Apartment Stories: Apartment With an Energy Crisis

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Last evening I visited Ellen and her boyfriend, Dan, at her home on the edge of Chelsea. Ellen works in publishing and has lived in her apartment for a year and a half.

Her apartment is a very straight ahead modern apartment in a tall building that was probably built in the last twenty years. It is a one bedroom with an open bar style kitchen to your left as you enter, followed by the living room and the bedroom through a door on the right. The views are terrific – south facing – with lots of glass from floor to ceiling.

The reason I had been called was because despite that fact that Ellen had been there a year and a half, absolutely nothing had happened in most of the apartment and the living room was the worst…

She had a couch facing a television with a number of wood veneer bookcases against the wall and a cat box in the corner. There was no rug, no coffee table, and no other chairs. She had never finished moving in.

“My apartment has no energy.” She said, when I asked her what the problem was, “It just makes me feel drained when I come home.”

When I asked her how she would like it to be, she said, “I just want it to have some pizzazz, you know, some life.” I couldn’t agree more, and was glad that she felt strongly enough to do something about it.

The problems were clear:

1. her living room was incomplete
2. all of her furniture was shoved up against the wall
3. the lighting was poor
4. there was no texture in the room
5. there was no color in the room – all was brown and off white

Here was the solution:

1. Don’t build a movie theater in your living room!
– Most living rooms have televisions in them, which is fine, but they shouldn’t look like movie theaters with all the furniture facing the television screen. Living rooms are social centers. They should include at least three seating positions around a coffee table and the television should sit outside of this circle. In this case, Ellen only had a couch, so I recommended a small armchair, ottoman and coffee table.

2. Get off the wall!
– When furniture is pushed up against the wall if forms a corridor effect down the middle of a room, where energy can flow too quickly, while it stagnates among furniture along the wall. To balance the energy in your space, pull chairs and tables off of the walls so that you can imagine the energy that is now able to flow around your furniture and along your walls. The new chair, ottoman and coffee table would face the couch and float off the wall in this instance.

3. Pay attention to lighting!
– Lighting is perhaps the single most important element in terms of adding drama and pizzazz, and my basic rule of thumb is

a. have at least three points of light in each room
b. have as many different kinds as you can: floorlamp, table lamp, uplight…
c. don’t use overhead light
d. use indirect, low lights – never see a light bulb!

Ellen simply needed more light. A table lamp, reading lamp, task light and two uplights were recommended.

4. More texture, always!
– In our mineral heavy, cement and plaster apartments, it is extremely important to add a heavy dose of organic material to balance the hardness and dryness of the shell. Ellen had no rug, curtains or other chairs, so these were recommended. Every room should at least have a nice, soft rug, fabric for upholstery, and curtains. These were all recommended here.

5. Add color in dashes, like salt to a dish.
– With no color in the living room, it had the blahs. Adding it should come sparingly, however. Good, rich palette’s of color are 80% neutral – as in off whites, browns and earth tones – and 20% strong color – as in reds, blues, yellows, or black.

I always recommend painting a room a neutral color and then putting splashes of color in via a rug, couch, chair, table lamp or sometimes through painting one wall with color. Remember, color is like a seasoning, a little will go a long way. A rich red rug, bright table lamp and richer fabric on the new chair and ottoman were recommended.

When I left Ellen and her boyfriend, I could sense that they were relieved and a little overwhelmed. Thinking about all of these things in this way for the first time is tiring. Luckily, they would have time to think everything over and I would type up my prescription in detail to send them within the week.

Learning something new always takes energy, but this is the sort of lesson that gives back a great deal of energy and which you can use for the rest of your life. By February, Ellen’s apartment would look and feel brand new and it would be adding real pizzazz to her own step. (Photo inside Perry Street Towers) MGR