Before and After: A Dingy 460-Square-Foot Studio Was Completely Transformed into a Chic, Efficient One-Bedroom

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Name: Josua Kärnbo
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Type of home: Condo
Size: 463 square feet + 65-square-foot balcony
Years lived in: 2 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I’m a construction engineer, and about two years ago I was able to purchase my first own condo (with the help of private loans from family). Due to monetary restrictions but also because I really enjoy architecture and interior design, my parents and I knew from the start that it was going to be a complete DIY overhaul of the whole place from top to bottom wherever possible. Aside from some required professionally executed electrical work, this is also exactly how things turned out.

It’d be near impossible to list exactly everything we did, but this is a condensed version of sorts: New floors, walls and ceilings, new dividing walls for layout and rooms, entirely new kitchen, new technology, cables, internet, lighting, appliances, storage, furniture, equipment. There’s also a new hallway and a simple overhaul in the bathroom (but very effective considering how cheap it was). All in all we completely transformed the apartment from top to bottom in literally every area imaginable. It was originally a 463-square-foot studio, which now is converted into a well-distributed and efficient one-bedroom as suitable for one person as for a couple. We also did all this for only around $16k in total.

I’ve always had a knack for engineering and math so from an early age I just always figured I’d become an engineer or similar and that’s the way my life went with studies and school. I have, however, always had a creative side as well with an interest in fashion, architecture, interior design, photography, graphic work, etc., so my plan was always to be able to do something creative on the side of my “real” job. Actually working in the engineering industry, as well as doing this apartment of my own, made me realize just how much I enjoy and crave being able to create and design stuff of my own rather than manage the work of others, so I’m actually taking a year long break from work to study art and craftsmanship to further develop this side of myself.

As for the apartment itself, I really enjoy vintage style, both in architecture and clothing, especially from around the ’60s to ’80s, so I always knew that I didn’t want a generic white modern minimalistic living space, but rather something more colorful and inviting.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Efficient, inviting, colorful, unique, DIY

What is your favorite room and why? Well it’s a kind of small apartment, so since the “office,” “living room,” and kitchen/dining area is all just one big room I’d have to say that is my favorite. For one, just figuring out the initial floor plan took a lot of work and I probably went through a good 20+ variations before I found what really worked, but with how well I think it turned out it was definitely worth it. But aside from that it feels segmented and separated in a very nice way despite the lack of dividing walls, and the overall flow and distribution of each area just “makes sense.”

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I think that was a simple shelf I bought for my bathroom. Unlike the rest of the apartment, doing a complete overhaul in the bathroom would’ve been nearly as much as the rest of the apartment combined, so we instead opted for a simpler route working with what was already in place and introducing new colors, materials, and accessories to lift the overall feeling. There was originally a very ugly mirror cabinet over the toilet where the shelf now is, so while we originally just wanted to get rid of that, we realized at a later point that the space felt kind of empty without anything there. So a more modern-looking open shelf was a good way to both provide some extra storage as well as balance out the visual interest of the room.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t be afraid to fail, just go for it and if you’re doing things yourself, worst case you just start over and try again. Learning some kind of 3D software to help visualize the whole project is also immensely useful, whether that is something simple and specific like IKEA’s 3D kitchen tool, something intermediate like for the whole apartment, or something more advanced like Sketchup for actual renders and color/material decisions.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.