Today's house tour is of special note because it is of a small space belonging to our friends and neighbors, Michael and Sara, a couple whose layout and limitations are similar to our own apartment just next door. We've watched as our friends have invested countless hours over the years putting together a home overflowing with personality, yet curated within the constraints of a very limited budget (much of their home is furnished with hand-me-downs and garage sale finds). Their cozy 1917-built apartment is a shining example of "making do with what you have", valuing the important things in life and sharing (and organizing) a small space with the ones you love…
My/Our style: Not sure if we have a particular “style.” Bohemian Salvage…maybe?
Inspiration: We wanted to create a space that was inviting and usable…a place that we wanted to come home to. A little creativity, a lot of organizing and the use of color were important factors in doing so.
Favorite Element: Michael loves the outdoor garden and I love the bedroom. Living in such a small space with two people and two dogs can get a little overwhelming and finding your own personal space can be a real challenge. So, Michael likes to sit outside in the garden with his coffee and newspaper in the mornings and spends his time tending to his plants, while I like to read books and watch movies in bed. Also, there is a door that separates our bedroom from our living room…we find that to be our most useful element in the apartment!
Biggest Challenge: The amount of space and the layout was an obstacle, and that is what we focused on overcoming. But our biggest challenge was our budget!
Biggest Embarrassment: Our bathroom! It is the one room we haven’t touched yet. It has this terrible floral pattern, linoleum floor that is peeling at the corners, the walls are two different color whites that have turned a yellow tint over the decades, and the cabinets have been painted over so many times that when it peels away you can see all the multiple colors….Yikes!
Proudest DIY: We are proud of every DIY project we have done! From sanding, primer, and painting our furniture, to building the shelving in our walk-in closet, to laying the faux-wood kitchen floor by hand, every project has given us a sense of creativity while being thrifty!
Biggest Indulgence: Framing artwork and gardening supplies.
Best advice: Make the best with what you’ve got! We realize that it is not ideal to be living in a junior one-bedroom (about 550 sq. ft.) apartment with two dogs! But we are saving money by doing so. We have crammed our lives together and everything we own into this tiny box and yet we have made it work! We love our apartment and what we have been able to get out of this experience. We have made the best with what we had and we realize that it is not where/how you live your life, but who you are living your life with that really counts.
Dream source: A Parisian flea market or Anthropologie (for the less authentic version).
Appliances: Stove and refrigerator supplied by landlord. The rack above the stove really came in handy when storing our pots and pans. We collect postcards and magnets from everyplace we visit and cover our refrigerator with them. We turned our utility box in the kitchen into a magnetic spice rack/holder. We have a toaster oven (red), which was the inspiration for painting the cabinets in the kitchen red. We are thinking about tossing out our microwave…We have friends that don’t own microwaves and it had never occurred to us that you can live life just as normal without them and save yourself a little radiation poisoning! We are thinking it over.
Tech Hardware: TVs (Samsung and Olevia- which we bought off of newegg.com), PS3, Sony DVD player, a Stanton vinyl record player, and a very old stereo with surround sound speakers (hidden in two corners of our living room) Michael is really into his “surround sound.” He plays his video games in surround sound. I have to admit that they do come in handy even though they are ancient. Watching “Iron Man” on BluRay in surround sound is pretty cool and we love listening to old records while cooking dinner. When the sound comes through the old speakers it really just adds to the old sound quality of a vinyl.
Furniture: The bedroom was originally a dinning room and our linen cabinet/dresser was originally a china cabinet/hutch. We quickly decided that this room would have to serve as our bedroom. When designing, we wanted the bedroom to accomplish two things: We wanted it to have a calming feel and to have a touch of nature in the room. Through the windows you can see some of the plants in our garden and at sundown the shadows of the palms splash against the building next to us and creates a pretty cool design. We painted the bedroom a calming green color (eco friend Aura paint from Jills Paint Store in Atwater) and incorporated soft gold tones, ivory whites, with chocolate brown accents. The great thing about designing on such a small budget…it forces you to make use of everything you own!
The two gold frames (matted in pink) hold my grandmother’s artwork. They were hanging in my bedroom as a baby. We had to incorporate them in one room or another and we felt they fit on the bedroom wall the best. As does the other framed pieces in the bedroom, also holding my grandmother’s art. I bought the lamp next to our bed when I was a teenager. It was the first purchase I ever made for my own room. (I thought I was so grown-up buying a lamp!) The file cabinet is from Ikea and holds our remote controls, computer wires and electronic parts. We found the bookcase (next to the bed) on the side of the street (FREE!). The pendant lamp was purchased from Pier 1. (It was a $99 lamp on sale for $15! Score!) We painted the radiator to match our built-in armoire and the file cabinet.
Michael brought plants in to help give a more “nature” feel to the room. We found a nature themed paper and glued it to the inside of our linen cabinet. The built-in armoire/cabinet holds all of our linens and its dresser holds our DVDs, crafts and my beauty supplies. The dresser (holding the TV) was bought from the prior tenant ($15) and we primed and painted to match the bed frame drawers, the wicker chest was bought at a yard sale ($5) and holds all of our winter blankets. Our bed frame was purchased at IKEA ($99) and we primed and painted to match the dresser. We decided to store all of Michael’s surfboards on top the armoire because the closets weren’t big enough.
Living Room: We bought our couch and dresser from a neighbor ($300 each). Our antique armoire (AKA-“art cabinet”) was purchased of Craigslist ($250) and it stores all my artwork, supplies, and art that we are saving up to get framed. The green bench w/ cabinet was bought from the prior tenant ($20). It stores our vinyl record player and hides our very old stereo system. We sanded, primed and painted it with a crackle paint. We bought the three teal chairs from a neighbor ($25 for all 3) and we shined them up with a little leather cleaner. The orange tables were purchased at a Pottery Barn ($99). The wicker lounge cushion we bought at a Goodwill ($10). I had hooks (with my initials on them) hanging next to the front door and months after Michael moved in I bought him hooks (with his initials) to hang on the other side of the door. We found two watercolors at a yard sale ($7 each).
Our coffee table was found on the street corner (FREE!) and is used as our kitchen table. Lamps are from IKEA. The rug is from Pottery Barn ($300). The huge piece of art hanging is by my grandmother, as well as a couple other pieces in the living room. The owl print is by a local artist named David Weidman. (We love his work!) We bought a photograph at our friend, Tony Tornay’s art exhibition. We display our guitars and bongo drum in the corner of the living room…well, because there was nowhere else to put them! (The little guitar is a mini Martin Goya that my parents bought my brother when he was young and I somehow ended up with it.) The metronome was bought off Ebay. Our walk-in closet used to have two bars to hang clothes on. You would have to hang your seasonal clothes on the front rack and then squeeze through your clothes (like “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” style) to get to the back rack of off- season clothes. It wasn’t practical so we built an entirely new, organized shelving unit (from Home Depot). The hooks in the closet for hanging purses on where purchased from Anthropologie.
Lighting: Lamp above bed- Pier 1. Lamps in living room- IKEA. Lamp in bathroom- IKEA.
Paint: Aura paint (eco-friendly) and all purchased from Jill’s Paint Store in Atwater.
Flooring: Original wood floors in bedroom and living room, faux-wood flooring in kitchen, linoleum in bathroom.
Rugs and Carpets: Rug in living room from Pottery Barn.
Window Treatments: Curtains in Bedroom Pier1, curtains in living room IKEA and Pottery Barn.
Beds: IKEA bed frame. Bedding- Target, sheets (Organic Bamboo Cotton)- Tuesday Mornings.
Artwork: Most of the artwork throughout the entire apartment is my grandmother, Rita Neblett’s. The three piece series in the living room I painted. One piece was done by a friend, Tony Tornay. Two pieces were done by a local artist, David Weidman, and a ton more in our art cabinet waiting to be framed!
Other: Plants- from Sunset Nursery and the Silver Lake Farmers Market and from seeds.
Pots- from yard sales, friends and family.
(Thanks, Sara and Michael…and Argyle and Redding!)
We've had amazing response to our Apartment Therapy House Tour Submission Form. While we will work with homeowners of our favorite homes to feature full tours, we will also share the best as House Calls — short, quick tours of readers' homes. Submit your home here.