I have to admit, this is the area of our apartment I was most nervous about. Though it’s a small space, it’s one that acts as a catch-all for our entire living space. In theory, it’s a dreamy, sun-drenched work space, complete with two desks, an assortment of shelves and tons of DIY materials. In reality, however, it’s become a glorified storage unit. Such is city apartment life! It’s where we store our camping gear, skis, costumes, party decor, seasonal clothes and more. And guess what? Even though we’re giving my apartment a makeover, we still need space for storing all of these odds and ends. So, not only are we going to clean up and get organized, but we’re also going to make sure the style and aesthetic of the room coordinates with the rest of the apartment.
For today’s installment of our nine-part apartment makeover series with Lowe’s, we’ll show you how to declutter your creative space without throwing all of your stuff away. Throughout this series, we’ve worked hard to mix the old with the new, and make sure we’re creating a coordinated interior look that reflects my and my husband’s personalities.
As you’ll see, this room is all about getting organized and keeping things clean, light and airy. Instead of bringing in tons of decor pieces to style it up, think about the things you need to store, and identify pieces that can double as art or decor. Finding clever ways to store everything without it looking like a storage unit was our biggest challenge — it’s all about those hidden cabinets, cubbies and bins! Smaller updates that no one can see (except you and your spouse or roomie) are actually the key to making this space work.
Follow along to see how we transformed a crazy catch-all space into a lovely and productive creative nook.
1. Get inspired and come up with a game plan. As always, the first thing to do is make a plan. I’ve been pinning inspiring creative work spaces ever since Pinterest came out, so it was more about narrowing things down. Head over to my Apartment Makeover Pinterest board to check out what I pinned.
We already had a couple of white desks and shelves to work with, but if you’re starting from scratch, it’s all about evaluating what you can really fit into your space. Lowe’s has tons of white desks to choose from, including some space-saving wall-mounted options — just make sure you measure your space in advance. If you know you’ll need drawers for smaller materials and items, choose a desk with drawers or one that you can fit drawers underneath.
Here are all the things I needed to fit into this one tiny space:
— Two desks, one for me and one for David
— Shelves for sketchbooks, paint, spray paint, fabric, photos, stationery, artwork and more
— Two sets of skis, ski poles, ski boots and snow gear
— A tent, four sleeping bags, four sleeping pads and camping cooking items
— All of our wedding decorations! (Oh, and my wedding dress!)
— Suits, fancy dresses and jackets
— COSTUMES (see our very silly costume-filled Save the Date for the full picture)
— An electric guitar and a ukulele
— Climbing gear
That’s a heck of a lot of stuff for an itty bitty area. Let’s DO this thing.
2. Be smart about space and storage. In my case, our office — so to speak — also has the only other closet in the house. And since our other closet is about half the size of this one, you better believe we’ve got a lot of stuff that we need to hang in this one! We store all of our fancy clothes in here, alongside ski jackets, a wetsuit and a whole bunch of costumes. First thing’s first: Get a curtain! Lowe’s has tons of adjustable curtain rods and curtains to choose from — so it’s easy find one that fits the style of your space.
As you can see in the before photo above, the bottom of the closet was basically a huge pile of tote bags, duffle bags and boots. To get things organized, we added in this pair of white stacking cubbies. If you’ve got a lot of small things that need storing, you can get bins that fit right in.
3. Open shelving is where it’s at. I like to see things. I like to see all the colors, materials and textures that are at my disposal when I’m working on a creative project. I also find that when I have drawers and cabinets, I shove so much stuff in them that they end up a total mess. To make the most of this room, we got serious with the shelving. Next to the desk, I’ve got all my DIY materials and inspiration.
Below the desk, I turned a couple of stacking shoe racks into the perfect under-the-desk shelving! This is where I store all my sketchbooks, as well as a few t-shirts and totes I designed and silkscreened.
4. Bins, baskets and boxes are your besties. Of course, not all shelves are made to be open. Bins, baskets and boxes are essential when it comes to organizing things that are hard to wrangle. I stocked up on a bunch of these beige fabric bins to store electronics, stationery, photos and fabric scraps. If beige isn’t your scene, Lowe’s has brightly colored bins instead. It’s easy to find multiple options that fit your sense of style. We also attached an adhesive hook to hang our headphones. All about keeping that desk as clear as can be :)
5. You’ve been hoarding those Mason jars for a reason. As you can see, I’ve got a ton of pens, pencils, markers, paint brushes and scissors. So, I lined up a dozen mason jars on my windowsill to keep all these tools within arm’s reach without cluttering up my desk. To create a coordinated look, I used four colors of Rust-Oleum Spray Paint to paint them.
6. Keep your desks relatively clutter-free. Alright, take this one with a grain of salt. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important if you want to make the space productive. On my husband David’s desk, he’s got his computer, a couple succulents, a notebook and a whole pile of travel guides for work. (Psst… You should probably check out his travel app, Scout! #shamelesshusbandpromotion.)
My desk is a little less clutter-free, but still gets the job done. It’s large enough to work on pretty large scale projects, even in a little space.
7. Make sure you can see your favorite materials. This one is huge for me. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of hiding everything in cabinets and closed drawers. It’s hard to sit down and get inspired without colors and patterns around to get the creative juices flowing.
8. Comfortable desk chairs go a long way. Up until this makeover, our “desk chairs” had been a rotation of dining chairs and a couple of chairs we got for $10 a piece at a flea market. While I do love a good deal, the chairs were not designed for a desk, didn’t roll and were odd heights. We picked up a pair of white faux leather office chairs and have already spent way more time at our desks than before. The chair was actually the toughest decision to make, mostly because Lowe’s has a TON to choose from and in pretty much every color under the sun.
9. Come up with a system to make sure you purge on the reg. So I know I said we’d do this without throwing too much stuff away, but if you’re working with a space like mine, you do need to purge every once in a while. My system for this is putting things in a tote and putting it in the closet or under my desk. If I don’t access them for six months, then chances are I don’t need to keep those things in my life. It’s time to donate or toss them.
Organized, colorful *and* inspiring.
Finally, a peaceful place to practice what we at Brit + Co preach: daily creativity!
Recognize that red sewing machine? It was on the cover of our domestic tome for the digital generation, Homemakers.
I am so ridiculously excited about our revamped work space. Stay tuned to see the last few rooms of my apartment get totally transformed in partnership with Lowe’s!
This post is a collaboration with Lowe’s.
Styling and Production: Anjelika Temple, Kelly Bryden, Brittany Griffin
Photography: Chris Andre