Before and After: A Paint-Fueled Redo Gives This Beige Box Apartment Some Much-Needed Charm
As a serial renovator, I’ve always worked with old houses; most have been a hundred years old or more, and the newest probably was still about 90 years old. So when I launched a hospitality venture with my best friend, in which we converted apartments to furnished medium-term rentals (like this studio inspired by an eclectic taxidermy shop), confronting my first 1970s build was a new challenge.
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The property my friend Mike and I bought was a hybrid of three-story Victorian house that had been turned into studio apartments, and a low-slung 1970s addition that looked from the outside like a vintage motel with exterior entrances. That was the extent of the charm of these apartments, which are about 450 square feet — perfectly serviceable, but very boring spaces. Beige walls, brown stick-on kitchen tile, boob lights, brown builder basic cabinets, and commercial-grade blue carpet added up to a whole lot of blah.
Where to start? In my eyes, you can never go wrong with Paris as inspiration. Mike and I had an amazing antique mirror that my mom, an inveterate thrift shopper, found on one of her treasure hunts. It reminded me of cool mirrors I’ve seen at restaurants in Paris, so it was a short hop to landing on one of my favorite of those restaurants. Le Bon Georges is a bistro that looks like a movie set of the quintessential French eatery, and I wanted to channel that Parisian dream in this beige box. It felt like I’d struck gold, then, when I stumbled on a classic blue French cafe chair at my favorite flea market.
The navy blue and gold from the colors of the chair led us to a palette that included Benjamin Moore’s Mysterious (a deep gray-blue) and Vellum (a buttery yellow). Taking the dark and moody blue onto the cabinets and three walls of the kitchen in a monochromatic approach gave the small space a roomier feel. We continued the blue onto the baseboard and trim through the living room and bedroom for a little hit of drama.
Black and white tile on the kitchen floor played on classic French restaurant vibes; thrifted gold-framed art, a bistro table, and antiqued mirrored tile backsplash rounded out the nod to dinner in Paris. We mix-and-matched vintage and Goodwill finds with Novogratz and Target furniture, a formula I’ve followed in several more apartments since.
Everything was coming together until the gold velvet sofa arrived. While it was super cute, it turned out to be a pretty close color match to the wall paint we chose. Against the gold wall, it lost all of its luster. The sofa needed a backdrop that would help it stand out, and it was too late to switch gears to wallpaper.
Instead of drastically changing course, we used the paint already on hand to create a feature wall: a simple geometric pattern of dark blue on the gold. Echoing the pattern on some throw pillows (the best money you can spend when you’re trying to add a touch of whimsy in a room, I think!) made it look less like a happy accident and more like the plan all along!
We swapped the carpet for rental-friendly, warm golden-brown LVP, and warmed up the space even more with gold in the fringed curtains. By the time we added cute new light fixtures, a jaunty striped shower curtain, and some greenery, not a trace of the old beige box remained — and this apartment is all the better for it.
Inspired? Submit your own project here.