Make Your Lights Posh and Portable
Don’t pull the plug on unsightly lamp cords! Instead, you can turn these eyesores into unexpected modern design features. First, make your lights portable. I took this chandelier to my local hardware store, and for $20 had them rewire it with a regular plug-in cord. This way you can always take your lighting with you. Plus, you don’t have to deal with electricians or drilling holes in walls or ceilings!
Lamp Cords in Every Color
Color Cord Company
Wrap your lamp cord with ribbon (as I did on a shoestring budget) to really stand out or choose from an array of vibrant colors and patterns as a wonderful accent to your lighting.
Color Cord Company
I also used a sisal rope lamp cord for the dining nook, which gives the beach cottage a casual yet chic vibe. So flaunt it. Don’t hide it!
Layer, Layer, Layer
In a shrunken studio, you need to make every inch count! Layer small spaces like you would an outfit to create dimension, interest and texture. Flexible layers customize a standard space without appearing as clutter. Just remember to edit, edit, edit. You’ll be surprised how warm and inviting layers can add to your nutshell of a space. Think cashmere, silk, sisal, velvet and shearling.
Layer Your Rugs
Don’t forget the floor. A larger rug in my friend’s tiny studio loft casts the illusion that the room is larger than its four walls. But there was only room in the budget for a smaller 4×6′ wool rug. The solution: layer an inexpensive shearling (under $40) from Ikea on top and place it at an angle. Together the two rug pieces make a grander statement.
Remember to rotate your layers to keep things looking and feeling fresh and new. Take a photo with your phone, step back for a fresh perspective and edit.
Check out my favorite way to layer a room with pillows. That’s the fun part about design without commitment. Cheers!
Label It and Organize It
My need for storage has spilled over into the hallway. The only way to keep my open shelving from looking like a garage sale is to keep things labeled and uniform in color. I am not organized by nature so a pretty tag on a bright-colored box are the design tricks that keep me motivated to stay neat and tidy.
Paint Faux Tags
I used orange chalkboard paint left over from a kitchen project and painted chalkboard “tag” shapes. Tape off the shape of an office tag and use a round sticker to tape off a hole for a “ribbon.” Make sure to use a primer before you use the chalkboard paint to make sure it adheres to the metal surface.
I tied brown grosgrain ribbon with a white dash border as homage to my Hermès-inspired coffee table, which sits around the corner in the living room.
Use a pencil sharpener to sharpen the tip of your chalk so your writing can be crisp and clear.
In my tiny foyer, there’s not a lot of room for extras. But I desperately needed a place where I could sit and take my shoes off before entering my apartment. I grew up in a Korean home where street shoes were not allowed inside, and it’s a practical custom working in gritty New York City.
Faux Rococo Chair Decals
I found a great photo of a Rococo style chair from istockphoto.com. I had it enlarged and printed on what is called “photo-stick” or repositionable decal paper from my local printing shop. It cost $50, and the entire perimeter and shape of the chair is precut for you. The decal was really easy to apply and true to the company’s guarantee: removable, repositionable and reusable with no harm to the wall. Wrap it back up in the waxed paper packaging it came with for safe storage and for use in your next space.
Paint to Match
Paint a small white stool to match the colors in the photo decal for a chic trompe l’oeil effect. I wanted the stool to look like it was the actual seat of the chair. The legs of the stool were painted gold and embellished with glued-on wood appliqués for Rococo realness.
I love the way it turned out and how the whimsy of this trompe l’oeil stool distracts guests from noticing a rather cramped foyer.
Skinny Lights for Shrunken Spaces
Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close up! Well, you might be, but what about your hole-in-the-wall apartment? Great lighting is the key to transforming teeny digs from cramped to quaint with a flick of a switch. This is the perfect project for you renters out there who don’t have a square inch to spare for large floor lamps and can’t damage walls. Installation is easy and can be done in 15-minutes.
• Purchase a modern floor lamp wall decal from vinylwalldesign.com. The company is based in Australia so shipping takes a few extra days but with the dollar conversion, the decal will cost only you around $30. These decals are removable (without damage to the wall) but not reusable.
• On the wall, measure and mark the center top line for the decal placement. Starting at the top, carefully peel away decal backing, smoothing out air bubbles as you move down the wall.
• Buy and install a MagLite Mounting Bracket for flashlights (the D-Cell size fits most light cord sockets). Install on top of the vinyl decal.
• Buy a lamp cord and snap it into place onto the flashlight wall bracket. Make sure and use a low-heat, CFL bulb to avoid melting the plastic vinyl in the decal. Plug in and you have light!
Use Command Brand Cord Clips to keep the lamp cord in place without harming the wall.
Click here for more DIY lighting projects that take up zero floor space.
Mom As Style Muse
My mother is my perennial style muse. I just didn’t realize this, of course, until I was well into my 30’s. But looking back at precious photos of her when she was in the blossom of her youth in Korea and during her new life in America, she had an amazing talent for making a simple handbag, coat and gloves look forever elegant and feminine. It is her signature red lipstick that I have also called my own.
Even though my mother had her hands full raising six rambunctious kids in a foreign land, she always managed to look polished when she stepped out, even on a tight family budget.
Vintage Animal Print
Through the years, my mother has given me iconic pieces from her wardrobe that I have always coveted. Her leopard handbag custom made during a trip to South Africa in 1971 (a time when leopard was legal), a tailored fur jacket and a crocodile handbag purchased in 1950s are all in pristine condition.
These treasures are so special to me that I did not want to hide them away in a chest or a closet so they now dress my petite nest. Layering a space with vintage clothing and accessories warms up a small space and begins to tell a story.
Decorate with the things you love and you won’t go wrong.
Moving from One Nutshell to Another
For all of you nutshellers out there, you feel my pain when I tell you it is hard enough to finally fit things nicely in a compact space and even harder to make it all work well again in a new shoebox. I owned a small apartment in beautiful Brooklyn—all 620-square feet of it. Hey, Brooklyn, “how you doin’?” But then it was time to move back into the city.
The new rental apartment has amazing views of the Hudson River and 130 more square feet to play with! I thought decorating was going to be a piece of cake—but I was WRONG!
NYC Bedroom Entrance
The new space has lots of odd angles and really tall ceilings to negotiate. The first thing on the to-do list: remove the door between the bedroom and the living room. By doing this the usable real estate increases by 6 to 7 feet! Most landlords like mine are happy to store the door without any fee… even in NYC.
Porter Removes and Stores Door for Free
In place of a door, I re-purposed brown shantung silk drapes as a divider between the living room and the bedroom. Talk about instant drama and glamour! The silk drapes play off of the gray walls so well and every time I enter the bedroom it feels romantic and special.
Hang a double-tension curtain rod on the bedroom side of the door. Most curtains like mine have a pretty front and a not-so-pretty back and with a double-rod, you can hang the front face of a curtain towards the living room and another panel facing the bedroom. Add an extra panel or two to create a lot of fabric volume for that balloon effect. Install a curtain tieback and placed it a little higher on the wall so it plays up the elegant draping. Voila!
Click here for more posh and portable curtain ideas for small spaces.
Go Gray in a Tiny Living Room
If you live in a nutshell, color is your best friend and secret weapon. In every home I have ever nested in, I am amazed how color can create instant warmth and disguise square-foot-challenged spaces. For my new place I decided on dark gray slate walls for the small living room. I have a large painting by Emily Redd that I adore, and the gray in that painting was the inspiration for the new living room.
Finding the Perfect Cool Shade
I clipped and saved an article from House Beautiful that explained how a dark color on the wall, “disintegrates the edges of a small room.” They were right. The cool colors make the walls recede, adding to the illusion that a space is grander than it really is.
But I quickly learned that there indeed is a gray area when it comes to finding the perfect gray paint shade that wouldn’t change tones in natural or artifcial light. After examining many, many paint chips and sample boards in the apartment, I decided to go with Benjamin Moore in Wrought Iron .
Newly-Painted Gray Living Room
Living Room Before
Buffering the Gray
As I started to paint, I got a little panicked that it might be too dark. To balance the saturated color, I decided on a gray and white stripe companion wall. I also taped off a large white border around the bedroom door to “fool the eye” into thinking there was white molding around the door. The other challenge was that I did all the painting myself. The walls are 14- feet high in some places. I am only 5’2” and the ladder was 8-feet tall. I barely reached the far corners!
I am so happy with the results, and I am amazed how the gray doesn’t turn in tone when the light changes. Gray is the new brown in interior decorating…or at least that’s what I’m telling friends. Pass it on.
Recently I developed over a dozen unique home décor and small-space storage solutions, all road-tested in my own apartment, exclusively for Command Brand. Each space-maximizing project features their newest removable hooks and cord clips. My challenge was to make sure each storage solution fit into a slim space, was budget-friendly, easy-to-install and remove (without damage to walls) and had style. Here is what made the grade:
Skinny Coat Rack
No floor space for a real coat rack? Attach a repositionable coat rack decal to the wall. Add several Command Brand Clear Medium Removable Hooks along the top and sides of the coat rack decal. Now you have a catchall spot for coats, hats and umbrellas without using up one-square- inch of floor real estate.
Oops, Your Lamp Cord is Showing
Hiding your lamp cords is so last season. Turn them into a feature on your wall instead with the help of a new line of Command Clear Cord Clips. Vintage Jello molds make the perfect inexpensive lampshade. Attach metal jello molds to a plug-in lamp cord.
For more product information, check out Twitter @CommandBrand or on Facebook.com/CommandBrand.
Remember that trophy you got in high school for crossing the finish line in record time or for bowling the county league to their first championship?
Everyone has a trophy they hate to throw away but don’t know what to do with. I transformed some inexpensive plastic trophies and painted them turquoise for a more kitschy-pop effect. Now they are whimsical pieces of “faux” sculpture that would look great on a bookshelf or dressing a mantel.
Extend a Vintage Collection with Faux Trophies
Try mixing in newly-painted “statuary” with a collection of vintage beauty pageant trophies. It’s an affordable way to extend the size of a more valuable antique collection. My pageant trophies are from the 40s and 50s, and they are actually hard to come by, so the plastic stand-ins with a pop of color give the sparse collection presence and added personality.
For a “Best in Show” dog trophy collection, think about painting affordable plastic versions in a glossy white. They would look really chic standing as a group in a library or a kid’s room. Look out for trophies of all kinds at flea markets and yard sales. They are everywhere.
Look, There’s More
My love of vintage extends to all the rooms of a petite abode. Click here for more retro decorating projects.