A Small Home Gets a Design Refresh After a Breakup

published Sep 3, 2018

A Small Home Gets a Design Refresh After a Breakup

published Sep 3, 2018
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Square feet
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Name: Farah Altoumah
Location: Little Italy — Toronto, Canada
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

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As a designer, Farah understands the importance of making a living space feel like home—physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. Following the end of a romantic relationship, Farah decided to remain in the 400-square-foot space she had shared with her partner. But doing so required a design re-vamp, which proved to be vital in her healing process. Though the break up wasn’t dramatic or overly painful, the couple was moving in different directions personally, and decided it was better to part ways. They still remain close friends and, Farah says, “it was for this reason that I didn’t want to completely wipe the slate clean and start again.”

Few of the larger structural or furniture items have changed since her partner moved out. But the extra space allowed Farah to display her collections of art and accessories she had been storing in the back of the closet. She wanted to be surrounded by the items that made her happy. It was all the smaller things—the random prints, her grandmother’s scarf, the little figurines—that made the space feel warm and inviting.

For some of us, the challenge of moving forward after a big life transition might feel a bit daunting. We asked Farah a few more questions about her experience and for some advice on refreshing a space as a means to starting over and healing through the process.

Apartment Therapy: How did you approach the (re)design of the space after your ex-partner moved out?

Farah Altoumah: It actually took me a long time to start decorating after he moved out. I didn’t want to just fill the space for the sake of filling holes. I took the time to find the things the space needed. A lot of what I have is thrifted, vintage, crafted or given to me by friends and family. Those meaningful items made the space much more meaningful and those things take time to find/collect.

AT: Were you able to emotionally disconnect after this transition?

FA: When I finally did update the space it really began to feel like my space not our home. The process of making small updates was the transition that allowed me to move past the separation emotionally when it came to how I perceive the apartment.

AT: How did you come to feel comfortable in the space that you two shared?

FA: It was important for me to surround myself with meaningful items. I wanted my home to be a place I could disconnect and relax. When my partner and I lived together there was a lot of compromise and it didn’t always feel like a relaxing oasis. I knew I was comfortable in my space again when I looked forward to going home and just being there all night.

AT: What type of space were you focused on creating (i.e. healing, calm, creative, etc).

FA: Cozy yet organized. I’m a tidy person and nothing stresses me out more than clutter but I have a lot of stuff and it was a small space. I needed there to be a place for everything so I can could rest and recharge when I was home.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Bohemian meets Scandinavian.

Favorite Element: The Light! The large west-facing window means bright light late into the afternoon.

Biggest Challenge: The size. However, it was always a fun challenge to find a home for everything.

What Friends Say: I received a lot of comments on how cozy the apartment feels. I also have a lot of “stuff” but the apartment never felt cluttered.

Biggest Embarrassment: As a renter there are things I couldn’t change (ie. the tile in the bathroom, the flooring in the kitchen area). I love doing DIY projects so if I could have changed those elements I definitely would.

Proudest DIY: The whole kitchen was a project. The accent wall, all the wall storage, and my proudest addition the storage/recycling station that also doubles as an island.

Biggest Indulgence: My sofa! Vintage oak sofa with cabriole legs that I had refinished in a deep blue velvet!

Best Advice: Live in your space before committing to any design decisions such as paint and furniture.

Dream Sources: If I had a lot of resources I would likely shop at Avenue Road and Consort Design.


Hallway HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Romance SW6323 / HGSW206
Bedroom –Farrow and Ball PEIGNOIR No. 286
Living Room — HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Icy Breeze HGSW4058
Kitchen — HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Web Gray SW7075 / HGSW1462

Mirror – Vintage from the Aberfoyle Antique Market
Large Rug – Ikea OSTED Rug, flatwoven, natural
Smaller Rug – HomeSense

Sofa – Vintage, Reupholstered with Tonic Living Velvet in Indigo
Rug – Ikea LOHALS Rug, flat woven, natural
Side Table – EQ3 Strand Magazine Table
Ottoman – Vintage, Reupholstered with Tonic Living Dunning in Grey
Lamp – Structube Hopper Lamp

Storage Drawers – Ikea, TROFAST
Wall Storage – Ikea, Fintorp Series

Bed – Ikea TARVA Bedframe
Duvet Cover – H&M Home
Pink Pillow – Tonic Living Reggio Velvet, Dusted Peony
Ladder + Vanity – Vintage
Closet – Ikea PAX System
Closet Hardware – Upper Canada Hardware
Black Night Stand – Crate and Barrel Nero Black Marble Accent Table
Green Night Stand – Ikea Gladom Tray Table
Art – Purchased from Partial Gallery

Thanks, Farah!

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*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.