Before and After: After a Minimalism-Inspired Makeover, a Dark, Dated Living Room Is Light and Bright

published Mar 12, 2019
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(Image credit: Paige Hansen)

When Paige Hansen was hunting for a home to buy, she had wanted a south-facing apartment, on a high enough floor where she could get lots of light. “[B]ut the apartment I fell in love with (and that was in my price-range) was on the second floor, facing north and directly into a courtyard with trees that provide shade. The kitchen and bathroom had been updated in the past 10 years and in New York City; I knew that wasn’t something to pass over quickly. Despite the dark decor and antique furnishings (see before photos!), I saw the potential for a light-filled apartment,” she explained.

A \during\ photo showing Paige’s apartment before the makeover. (Image credit: Paige Hansen)

Paige did a lot of work to update the small space. “When I saw the apartment for the first time, I immediately saw the potential (updated bathroom and kitchen) but was concerned about the lack of natural light in the north-facing, low-floor unit,” she reveals. “To overcome this, I replaced the blinds, ripped out a built-in bookshelf, and painted the walls a bright, fresh white to make it feel clean, larger, and lighter. I replaced the fixtures, installed dimmers to the track lighting that came with the unit, and added lamps so I could create the right mood, whether I’m entertaining, or hanging out by myself reading, cooking, working.”

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

“Not even three years later, it’s hard to imagine the apartment as it was before I moved in, and I’m glad for that,” she continues. “I’m not a design expert, and my decision-making around what to purchase can sometimes be described as ‘analysis to paralysis’ but I learned to navigate an apartment transformation on a small budget and low lift execution to fit in with my busy life.”

Paige says that along with a small budget, she also tackled her apartment makeover with no professional design help, “other than reading a ton of Apartment Therapy, Domino, Instagram inspo, etc. to update my apartment.”

(Image credit: Paige Hansen)

One of the biggest influences on the design was actually Paige’s growing interest in living more minimally, and organization really played a huge part in creating the small apartment’s nearly unrecognizable makeover. “Last year, one of my resolutions was to live life more minimally—from my surroundings to my daily habits.” Paige shares her advice and tips on organizing below:

During photo (Image credit: Paige Hansen)

What are your biggest “don’ts” of organizing/decluttering?

Do not feel overwhelmed by the process, enjoy it, and don’t get too attached to things. I love the quote, “The best things in life aren’t things,” and I use that mantra when organizing and decluttering. It’s amazing how little you actually need, so my advice is to not feel too attached to things, especially if you want to live a more minimalistic life.

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

Your biggest “Dos”?

Do make the time to really organize and clear out your space; it is SO worth it. It’s great to do a purge once a year, as I used to do, but I’ve learned it is even better to get to a place where you’re just maintaining the level of organization you’ve achieved. I take a bag to the Goodwill on average once a month and I’m a huge fan of thredUP for getting rid of higher-end clothing items. Best advice: Work it into your monthly schedule and stick to it.

(Image credit: Paige Hansen)

What is the most common misconception/what do most people get wrong when it comes to getting organized?

Organization means something different to everyone. For me, it is about knowing what I have and where it is, and not feeling overwhelmed by comparing my level of organization to someone else’s. I’m not a labeler or alphabetical organizer. Simplicity and functionality is my organizational style–everything should have a place, colors arranged together look beautiful to me, etc. but I am not crazy about it.

During photo (Image credit: Paige Hansen)

What about for staying organized?

Make it part of your routine. One of my indulgences is a monthly housekeeper to do a deep clean of my kitchen and bathroom. During that time, I remind myself to look into my closets, my cabinets, etc. and ask myself, “Is there anything I can do without?” The frequency with which I organize makes the task nearly effortless, so it is never something I dread.

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

What is a small task or two that someone can do every day to stay organized?

Create a space for the things you use most frequently so you don’t create a mess. For me, I love being able to roll out my yoga mat in the morning and before bed to stretch, breathe, and meditate. I created an organized, central space for my mat and my meditation pillow, Palo Santo sticks, etc. so that I’m not digging around looking for them each day. It’s allowed me to create a meaningful habit and keep things organized. Create the life you want by putting things that matter at the forefront.

Thank you Paige! See all of her home tour.