10 Brilliant Apartment Renovation Ideas from Real Homes

published Oct 2, 2023
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Whether you’re dealing with a small space, or you’re renting your apartment and facing a long list of not-to-dos, an apartment renovation can be a daunting task. But there’s a host of clever updates you can make in order to help your space feel more like home, no matter how basic it is on the day you move in. From a simple task like adding decorative drawer pulls to a more involved job like adding removable wallpaper, apartment renovations are a great way to breathe new life into your apartment. 

Here, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite apartment renovations for you to get the inspiration you need in order to transform your space. 

Credit: Erin Miles

1. A Light and Airy Lofted Space

Erin Miles and her boyfriend Alex have left no stone unturned in the renovation of their 600-square-foot Hartford, Connecticut apartment. This beautiful lofted space features tons of natural light, which they capitalized on by filling the space with a consistent color palette of white and neutral hues. The couple said no to anything that didn’t flow with the open space and adhered to their small budget by scouring sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for furniture and decor. 

See the full house tour of this beautiful, budget-friendly apartment renovation. 

2. Rental-Friendly Upgrades Create a Lovely, Inviting Home

When fiber artist Filia Herbert and her husband Chris moved to West Los Angeles with their two young sons, they found the real estate market to be out of reach for their budget. So, they chose to rent their 1500-square-foot home, which had great bones to begin with. “We were lucky in this particular house,” Filia says, “as we didn’t have to switch up too many things. It already had freshly painted white walls, a white kitchen, original doors with black hardware, and updated bathrooms.” Simple, rental-friendly changes like washi tape for a decorative element on the kitchen island and removable wallpaper added to the beachy boho vibe the family desired. 

Catch all the simple upgrades that made this space the family’s own in the full house tour.

3. A Cluttered Brooklyn Apartment Gets Some Serious Design Love

Family heirlooms can be a wonderful way to maintain an emotional connection with your home. But too much of a good thing, well, you know what they say. And that’s exactly the struggle the owner of this 900-square-foot Carroll Gardens apartment was facing. So, they hired interior designer Julia Mack to help eliminate the clutter, brighten the space and make it an inviting and eclectic mash-up of heirlooms and open spaces. While it was difficult to part with meaningful items, ultimately, this apartment renovation reflects the owner’s personality while providing a calm, serene environment that feels like home. 

See more details about which heirlooms stayed and which were parted with in the full house tour.

Credit: Melissa Lee

4. A Chelsea Renter Creates Ample Storage for Everyday Items in Her Small Space

When this 350-square-foot rent-controlled apartment was dropped into her hands seemingly overnight, renter Lisa Lu jumped at the chance. There’s only one problem: Lisa has a lot of stuff! So she’s created savvy storage solutions to cut down on clutter. As a fashion major, she owns more clothing than her small NYC-sized closet could handle. So, she uses a chest of drawers as a TV stand, and another as a bedside table. She installed an IKEA BESTA unit high on the wall above her TV, which allows her to store seasonal clothing in an otherwise unused space. And a wall-mounted bar takes the place of a bar cart; an item she truly wanted but simply doesn’t have room for. 

See Lisa’s other clever space-saving measures at the full house tour here

Credit: Sara Amrhein

5.  A Dark Italian Apartment Gets a Light-Filled Renovation

Jewelry designer Sara Amrhein and her husband Luigi Valerio completed a floor-to-ceiling apartment renovation on their 592-square-foot space in Florence, Italy. An outdated kitchen was the biggest job, so the couple gutted it and knocked out a wall to create an open space and take advantage of the abundance of natural light. A neutral color palette of soft green paint creates a sense of cohesion in the main living area. And when Sara moved her shop home during the pandemic, it facilitated the need for a dedicated space to work. This was accomplished by creating a tiny nook in the existing laundry room. 

Find more photos of this beautiful space by viewing the full house tour

6. Clever Use of Space (And an Amazing Paint Color!) Make This West Village Apartment Home

If you’re lucky enough to be able to do an apartment renovation that allows you to change paint colors and hang things, take some cues from Samantha Stein and her fiancé. They successfully transformed their basic, 630-square-foot West Village apartment into a space that’s entirely their own, complete with trendy paint colors and mid-century modern touches throughout. They kept the rental’s white paint in the living room to take advantage of the natural light that streams through their double window. But the den is decidedly moody, with a dark teal paint color on the walls that’s offset by custom shelving and desk, and a light-colored oversized leather sofa. The couple also took on the challenge of hanging a custom shelf in the living room to display some of their favorite items. 

Learn about some of the challenges the couple faced moving during the pandemic in the full house tour.

Credit: Drew Scott

7. Luxe Upgrades Make This Los Angeles Rental a True Stand-Out

One of the toughest aspects of an apartment renovation is all the things you can’t do. Most landlords won’t allow you to do anything that drastically alters the space. But Los Angeles renter Andrew Scott and his roommate didn’t let that stop them from creating a stunning abode out of their 1,500-square-foot apartment. Each room gives a completely different vibe, but the entire space is effortlessly beautiful. Andrew was allowed to paint, which he used to create a dark accent wall (with matching shelves!) in the dining room, and a calming green hue covers the wainscoting in the master bedroom. The kitchen features upgraded drawer pulls, removable wallpaper in a bold lemon print, and black-trimmed windows for a modern look. 

Find these and other fantastic upgrades in the full house tour

Credit: Marion J.

8. A Small But Chic Paris Apartment Gets It Right With a Decidedly French Vibe

When you’re working with only 290 square feet, it can be difficult to nail the exact vibe you’re going for when doing an apartment renovation. That’s why owner Marion looked to lots of different sources for inspiration. From bouncing ideas off her mom to creating Pinterest boards and even binge-watching home renovation shows, Marion didn’t stop until she had pulled off the exact look she was hoping for: an effortlessly chic French-inspired space that’s both fashionable and functional. She added elements like a seashell chandelier, cool black-and-white wallpaper in the entryway and neutral paint color throughout to make the space a backdrop for her favorite decor. 

Learn more about this pretty apartment in the full house tour

9. A Dreary Taiwan Apartment is Now As Cozy As It Gets 

Taiwan residents Mish and Ryan had a vision to create a peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustling, often-rainy city of Taipei. And boy, did they have their work cut out for them when they moved into a drab studio apartment in serious disrepair. Working together to curate every inch of their living space, they pulled off a successful transformation into a quirky yet cozy loft. Custom paint colors and neutral decor were key to the calming atmosphere, as was a well-planned layout that maximizes the space and utilizes clever storage to virtually eliminate clutter. A closet-turned-home office tops off this stunning apartment renovation. 

See more at the full house tour here

10. A Colorful Art Deco Apartment is Funky and Fantastic

Sometimes, an apartment renovation calls for a splash of color. And other times, it calls for color all over, like designer Hannah Drakeford’s 539-square-foot London apartment. Brand new at the time she took ownership, the space was a monochromatic builder beige with no character to speak of. Hannah’s dramatic makeover included tons of bright, bold colors, lots of mid-modern elements and some seriously amazing DIYs (just check out the bathroom for proof!). While the space is eclectic, each color decision is well-informed and serves a specific purpose (like adding light, drawing the eye to a specific focal point or to pull off a cool color pairing). 

There’s plenty more of this colorful apartment to see in the full house tour