Before and After: A Renter-Friendly Spare Room Refresh Brightens the Space

published Sep 17, 2023
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About this before & after
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Rental Friendly

Sometimes, to make a big difference in a room, you don’t need to give it new trim or new light fixtures or even a fresh coat of paint to make a difference. As DIYer Alice Kuaban (@odd_essence) puts it, “You don’t always have to renovate a space to make it look pretty.”

Smart furniture finds made her front room functional — multi-functional, in fact. “The room had to look pretty because it’s the first room guests see when they get into my home, but it also needed to serve as my home office both for my interior design projects and my professional career,” Alice says. “I focused on identifying the function of the room and then decorating it.”

Her vision was to create a room that was a bright, welcoming home-office-meets entertainment space. Here’s how she achieved that look.

Credit: Alice Kuaban
Credit: Alice Kuaban

Big pieces set the layout. 

Alice knew she wanted to have a desk for her own work, a small table to meet with possible clients, and a lounge area for guests, so she started with the big pieces: a sofa, two chairs, a small IKEA desk that’s perfect for two to sit, and an antique mirror that almost acts as a third window in the space. 

In fact, the mirror is Alice’s favorite find for her space. “I wanted a very large antique mirror that could eventually be hung on the wall, and that was quite challenging,” Alice says. “Eventually, I located one on Facebook Marketplace. The 100-year-old mirror was actually attached to an armoire that could be separated from the mirror. So the armoire has been placed in my guest bedroom, and the mirror will now live in my office.”

Credit: Alice Kuaban
Credit: Alice Kuaban

Keeping her selections light made the room feel brighter — no paint necessary.

Choosing large pieces that are light in color can actually make a whole room feel brighter, and that’s true for this room. The white sofa, off-white rug, white accent chairs, white tables, and white curtains keep things airy and actually make the white trim pop. (And a bonus tip to steal from Alice’s room refresh: Hanging the curtains about a foot above the window helps the whole room feel taller.)

For now, Alice has kept the soft green-meets-beige paint on the walls, but she says down the line she might paint the room — and she might move her desk below the window. 

Credit: Alice Kuaban
Credit: Alice Kuaban

Decor makes the room feel complete. 

Because Alice didn’t paint or add any wallpaper in this redo (to see some of her redos where she does employ these techniques, check out her bathroom redo and front closet redo), she made the room feel layered and complete with color and pattern by accessorizing with flowers, coffee table books, and more. A fiddle leaf fig adds a pop of green, chairs from Homary add yellow, and velvet pillows on the chairs add a subtle pink. 

Alice says adding lighting in different silhouettes at different heights helped keep things visually interesting, too. 

Alice’s biggest takeaway from this project? “Don’t be afraid to explore strictly decorating a space without doing any major renovations,” she says. “If you are renting a space, this might be the only option if your landlord won’t let you do any renovations.”

To see more rental-friendly spaces where furniture and decor are the heroes, check out this apartment’s living room redo and this apartment’s kitchen redo.