This Designer’s Small ‘Post-Break-Up’ Apartment Is a Master Class in Personalizing a Rental
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Name: Kara Thomas and pup Harley
Location: Los Angeles
Size: 708 square feet
Years Lived In: 1 year, renting
Although my building isn’t super glamorous and new, I’m proud of how cozy I’ve made my place. I found my apartment on Zumper in the midst of a breakup and after living in LA for seven years; this is the first place I can proudly call my own. I had a tiny studio years ago (also a post break up find) but I hated it. Since then, I’ve had roommates. Now that I am much more grounded and financially stable, I was able to afford a comfortable place and furnish it the way I envisioned (on a budget, of course).
I’m in my late twenties and I came into this space feeling sad and lonely from a breakup. My number one priority was to create a space that I felt good about. I grew up loving color and considered myself a maximalist but the older I get, the more I love black, white, and brass. It’s such a classic color scheme in fashion and for the home. I was feeling the pressure to create a bold space filled with color and patterns but this experience taught me that it is okay to evolve. Simple isn’t boring! Also being an interior designer, I was feeling the pressure to wow people. I often contemplated buying things that were out of my budget or not necessary to change (such as swapping out hardware and light fixtures) but since I’m renting and I don’t plan on staying here forever, I talked myself out of it.
Ultimately, I’m a loner so I really enjoy burning a candle, playing soft music in the background, and relaxing. I work from home most days so I spend a lot of time at my desk but when I’m not working you can find me curled up on my couch either reading or watching Netflix with a glass of rosé. Also, a simple pleasure of mine is keeping a vase of fresh flowers in the house.
Along with being a designer, Kara also has her own curated collection of home decor called House of KT.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Eclectic and anti-trendy. I look at furniture all day, everyday so I know what I like. I love a space that has a good use of color and mixes old with new.
Inspiration: Me! I didn’t trust my own instincts in the beginning, which led me to returning almost everything. Also, I purposely stayed away from Pinterest because I wanted to create a space that represented me and not some over-pinned image on the internet.
Favorite Element: My favorite element in my apartment is my sofa! This is actually the first sofa I’ve ever owned. It’s the knock-off version of the Cloud sofa from Restoration Hardware and it’s so cozy. If I’m not too careful, reading a book quickly turns into an unexpected nap! Also, I love the natural light I get in the afternoon.
Biggest Challenge: Ordering everything online, in a rush, only to realize it was not the right color or just uncomfortable. I ended returning the original sofa, rug, curtains, dining chairs, and bed frame. Even as an interior designer, I don’t always get it right!
After failing the first round, I sat on the floor of my empty apartment and studied the space and really thought about what I wanted. I definitely wanted to embrace the natural light and keep the color scheme simple in the living room while doing something a bit more bold for my bedroom. After taking my time sourcing the right pieces, I am finally at a point where I am happy with my home.
Proudest DIY: Although I’m pretty busy juggling deadlines and I don’t typically have a ton of free time to do DIY projects, the pandemic shifted the way a lot of us spend our time at home. With my newfound free time and an urge to keep busy so I don’t lose my mind, I made a few changes around my place. I painted the accent wall in my living room, hung wall decals, painted the bathroom, gave my bedroom a makeover, and changed a lot of art throughout.
I originally hung up removable wallpaper in the living room to cover the blueish/gray accent wall, which was a fail, so I opted for paint and decals instead and I love the way it turned out. Although the wallpaper only lasted about 24 hours before it fell, I thought it was a bit overwhelming and too dark for my space so in the end it worked out for the best.
Biggest Indulgence: My sofa was the most expensive single item that I purchased but overall I splurged the most on the finishing touches. Buying and framing art, coffee table books, and the decor accents really gave my space personality and it was totally worth it!
Best Advice: Be patient! Do your research and read reviews! I totally understand the urge to get your place together overnight but it is better to wait, especially if you are unable to afford everything at once. If you find a piece that you love but is out of stock or out of budget, I highly recommend waiting. The last thing you want to do is fill your place with cheap items you don’t love because it was available for quick ship. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it!
What’s your best home secret? Before purchasing anything, lay all the images out on a board. Whether you print them out or create a digital board, seeing everything together helps you narrow down the look you are going for. I find myself liking random things but then I have to ask myself—where will this go and does it flow? Usually the answer is no.
Also, underbed storage is a must! The first bed frame I bought didn’t allow for it so I returned it and ordered a headboard with a metal frame that gives me 15” high of underbed storage. I hide so much stuff under my bed, it’s not even funny!
PAINT & COLORS
- Behr — Passion Fruit Punch (bedroom)
- Valsper — High Hide White (living room)
- Dunn Edwards — Steamy spring (bathroom)
- Sofa — Living Spaces
- Rug — Jaipur Living
- Coffee Table — AllModern
- Side Table — Homegoods
- Table Lamp — West Elm
- Storage — Home Depot
- Hardware — Etsy
- Female Vase — Urban Outfitters
- Eye Mirror — H&M
- Bookshelf — Birch Lane
- Desk — IKEA
- Media Cabinet — AllModern
- Floor Lamp — West Elm
- Bar Cart — Urban Outfitters
- Neon Sign — Urban Outfitters
- Accent Table — Urban Outfitters (with vase from Target)
- Wall Decal —UW Decals
GALLERY WALL ART
- Desert — Minted
- Tiger — Society 6
- Girl with flower — June & Mars
- Face — Studio KT
- Mat — Society6
- Headboard — Joss and Main
- Bench — All Modern
- Area Rug — Loloi rugs
- Nightstands — Joss and Main
- Table Lamps — CB2
- Mirror — Wayfair
- Curtains — Anthropologie
- Art by Window — Jungalow
- Art over bed — Charish
- Throw — Anthropologie
- Round Pillow — Anthropologie
- Pom Pom Pillows — Anthropologie
- Quilt — Jungalow
- Sheets — Etsy
- Shower Curtain — Society6
Share Your Style:
Correction: An earlier version had a couple of typos—hopefully, we can blame it on Mercury retrograde.