items I know I couldn’t live without. Maybe because of how they look, mostly because of their practicality (even if just for my mental health), take a look, and let me know what you think.
1. Speakers! Even if you can hear your cell phone on vibrate in each part of your house, that doesn’t mean you don’t need speakers. Music sounds better with them. Bravo TV arguments will intensify. And, no, silent discos weren’t invented for single dance parties at home. I have these Harman Kardon ones, and they’ve lasted forever. A bit pricey, but for $170 they look nice, are clean, won’t add clutter, and sound great.
2. LIGHTING. Even if your apartment has ceiling lamps (lucky), you still should find some table and floor lamps, or more overhead lights to create a warm space that can help define areas, corners, and cubbies. I found this great floor lamp at the Brooklyn Flea (the best!) that I use as a reading light in our living room. The table lamp was also a favorite find from Eastern Market in DC. Helpful hint: Buy a good lightbulb. It WILL pay off. I prefer the softer lighting bulbs like the GE White Hybrid Halogen. They’re energy smart and eco friendly! $12 each but they really do last forever.
3. Plants. Please don’t say you can’t because you just kill them. That’s why succulents and cacti were created. Plants keep your space bright, beautiful, feeling clean… and some even clean your air (yes, fact). Add a couple, take them to your new home, and they’ll make any space look good. It’s genuinely the easiest, cheapest way to decorate. I love this Target Home find, a cement planter that could easily (stupidly) sell for $50, but was $13. Not everything needs to be a Pinterest DIY, where your supplies cost an obscene amount of money.
4. Extra Seating! I love having extra chairs around the house to make sure that if we do have a lot of guests around, everyone has somewhere to sit. We have a wood folding one that I stash behind the closet, a couple cute side chairs… Small chairs are super easy store and move apartments with. They can have a pattern, texture, unique wood… It’s a simple way to add decor to a space without feeling too “done”, and they don’t clutter. I love our West Elm John Vogel chair in charcoal. The second one I bought from a previous tenant at an apartment I used to live in.
5. A good (electric) tea kettle. This seems random, but after living with an Australian, I’ve learned the power and beauty of a good tea kettle. Beyond making a cup of tea, an electric tea kettle will boil water for your pasta, french press coffee, rice, potatoes… EVERYTHING. It’s so much quicker than a stove top kettle, and I literally use it every day. I love this Capresso clear glass kettle. Buy it from Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon, and it’s $50. Yes, you can get a cheap plastic one, but I prefer glass because you’re not ingesting toxins every time you heat the plastic, it’s much nicer to look at, and easier to clean because the kettle is separate from the electric plug. It’s also a good, small size that won’t take up too much space in your teeny kitchen.
6. A magic bullet. If you have a teeny apartment, this is a LIFE SAVER. Beyond making that delicious kale juice we all pretend to love, you can also blend soups, yogurts, even use it as a food processor. It’s SO easy to clean, and is much smaller than a blender. I love our Nutri Bullet especially because I do think it breaks food down better than the other brands. Again, use a 20% coupon ala Bed, Bath & Beyond and buy it. The steel design also makes for a nicer looking appliance.
7. STORAGE. I mean, obviously, right? That is the dream. But you can do storage right, and then you can do storage wrong. For example, do you need your winter coat in your closet, taking up space all year long? No. In fact, it doesn’t need to ever be in your closet. Get a hook, hang it by your door for four months (this also allows it to dry properly). Done. And when you don’t use it, buy these ridiculously smart (and REUSABLE) Ziploc vacuum hanging bags, put your stuff in it, and then either store them in the back of your closet or better yet, under your bed. They keep stuff clean, won’t ruin the filling of your coat, and pro tip: You don’t need a vaccuum to suck out the air. You can literally sit on em, and push out the air (like rolling a sleeping bag), until all the air is out. Fact. (No personal picture because sadly we are still using our coats. :P)
In addition, because we really no longer need DVD players, DVDs, or really any TV equipment beyond a ChromeCast stick, use your “entertainment center” for other things! Serving dishes? A “linen closet”? A mini hardware tool box with your tools, extra lightbulbs and batteries? This is such an easy way to keep organized and clean. (You’ll never know what’s in our “entertainment center”. Another Eastern Market find:
That’s all I’ve got. What are your “not living without” items? Share em in the comments!
Besides having a fabulous closet (one that I will have someday), I think that a living room can be your most important space in a home — ha, particularly in a studio. In a lot of small spaces, it’s the first place people see, it’s where you spend most of your time, and it tends to even be your dining room.
For this space, I wanted to keep it basic, clean, home-y, and personal. Especially because I live by myself.
Let’s start with the photos;
Because the photos, frames, and albums I am decorating with are all different weights, sizes, and textures, I needed to use a couple different techniques. For the heavier items (the larger frames), I drilled a screw into the wall. Again, because I have cement walls, I needed to find the appropriate screws and of course, drill bit. Check out your local Ace Hardware.
side note: Ace’s are privately owned for the most part — so you can feel ok supporting them, or another local hardware store.
For the smaller frames and the painting, I used these velcro hanging strips from Ace, the box was like $5 for a set of six. They hold up to 12lbs (so it says, though I’m not sure I would trust more than 5lbs). Clean the wall and the back of the frame, stick two of the velcro strips to one another, and hang. Super simple, and they’ll come off the wall without leaving a residue. For the albums, I used the picture hanging screws. Those are actually quite tough – can hold 50lbs or more.
Contrary to the photo, the frames aren’t crooked, I’m just lousy at taking a straight picture.
From left to right, top to bottom: Dodger stadium, and old frame given from family, a record album frame, purchased at Urban Outfitters for $10, silver frame is from Target ($9) and a photo of my great great aunt and uncle, the purple frame is from World Market (a gift) and my grandparent’s wedding photo, the long black frame is from Amazon (only $5) and an awesome quote from First Lady, Michelle Obama. The green frame is way old as well, and from Urban Outfitters, as is the second album frame. And lastly the gold frame and photo on the right are from Eastern Market’s flea market in DC ($50 total).
The frames aren’t a final product. I want to add more, move things around, take things off, etc. But that comes with time, my mood, and what cool think I “must buy” next at the flea market. Right now, I love the colors, textures, very different images. Again, it’s personal.
Sidenote #2– If you live in DC, definitely check out the Eastern Market flea market. They have a lot of amazing stuff, and for the most part, it’s all quite unique, making your space extra special.
Alright, back to the living space. Here’s the final product, at least for this wall. My couch is from Macy’s. A few years ago I purchased it new for $600. A bit pricey, but I’ll be honest, buying your first new piece of furniture is unbelievably liberating. The little coffee table was $15 (originally $30 – talk ’em down!) at the Eastern Market flea market. The green planter is from Antropologie for $12, the olive green vase from West Elm for $18. The coasters were handmade by children in southern Cambodia, about an hour south of Phnom Penh. The TV tray on the right was $9 from Target. And lastly the pillows – the cream one is from Target, about $20, and the little one from a market in New York, I think I bought it for $5.
Let me know what you think