We’re going big with this tiny studio. It’s maybe, maybe, 300 sqft? It’s in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, and simply put, this spot my friend Tyler found is, perfect. I won’t even start with how great a deal all these items cost us. Here’s a sneak peak. Until more…
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!
My friend Mathilde lives in a gorgeous home in Williamsburg. She and her husband have the top two floors — the upper level being used as a massive office and spare room. Their living room has so much potential – beautiful wide panel flooring, a maintained brick wall, bright, big windows. The space is great, and allows for a dining area and living room.
Like so many of us, Mathilde is on a budget! So most of her furniture came from Craig’s List, Housing Works, and the likes. She also has a great collection of art work, but isn’t sure exactly how to present it.
While we didn’t get a before pic (of course!), the space felt a little backwards – their large dining table was in front of the windows, and the sofa and red chaise were spread out. Because of the office upstairs, it was important that we make her living room feel private and spacious, and utilize the sunlight to the best of our ability. So we rearranged a bit. With a $500 budget (we only spent $450!), we went to Target and bought a couple basics — a foot rest, a couple lamps, a side table, an entertainment center (actually, the same one we used in Jenna’s space), light bulbs, and a hammer and nails. We also went to the nearby hardware store and nursery and bought — you know it — succulents! And some cute, eclectic pots. Check out what we did. A quick revamp, space changer, and now it totally feels personal, private, bright, and uses the space perfectly!
Can you BELIEVE that side table is from Target? What a deal, and it’s quite good quality for the price we paid! I personally like that the top moves up and down, which made matching it to fit the sofa height quite easy. Same with the lamp — great lamp, neutral but authentic feeling. For those of us that don’t have a massive budget, Target is SO great, especially their Threshold brand.
Mathilde had this great large wood coffee table, and topped it with a bright and cheerful teal cloth. It was a perfect pop of color, and I loved the square shape of the table… breaks up the monotony of everything being rectangular in a space.
And how great is this buffet/book shelf? We rearranged the books and photos, and tidied it up. Doing this changed the piece from a tool that organized books into a piece of decor — that’s high functioning.
For next steps, we’re looking for a neutral, perhaps lightly patterned, rug. We think that’ll pull it all together. In addition, we’re working on the dining space (not shown), and a bar station Mathilde has envisioned. Until then!
A friend of mine moved into a gorgeous row house about a year or two ago, and after a roommate (and furniture!) moved out, she decided it was time to get a few things to furnish and decorate her home. The row house is BEAUTIFUL. Original molding and hardwood floors. Bay windows. A dining room and living space that’s open. Exposed brick. I could keep going…
Her budget was around $1500 for round 1. She wanted to update her sofa, add some small pieces, and make the living area and dining room a bit more communal and warm. Host brunches and groups, and make the place perfect for her and her new roommates.
Here are a few before pics:
We upgraded the green Ikea sofa by purchasing a new slipcover online. It’s now a velvet, light grey — Comfortable, neutral, but unique with its texture. We found a great overstuffed leather chair in cognac. A new updated entertainment center in teal blue. We will drill holes in the back to add all the cabled equipment. The rug was on sale at World Market, and the bench was from (ahem) Tar-get! We found a few bric-a-bracs and pillows throughout the adventure, and will continue adding pieces as we find them.
In the dining area, we found six eclectic, wooden chairs at her nearby flea market that will be washed white during round two, but for now, they’re great. The recycled wine glass candle holders were actually made by me from a previous DIY project, and some serving dishes and tea towels for the dining table were found at World Market.
Here’s how it looks
We have a coffee table waiting to be delivered, frames and curtains that need to be hung, chairs that need to be painted… but this is an excellent start and already the space feels warmer, comfortable and cheerful.
Stay tuned for round two.
It happened. Earlier than usual this year, simply because I realized late last night that I didn’t need to ask anyone if it was ok to start decorating.
Anyway, here are some photos of my little casa. I have had all the decorations for the last several years — some from when I was in college. They are from various places like World Market, Target, and some of the ornaments are from around the world – Russia, Mexico and France. Anyway, check it out. Here are some thoughts when decorating your own place –
– Keep your regular home designs out, and decorate them. Example: Where my bottles are, I added a couple Christmas trees. It just adds more color and liveliness. You can also see that I hung cinnamon sticks, pine cones and a cranberry wreath on top of my frames. I like the layering look. It’s fun, and not perfect.
– Mix classy with trashy. I love the shiny, tacky garland. And I love natural and earthy color ornaments and decor. Mix them just a bit (see my bits of garland), and I think the finished product looks good.
For this area, I hung strings of stuff- The flower-like ones are from Target, the other string is small pine cones, cranberries and cinnamon sticks I put together after seeing it done in a magazine several years back. I also love the little green bows and stockings that seriously date back to like 2006. The cranberry (alright, they are puff balls) wreath is from Target three years ago, and the ornament is from France. There was a time when I wanted an ornament from every country. That last lasted like half of one trip. Nice idea though.
These are some of my favorite Christmas decorations. I have an affinity toward Christmas trees (like bottles), so I have slowly collected different ones throughout the years. Similar to my original set up, they all share a warmth in color – while they may all be different, the sizes and mixed colors make for a nice balance. There’s also a photo of my college girlfriends and I. Nice memory to bring out each year.
The center piece is a mini cinnamon broom from Whole Foods. I LOVE IT! And it smells AMAZING. I had one a few years back from Trader Joes, one of the larger ones. But trust me, if you live in a studio, the tiny one is all you need. Again – gotta love the gold garland… that was purchased my sophomore year of college, and has lived in seven homes since. Ha!
sidenote: my cat just fell off the couch. hilarious.
My version of a Christmas tree. The little Russian dolls were hand painted in, you guessed it, Russia. I actually picked them up at the World Famous (I am actually not being sarcastic) Gem and Mineral show in Tucson, Arizona… one of the best places for amazing jewelry and random pieces like this. The wreath is fake, but I use it every year … maybe that’s sustainability in action?
Here is one big view. I love my cozy space, and I love Christmas decorations. Win. The garland balls 1- 12 represent the Twelves Days of Christmas. I bought them a few years ago from Target (seriously, they sell amazing decorations), and actually kept them up in my last place the whole year.. but not in that you-still-have-your-Christmas-lights-up-in-February sorta way. They’re pretty cool.
I’m going to check out new things this weekend, and see if I find anything fun to add to my collection. Woohoo.
I hope this inspires you to get decorating! (or have me come decorate your place!)
I love succulents. They are green. They are cute. They are tiny. Most importantly, they are hard to kill. Scratch that. I’ve killed a couple. But if you plant them correctly, they can last decades.
There are several places you can buy succulents. Ace Hardware has great ones. You can buy them at the nearby plant store. In DC, there is a plant shop on 14th and R st (ish) that sells lovely succulents in great planters. Or, you can buy them in bulk online, where they ship the rooted plants to you in brown paper bags.
I’ve done all of these options. And pretty much, they all work.
If you are going to plant your own succulents, you’ll need little planters with holes at the bottom. Make sure you have a plate to hold the excess water underneath. Here’s why. Succulents are cacti – but cacti aren’t succulents. While succulents require a tad more water, they’re still desert plants. They don’t need a lot. They live in dry climates, and need to be able to release the water around them. Also, the desert is full of rocks. So it’s important that you also have rocks in your planters. You can also buy nutrient-rich cactus soil. By the way, succulents are cheap! The fancy planters and expensive plant shops are what make them costly. You can buy small plastic planters at Ace Hardware for $4. A bag of soil for $9. If you can’t find rocks – perhaps you live in the city – you can buy them in the decorating section at places like Target.
In terms of watering – you can water just a little bit every two weeks. Or month. It depends on how much sun they get. It depends on the heat. Use your judgement. If you question yourself, know that in this case, less is more.
Check out some of the succulents I’ve planted.. hope it inspires you to add green to your life.
I want Anthropologie towels. But I’m on a Target-towel budget. I think most people should. Anthro towels are fabulous. Lush, big, pretty colors. But damn. They are expensive. $48 a towel. $8 for a washcloth. Sometimes more. I would rather buy sweaters and boots and towels and Whole Foods groceries than spend over $100 for a set of towels.
But I love that look. Please check it out to understand the inspiration I’m working with.
Anyway, you can buy nice towels, a couple nicer towels, and a couple basic towels. Mix n match and you’ll have a lovely set. Plus, until you stop using the face wash that bleaches towels (ahem, no comment), it’s probably not worth spending too much.
See what I’ve purchased. A set of basic white, Taget Home towels, a set of yellow and white floral towels from Target – they were $12 each, and then I bought a washcloth from Anthropologie for, yup the actual price, $8. For everything – four towels, two hand towels, a fancy washcloth, and a few basic white washcloths, I spent under $60. That would be the same price for just two towels at Anthropologie.. I will say I like the outcome.
Tell me what you think!
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
No, I did not sew these curtains. Like making a three course organic meal, sometimes it’s just cheaper to buy the product at the store as opposed to spending a fortune on the materials.
The curtains are from Target – about $19 each. Curtain rods are $5 each, also from Target. I really didn’t want to put more holes in the walls, so I found the rod holders at Ace. They’re actually stick-ons — probably for hangin’ keys or something lightweight. They look bronze, but are actually plastic. And only $4. To make sure they are hung in a straight line, use either a level, ruler, or heck, a good eye.
Side Comment: this sounds ghetto. real ghetto, I’ll admit it. But check the photos – they look pretty nice. And they certainly do not look like plastic.
To make sure they didn’t fall off the wall, particularly because my cat, Olive, likes to jump on and behind them, I glued them up with Gorilla Glue. I bought the “dries white” kind, and the bottle should last me a few years. You can buy it at any hardware store. I’m pretty happy with them, and it took genuinely no time at all.