apartment living room
Brian Francis

Make the Most

Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean you can't put your stamp on a space. To make her first apartment feel like a comfortable home, Caroline Barnhill gave her secondhand furniture new life by using a little artistic vision.

faux brick fireplace
Brian Francis

Create a Focal Point

The apartment's square white rooms presented a problem when it came to arranging furniture. To give the living room some direction, it needed a focal point. A vintage mantel -- a piece of architectural salvage purchased at a flea market -- helped dictate the furniture layout.

Because the mantel needed a bit more presence, Caroline stacked about 250 bricks behind it to create a faux hearth. A piece of plastic painting cloth underneath protects the carpet from being discolored by the bricks. All can be easily disassembled when she moves.

framed prints above sofa
Brian Francis

Find Color Inspiration

A first decorating project is often comprised of hand-me-down furniture and pieces collected on a modest budget. To unify your space, choose and stick to a color scheme.

Here, a collection of similar, but not identical, vintage egg and nest lithographs provided color inspiration. The taupes, browns, soft whites, and pale blues set the tone for a relaxed, yet youthful, palette.

Framed and hung opposite a large window, the graphic grouping also lends a sense of balance to the room.

brown and blue pillow covers
Brian Francis

Use What You Have

The olive-khaki sofas Caroline had in college were comfortable but lacked excitement. To liven them up and bring color into the room (painting the walls would be a violation of the lease agreement), Caroline slipcovered the sofa pillows in four different fabrics (slipcovering the sofas would have broken the budget).

The circular pattern mimics the egg prints hung above, and the buffalo check on the bolster is repeated on the seats of the dining room chairs. Similar colors unite the varying patterns and textures.

bamboo shades under white curtains
Brian Francis

Details Count

All of the windows in the apartment came outfitted with metal blinds. While they provided necessary privacy, they added little to the decor. Caroline hung bamboo shades in front of the blinds to add texture.

Because the windows are so wide, she had trouble finding ready-made shades that fit. Custom shades would have blown the budget, so she bought the widest shades available, and then hung curtains on each side of the window to conceal the gaps. Hung high above the window, the simple white muslin curtains also make the low ceiling appear taller.

Though this bright red vintage trunk (picked up at a flea market) didn’t necessarily fit into the color scheme, Caroline hated to see it go. Instead, she placed it between the two sofas to act as a point of interest. Underneath the trunk, a simple jute rug breaks up the expanse of white carpet and defines the seating space.

dining area
Brian Francis

A Place To Eat

A simple dining area suits apartment living. The square table is equipped with leaves that expand the seating space from four to eight, making it an ideal piece to keep. A slim console -- a piece she used as a desk in college -- is a great place to serve food and drinks to friends but stays out of the path of traffic.

cake and flowers
Brian Francis

Simple Entertaining

Caroline dresses up a simple cake with fresh fruit, and creates simple arrangements (with flowers from the market) in recycled bottles. Appetizer-size plates leave more room on the table and are more suitable for a smaller-scale soiree. Cloth napkins are an eco-friendly option and can be used to reinforce your color palette. Look for options that are machine washable.

Appetizer Plates
$22.95 (set of 12)
Available at Crate and Barrel

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