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.
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.
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.
IS IT A DEN, A STORAGE AREA OR A DOG HOUSE? ALL THREE!
PaintAs 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).
<b> Update your lighting.</b>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.
<b> Coordinate your textiles.</b>throw pillows to add to the mix, as well as this cozy throw from Lowe’s.
<b> Patterned rugs FTW.</b>wooly graphic black and white rug? I love it! And Turkey does too.
<b> Be smart about storage.</b>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.
<b> Add shelving.</b>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 ;)
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.
OUTDOOR SPACE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HANG OUT IN
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.
— wood cut to desired size
— sanding block
— paint brushes
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.
<b> Turn barstools and a tray into a café for two.</b>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.
<b> Add large potted plants.</b>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.
<b> Choose an unusual doormat.</b>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.
It can be intimidating to step out on your own and build a business from the ground up. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're talking with Selfmade alum and solopreneur Colette Lawrence, the faith-based motivator and relationship builder behind The M.E.E. Movement, about ways in which women in business can find success.
B + C: How did you know M.E.E. Movement was your business to start?
The M.E.E Movement represents motivation, empowerment, and encouragement for women. It is what represents me. I did not know at first that it was my business to start, but then the thought of monetizing what I loved came to me. It scared me, however. I registered the business in July 2020 and have been slowly building my wings since.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
Thinking through and researching what the requirements are to start my business, and then asking questions of people who are in the business. Not all advice worked; however, it helped me to figure out what I needed to do and not to do.
B + C: Did you always know life coaching would be your entrepreneurial path?
(Smiles) No, I did not. I 'stumbled" on it. I knew that people were always coming to me for advice and I found that I loved having conversations with them, especially with women, young and old.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
My most valuable takeaway was the first day of training: Get out of your own way. There were a lot of great moments and important takeaways from every presenter. However, getting out of my own way, pushing past doubts, was for me my most valuable takeaway. Doing something that I had never done before took courage. If I do not focus on what is happening with me mentally then I cannot deliver to my clients successfully.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Get out of your head. You have something to offer. You have what you need to succeed so go ahead and do it.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by listening to music and listening to motivational speakers, and sometimes someone will just reach out and talk about the impact that I made in their life. That adds the extra juice or sauce I need to pummel through the day.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip?
Keep a diary and journal. It's the best way for me to keep organized and it also provides a source motivation as I record not only my "losses" but my wins as well.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Shirley Toliver – She motivates and empowers and makes me always want to show up.
B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start or grow your business?
The scholarship was a blessing in that all the areas that were covered offered valuable information that I needed, from social media to HR. As a new business owner, I needed to know this to increase my own personal awareness in what it takes to run a successful business. The candidness of the presenters made it easy to see myself in their shoes and helped me to realize that I can also get there.
Want to feel motivated to take the next step for your business? Let Office Depot OfficeMax give you the confidence you need with a suite of business services & solutions to help you put your best foot forward. Make a good first impression with business cards & build the business pitch of your dreams with custom presentations. With Office Depot OfficeMax you'll find the tools to reach new customers with confidence.
Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.