2 Ways for City Dwellers to Make More Out of Awkward Spaces
Categories: DIY

2 Ways for City Dwellers to Make More Out of Awkward Spaces

Live in a city apartment? Chances are, you’ve got a few spaces that you don’t quite know what to do with. They’re definitely not closets, and they seem like rooms… but still, something’s off. We all have them, and I’m excited to share how I transformed two of mine into cozy, colorful spaces for hanging out.

Just two months ago, we kicked off a brand new series in partnership with Lowe’s that centers around an apartment makeover. *MY* apartment makeover, to be exact. Now we’re in the home stretch — the final countdown — and I couldn’t be more excited about the results thus far. (P.S. You can check out my inspo process by following my Pinterest board.) Today, we’ll tackle the den and the “porch.” I’ll refer to it as a porch throughout this post, but let’s be real — it’s a glorified platform that happens to be attached to my apartment. These final two pieces of the puzzle show how just a few easy steps and coordinated style notes can truly transform even the smallest of spaces.

If you’ve been following the series, than you know that my husband David and I have a thing for all things blue, green and teal, and love finding ways to bring the outdoors in. Five years ago, we decided to leave New York for San Francisco, specifically in search of a city that celebrates the natural beauty that surrounds it. So, when we found an apartment with a porch that opens onto a small den that leads into the kitchen, we were SOLD. Or whatever the equivalent of “sold” is in renter’s terms ;)  The thing is, the porch door opens into the apartment, making it difficult to figure out what to do with this little amount of space.

Follow along to see how a few small style moves totally transformed these two tiny spaces.

IS IT A DEN, A STORAGE AREA OR A DOG HOUSE? ALL THREE!

First thing’s first: You need to define your space, and decide what you want to make out of it. If it needs to be a space for storage, make it that way. If you love the idea of having a cozy TV-less nook that’s separate from the living room, do that. If you get a dog, you’re going to need a place for his stuff as well. For us, we wanted all three of those things in one — and we wanted to be able to leave the door open on nice days. Oh, and this room is basically an extension of the kitchen, so that needed to be taken into account as well. We took the color of the dining chairs and found the closest paint shade possible for the walls, then riffed off of that color to bring the rest of the room together in a coordinated way.

1. Paint the wall. As you can see in the before and after shot above, the move that packs the biggest punch is painting those beige walls. We used a deep teal from Lowe’s HGTV HOME™ by Sherwin-Williams paint collection (specifically GS 20 Intense Teal SW 6943).

2. Update your lighting. I’ve always hated the light that this room came with — in fact, I think it made me want to be in the room less because I didn’t love the vibe. On our first inspo trip to Lowe’s, we came across an awesome collection of vintage-inspired lighting by allen + roth, including this mini pendant light. The hammered quality on the glass makes the light these give off slightly dappled, which adds warmth to the room.

If you can’t update the lighting that’s hard-wired into your apartment, consider adding string lights. A strand or two of these babies is an easy to warm up the vibe of a room without having to contact an electrician.

3. Choose larger statement pieces as decor. It may seem counter intuitive, but large pieces of art or decor can actually make a small room or space feel larger. Behind the couch, we hung up a tapestry I found in India more than 10 years ago. It actually hung in my college bedroom senior year, and I rediscovered it at my parents’ house this past Christmas. I knew it would go perfectly with the color palette of our apartment. We also found this pair of vintage wooden skis at Alameda flea market. They’ve been leaning against the wall of this room for about three years — now they’re finally on the wall! Gotta love mixing the old with the new.

4. Coordinate your textiles. Since the centerpiece of this room is a GIANT textile, it’s important to coordinate all your pieces. We found a mix of blue, green and white throw pillows to add to the mix, as well as this cozy throw from Lowe’s.

5. Patterned rugs FTW. It’s hard to get away with a bold graphic pattern in a large room, but it does a great job of anchoring the space in a small room. Plus, how awesome is the pattern on this wooly graphic black and white rug? I love it! And Turkey does too.

6. Be smart about storage. Because of the door in the middle of the room and heater on the left side (you can see it peeking out in the photo above), we’re somewhat limited in the storage department. A dresser is a great way to organize more than just clothes — this one houses table linens, paper plates and napkins, extra bike parts and odds and ends that belong to our pup, Turkey. We’ve also designated a zone on the top of the dresser for the dog-related things we need to access on the daily.

7. Add shelving. If the dresser doesn’t quite house everything, add a wall-mounted shelf. It’s a great addition to a cozy corner!

8. Bring the outdoors in. If you’ve got a door you can open, open it and literally bring the outdoors in. Since this door opens into the room, we chose to use a lightweight bench as our coffee table. It’s super easy to move when we want to open the door, which conveniently brings us to the outdoor portion of this home transformation ;)

OUTDOOR SPACE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HANG OUT IN

So, you signed a lease for an apartment that boasts outdoor space. And guess what? That sun-drenched porch would be better described as a landing or a glorified balcony. Well, fear not — we’re going to show you a few simple ways to breathe life into what little outdoor space you have.

It’s a little unfair that the before shot was taken on an overcast day and the after shot on a sunny one, but hey — weather’s weather, and this updated porch is a whole lot brighter! When it comes to outdoor space, it’s tough to update when you’re a renter because you can’t refinish the wood or add anything permanent. So, this is all about adding pops of color and styling your little heart out.

1. Make brightly-colored planter boxes. You need to figure out how exactly you’re going to add color to your space. Because I’m a renter and our porch was built with unfinished wood, painting the actual porch was not a possibility. We had to figure out how to add pops of color without making any permanent changes. Planter boxes to the rescue! We created boxes that would work atop a porch railing, hanging off the edge of the balcony or in a window. Check out the video below to see how it’s done.

Materials:

wood cut to desired size

— sanding block

— paint brushes

— paint

— drill

— screwdriver

— flowers

soil

Instructions:

1. Figure out what size window boxes you have space for. Get each piece cut to size at Lowe’s. You’ll need four long rectangles and two small squares for each box.

2. Sand all pieces of wood.

3. Grab three long rectangles of wood and drill holes that are a ½ inch each from all four corners of the wood. That’s four holes per piece. When drilling, place a buffer piece of wood underneath, so you don’t damage your work surface.

4. Use a drill or screwdriver and screws to attach the long pieces of wood to the short, thick end pieces. Leave a gap at the top of the box so you can slide the base piece in.

5. Once you’ve screwed in the wood to make the perimeter of the box, slide in the bottom piece and screw down into the thick ends of the box.

6. Drill four holes in the base piece of wood for draining.

7. Paint with your favorite colors using outdoor paint.

For paint, we used a few colors from Lowe’s HGTV HOME™ by Sherwin-Williams collection: FF 07 Tame Teal SW 6757; FF 16 Jay Blue; GS 20 Intense Teal SW 6943; and FF 09 Amaryllis SW 6591.

We love how they look sitting right on top of the railing, especially against that bright blue sky.

You can also use these plant hooks to hang your planter boxes off a railing, window or balcony.

2. Turn barstools and a tray into a café for two. That’s right: We’re going to turn this little landing into a picturesque perch for a morning cup of tea, afternoon Arnold Palmer or early evening cocktail. Because the space is so small and narrow, actual chairs and tables won’t do the trick. We used three bar stools — two small wooden ones at a slightly lower height than the bright yellow metal one in the middle.

Top the yellow stool with a tray, and boom — a café table is born. A sweet little breakfast scene, coming soon to an Instagram near you.

3. Add large potted plants. Considering we have tons of leafy potted plants in every room, of course we’ve got some grade-A leafy lovelies on the porch. We found these super lightweight large resin planters at Lowe’s, and used Rust-Oleum spray paint to paint them colors that coordinate with the space. It’s no secret that rain has not been showing up around these parts. If you’re a California dweller, it’s important to remember to water your plants — even the outdoor ones. We stocked up on a couple of old fashioned watering cans, available in silver, red and green.

We also recommend considering cacti and succulents instead of water-hungry plants. They look just as lovely and happen to be drought-friendly.

4. Choose an unusual doormat. Is it weird to swoon over a doormat? Yes. The answer is yes — but it’s okay. I accept my truth. I love this allen + roth semicircle doormat. Its shape makes me think of sunshine and rainbows, and who doesn’t love those things? It’s a perfect accent for a sunny outdoor space.

And there you have it: two rooms totally transformed with just a few small but impactful changes. Three cheers for coordinating color palettes, patterned textiles and sunny afternoons.

This post is a collaboration with Lowe’s.

Styling + DIY Production: Anjelika Temple, Kelly Bryden, Brittany Griffin

Photography: Chris Andre