Before: The awkward shelf is home to a stray candle and a box of crackers.
Having remodeled about a dozen homes and produced/styled close to 100 home stories for magazines, I may have met my match recently with a tiny studio apartment in Hell's Kitchen. In the past, when I do a before-and-after makeover on someone's home, it's usually with a limitless budget and a team of stylists and assistants pinning, painting and primping a home from dull to magazine-worthy perfection. So, when I saw my friend's Facebook photos of his new Hell's Kitchen studio apartment, I thought, "how hard could it be do a total makeover in an afternoon with a few hundred dollars and just myself?"A lot harder than I thought — I've gotten used to looking at an ugly mirrored wall and announcing "wouldn't it be great if there was this organic fabric hung from the ceiling using hospital tracking to cover it?" and it would be up by the end of the day from one of the magical elves.
There were a few challenging realities I had to deal with the second I walked into the front door. First, my budget was $500 to buy all the rugs, bedding, dishes, bath towels, and accessories needed to turn it from "prison cell" (his words, not mine) into a home. Second, I only had 4 hours to dedicate to the project, which included the actual home visit, shopping, decorating and the photo shooting. Lastly, I would have to do it all by myself without my team of helpful stylists and assistants and with an apartment renter who was not too skilled in the decorating department.
Generally, whenever I feel overwhelmed in a home makeover project, I find it helpful to tackle something small right away to boost your optimism for the overall project. When I decided to tackle actress Kerry Washington's Los Angeles apartment last year and stared at my 6-page "to do" list, instead of hyperventilating, I organized. I organized a drawer in her bathroom of all her skin care products so I could turn to it now and then to be reassured that piece by piece, this will all come together. Eventually. This studio apartment was no different: I started with an awkward shelf.
The closed up, painted over window had become a resting place for a stray candle and a box of crackers. I actually love awkward, unexpected spaces when it comes to interior design; it adds character to a living space, so I decided this little shelf could be a fun mini-bar. I stacked some JCPenney American Living tumblers that could be glasses for wine or spirited drinks, a few bottles of Rose and Grappa and lit some soy tealight candles. The fern fronds were free from the corner deli and the framed photo was added to give it a little more personality. 10 minute makeover. Done and cheers to that. This shelf was my Kerry Washington makeover — if you know what I mean.
Next week, I'll be sharing a 30 minute bathroom makeover from the same studio apartment.
(Images: Danny Seo)
Danny Seo is a leading lifestyle expert on all things green and eco-friendly. His blog, Daily Danny includes inspiring how-to projects, ideas, tips and contests for living "Simply Green."