Before and After: A Tiny Blah Beige Studio Goes Tropic-Glam for $1500
Sometimes living in a rental can make you feel a little trapped when it comes to decor—when you don’t own the place, there are limits on how far you can go in changing it. But there are plenty of ways to get creative. Take a cue from Mary Kenny (@verymaryk), who knew she didn’t want to be stuck with the blah beige-on-beige look in her new studio. “I was looking for an apartment where I could afford to live alone. I found this little gem for under $1100 in Los Angeles,” Mary says. “Small spaces don’t deter me—I used to travel/live/work in an RV!—but that yellow ceramic tile flooring… yuck! I knew as long as there was beautiful, natural light in the space that I could transform the rest.” Mary was so confident in her ability to transform this sad space that, she says, “I sent the rental application the moment I got back in my car after the showing. The minute I got the keys I took measurements and went to Lowe’s for flooring and paint!”
Coming from a two-bedroom apartment full of “regular” sized furniture, Mary also knew she wanted to sell all the old stuff and buy new small-space-friendly furniture that didn’t feel cheap or completely cookie cutter. High on her priority list, too, was covering that yellowy beige tile with something budget-friendly and renter-friendly.
Scouring images on the web, Mary knew that she loved the look of dark wood floors, natural textures, animal print, and designer Justina Blakeney’s leafy Jungalow style. Before she started decorating, Mary painted the walls and installed vinyl vinyl peel-and-stick flooring that gives her the look of dark wood. “Before this, I had never installed peel and stick flooring—I was pretty good at it, but it was physically demanding and required a lot of patience,” Mary says. “I highly recommend knee pads or a gardening mat.” On the wall around the closet, she hung peel-and-stick paper with a leafy jungle cat pattern.
The TV stand was a custom creation made by ODAATCustoms on Etsy. Mary used a desktop she’d ripped out of the kitchen as the top, and ODAATCustoms added welded legs so that the stand could sit safely over the radiator.
Mary knew she wanted a green velvet sofa as the centerpiece of her studio, but couldn’t stomach paying $1200 for her top pick—even after making back $1250 from her sold furniture, it was too much. After shopping around, though, she found a dupe on Wayfair for just $400. Mary layered rugs—including a tiger one by her favorite designer, Justina Blakeney—for coziness, then added cheeky disco balls to the ceiling for a little bit of whimsy.
On the sleeping side of her studio, Mary had fun with paint. She used a peachy pink on the door (Valspar’s Pale Satin Peach) and painted an oversized triangle in the corner by her bed with a deep green (Valspar’s Wilderness). “I love the triangle of green behind my bed!” Mary says. “I framed it with gold project tape from Michaels. It was such a simple and inexpensive change but it makes the bedroom area feel separate from the living room area.” Crucial for studio living! Mary also DIYed her fringed pendant light, using a tutorial she found on Youtube. Total cost for the whole studio was just $1500—an impressive number, considering that Mary covered every surface of the space and bought all new furniture, too.
“I’ve never been a person who could live with white walls, but I’ve always been a renter… and a great tenant,” Mary says. “I am willing to make investments in a space that will bring me joy, and I don’t plan to move anytime soon!”
And, Mary adds: “I love waking up here. I love that everything in my space is intentional and curated and meaningful.”
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