First-Time Home Buyers Tackle a 1950s Apartment Reno

updated Apr 30, 2019

First-Time Home Buyers Tackle a 1950s Apartment Reno

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Mel and Mario, baby daughter, Mia and two dogs, Coco and Marni
Location: Alicante, Spain
Size: 2,100 square feet
Years lived in: 3 and a half years, owned

Mel is a designer and her husband Mario is a filmmaker, and when they decided to purchase a home, there was one thing that was most important. “We knew we wanted a renovation project where we could design everything ourselves.”

Mel describes their home: “Our 1950s apartment had never been renovated, so saying the place was a “mess” is an understatement. It was the first apartment we visited and I fell in love the moment I stepped inside. I explored each room with awe, charmed by how much light it had, and dreaming of the possibilities.

To my surprise, Mario’s first impression was bad. He was born in 1986, the same year The Money Pit movie with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long was released; it was a popular movie back then and he grew up watching it each summer on the TV. So when he saw that nothing from the apartment could be saved, that there were leaks in the ceilings, broken windows, and dirt everywhere, he was far from “charmed.” It just seemed like too much of a challenge. So we spent the next two months looking for the perfect apartment, before we convinced ourselves that the first one we had seen had to be our home, and we are so glad we did!

It took us one full year to move in — we spent six months of planning and designing every detail of the renovation ourselves, from the new floor plan and layout, to the kitchen furniture; and another six months when the actual renovation works took place.

We have been decorating it slowly since then, our main goal always being to make our home a warm and happy place for us, our baby daughter, Mia and our two dogs, Coco and Marni.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our style is warm and eclectic; we like to mix things we love, no matter whether they are modern or vintage.

Inspiration: We draw inspiration from everywhere.

Favorite Element: Our open concept living room is where everything happens. We designed it so all the spaces—the living room, kitchen, dining and even office—would be open and we could spend time together as a family. It’s the place where we relax, cook, play, eat, and entertain.

Biggest Challenge: The whole renovation process was a big challenge for us. This is our first home and we had zero experience with renovations. Fortunately, during the process, Mario and I discovered we make a great team when it comes to working in a renovation. We spent half a year researching, picking materials, designing furniture and a suitable distribution. It was fun and we learned a lot.

Proudest DIY: Our proudest DIY is without a doubt the dresser of Mia’s nursery room. I was eight months pregnant, obsessed with finishing the nursery, and we couldn’t find an affordable dresser we liked enough that would add color to the room, so we decided to take it upon ourselves. It’s IKEA’s TARVA six-drawer dresser; we cut the legs, painted the whole piece, and added new pulls.

Biggest Indulgence: Our lamps. We are huge lamp lovers! In fact, they were the first decoration pieces we got for our home. Even before than the sofa!

Best Advice: Take your time to plan a renovation and decorate your home. A home is an evolving project and it feels great to see how it all comes out one step at a time. Enjoy the process!

Also, make sure you fill your home with things you love. Trends fade, but if you follow your personal style to find the right things and add personal items into the mix that speak to you, your home will feel fresh and alive.


Sputnik lamp – vintage, Stilnovo 1960s, found at Ebay
Sofa “Daily”, custom color finishing — JOQUER
Sofa’s yellow cushion — Habitat
Sofa’s pink cushion — Leroy Merlin
Lounge chairs — Vintage Danish chairs found at “El Rastro” market, Madrid
Lounge chairs’ velvet cushions — Habitat
Living room “Stockholm” rug in black and white — IKEA
Chaise longue “Söderhamn” with custom – IKEA
Oak center table “Etta” — Habitat
Green coffee table — Zara Home
Magazine rack — Vintage
TV sideboard — Vintage Danish teak sideboard, found at Non Vacui

Lamp – vintage, Stilnovo 1960s, found at Ebay
Table – custom made
White “Masters” chairs — Kartell
Oak chairs – Danish vintage chairs, found at Room of Art
Dining room sideboard — Vintage Danish palisander sideboard, found at Non Vacui

Lamps – vintage Danish lamps, manufacturer unknown, found at Renospain
Table – custom made
“Madrid” wood letters – custom made
Picture ledges “Mosslanda” — IKEA

Cabinets and Island – custom made
“Gittan” water rug – Brita Sweden

“Radus” Bed — Habitat
“Cupid” bedside tables — Zuiver
Hanging “Bell” lamps
Picture ledges “Mosslanda” — IKEA
Portuguese ceramic swallows — A vida Portuguesa
Rug — Zara Home

Tarva 6-drawer dresser (hacked) — IKEA
Bekväm ledges (hacked) — IKEA
“Nest” rattan lamp – Habitat
“Niamey” mirror – Kenay
“Botanics” washable rug – Lorena Canals

Thanks, Mario and Mel!

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