Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Flowers

Despite it being a cold, rainy day in Des Moines, I have spring on my mind. And what's more more spring-esque than some lovely flowers, eh? Not the nasty obviously-cheap silk ones or, worse yet, the abhorred plastic varieties. Nope, I'm going for flowers done classy - whether they're real or fake. Check out my tips below to incorporate some beautiful blossoms into your apartment this April!

Flowering plants
Might as well start with the real deal. Most flowering plants need to grow outdoors, but a few can thrive within closed walls, including African violets, begonias, kalanchoe, and orchids. Flowers will add life to your apartment and a dash of color too.

Dried flowers
Dried flowers can be a beautiful - and sentimental - way to add some floral touches to your apartment. They set a mood to the room that's old-school romantic, thoughtful, and warm. Below is the rose my boyfriend gave me last year for Valentine's Day in a green, hand-blown glass vase from the historic Jamestown glass making site. The key to getting great color is to hang the flower upside down to dry when you see the first signs of wilting appear and the base of the flower is "squishy." Hanging it up even earlier doesn't hurt. Tip: if you're in need of flowers to dry, stop by your local florist shop; they'll often give you flowers that are close to wilting for free.

Wall decals
Wall decals have gone from kiddie to classy. Decals with artistic designs, like the one below, add character and interest to walls. A little personal touch, if you will. They come in a variety of designs, sizes, and colors. The calla lily decal below is from an Etsy site and is available in several shades. Hint: try out this neat decorating idea - after you've stuck the decal on the wall, position a table with a vase on it directly in front of the decal so the sticker appears to be a flower inside the vase.

Photo credits:, Laura Johnson,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trendy Slipcovers

Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, some of my furniture pieces are coming from my parents' house, including a chair, bed, and couch. In other words, my mom found an excuse to go furniture shopping. It's really a win-win situation, though. She wants new stuff, and I need furniture. Knowing that my couch didn't belong to some sloppy guy who dropped Cheeto crumbs between the cushions on a regular basis is also a plus.

But, well, the couch isn't exactly my style. It's navy blue leather and is what I like to call "cold leather." As in, you sit down and instead of having a warm leather seat or room temperature cloth cushion, your hindquarters are welcomed by an ice-cold, heat-sucking spot. O.k., that's an exaggeration. But really. It's a little brisk on the derrière.

My most likely solution this buns-chilling problem: a slipcover. But, problem: every slipcover I've ever seen is ugly or just boring. Here are some hip slipcovers and ideas:

I'll get to a couple of funky slipcovers, but first I'll address how to dress up a boring cover. After all, they're the most prevalent on the market and the cheapest. And, unless you plan on whipping out your sewing machine and crafting your own slipcover (which would be totally awesome!), you may have to settle with a solid-colored one. But that doesn't mean your couch has to be boring. Go throw-pillow shopping to add extra color. Best part? You can change up your couch's look more easily (and more cheaply) by just switching out the pillows.

While this slipcover isn't for a couch, it's a pretty funky print for a chair. Perfect for livening up a boring kitchen table and chairs. And it's a great price - only $49.95!

The slipcovers by Bemz are definitely my favorite. They have over 150 chic colors and prints to choose from. The prices range from $169 for solid colors up to $455 for some prints. Downside is that they seem to only work for Ikea furniture. You select the slipcover "size" by choosing the Ikea model of couch or chair you're wanting to cover.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Multipurpose Furniture

I stumbled across this apartment on Home-Designing's site today. Check out the photos below.

Talk about efficiency. It's basically efficiency defined. Bonus: an added touch of oo-la-la sleekness. Everything's built-in and every square inch is maximized. The stairs have drawers that double as drawers. The workstation functions as a desk and shelf area without looking like a, well, desk. Basically the whole apartment has functional surfaces that allow its occupant to go basically furniture-free besides adding a bed, desk chair, and couch to the living space.

Is your small apartment designed like this one? Probably not. But you can get some of its efficiency by incorporating the following into your apartment:

Yes, futons. Not the nasty college dorm one that your sloppy friend spilled Easy Mac on. A chic one. Futons have a nice, geometric symmetry about them that lets them be sleek and stylish yet take up minimal room. Bonus usage: a bed. A futon-turned-bed can be used either as your main sleep spot or a crash option for your friend.
Coffee tables
And by coffee tables, I mean big coffee tables. My boyfriend uses his for anything and everything. Storage, a desk, kitchen table, and, like the piece's namesake, a good cup of Java. Stick one of these items in your living room, and you'll find an array of purposes for it. Guaranteed.

Ottoman cubes
These guys are cheap and cute and double up as storage boxes! My best friends in college used their ottoman cubes in their dorm room to hide items they didn't want male friends who stopped by to see: mainly, ahem, feminine products. Hopefully, your apartment has a bathroom for those necessities (please tell me you opted for a place with a toilet), but you can still stash some items in these cubes. Think books, magazines, or your favorite chocolate!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top 3 Kitchen Storage Ideas

My kitchen next year is tiny. As in minuscule. It's about 7 feet long and about 3 feet wide. Not a lot of wiggle room to move around in there. Add in some pots, pans, and food - much less my physical body - things are going to get interesting. The kitchen includes a fridge, small stove, and a couple of cupboards above the stove. I was panicking a bit, wondering where I'd put all my stuff so I researched a few creative ways to get the most out of your cooking and eating space. Here are my top 3:

1. Magnetic strips
Magnetic strips can boost the storage power of your wall. Just slap up a strip and start magnetizing stuff. This is a great option for knife storage as well as most anything else metal and fairly lightweight. Personally, I'm a big fan of storing spices via magnets. Transfer your spices into individual mini metal canisters with clear lids and you'll be able to easily see which spices are which the next time you're cooking up something fancy. (See the picture below for an example of a spice magnet strip.

2. Fruit Shelves
I came across this neat fruit shelf on Ikea Hackers (click the link to see the plans for this storage set-up). The main materials for the shelf appear to be wood and clear baking or serving dishes. This is a great way to display your fruit without having apples roll all over (and off) your counter. Win!

3. Pot Hanger
The ceiling is one of the top most wasted spaces in a kitchen in my opinion. It's a tricky location to utilize though. A ceiling's openness makes your apartment feel larger - something important in a small living space. A pot hanger, with its open design, does not have as much flow interruption in a space as you might think. Hangers come in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can pick the best one for your needs. Wall pot hangers are also great options.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lighting for a Small Apartment

My mom and I have been discussing my upcoming apartment for months now. We've been working out what I can take from home and what I'll need to buy. She's using the opportunity to hand me off a leather couch, mattress, and bed box. All so she can buy new furniture. She's thrilled. So over spring break she showed me some of the items I'll be able to haul back to the city. Included on the list are a matching pair of retro black and white speckled lamps. They were my grandparents' from decades ago. And they are wicked sweet. The lamps aren't big, but my apartment has large windows and a skylight overhead so plenty of natural light will be flowing most of the waking hours. Planning what you're going to do to shine some light on your space? Excellent. Read on.

1. Space-saving lighting options

Small apartments mean little room for stuff (did you check out my last post on storage?). Now lighting doesn't have to be included in the limited stuff you let in your front door. Put up track lighting or recessed lighting, if your apartment allows it. These types of lighting give off plenty of light - an amount which can usually be controlled via a switch - all the while saving valuable floor space from being taken over by giant floor lamps.

2. Natural light

Natural light. I can't get enough of it. I absolutely cannot wait till I get to my natural-light flooded apartment. Is your space lacking some sun rays? Maximize what you do get. Light colors reflect light well so opt for a lighter shade on the walls. Mirrors, like light-colored walls, reflect light (literally) but they also serve to make the room feel larger. Double win. Also, make sure that nothing is blocking some of the natural light you get now. I know that seems like a "duh" comment but really. Something as virtually unimportant as an extra-dark curtain or an overgrown plant can strip your space of some valuable light.

3. Cozy feel with smaller lights
If cozy is what you're going for, smaller lights are what you want. You may be wondering why I'm including this tip, considering this blog centers on apartments that are already pretty "cozy" in size. But there is a reason. Oh yes. If you happen to have vaulted ceilings, the space can feel larger but also cooler. Small lamps lower the perceived height of your ceiling, creating a more comforting - and romantic - atmosphere, especially for evenings. It's mood lighting, if you will.

If you have any other suggestions, please post a comment. I'd love to hear them!

Friday, March 4, 2011

4 Storage Tips

When you're confined to a small living space finding room for your stuff can be a challenge. Achieving that delicate balance, that I-have-a-lot-of-stuff-but-my-apartment-still-looks-fabulous-and-not-cluttered ratio, takes some creativity. Here are 4 tips for storage:

1. Tall and skinny shelving
To optimize wall space, select shelves that have a taller frame. Also look for shelving pieces that are lightweight-looking with skinny frames. A more streamlined piece will fit just right in your small living quarters; get too bulky of a shelf and it will become the elephant in the room - literally. The room will become overwhelmed it its size and the space will feel smaller.

2. Cubes
I love my cube shelving. You have the option of having fun-colored drawers or going sans drawers to display items or store books. The shelves are easy to carry, and by grouping cubes together, you can create a custom-sized shelf unit. They are especially handy if you have a studio apartment; a half-wall of cubes is a great way to set off a private spot for your bed while still giving the space an open feel.

3. Under-bed storage
Were you one of those kids that just shoved your mess under your bed and called your room clean? You may have been on to something ... Check out beds that substitute storage drawers for a box spring. If you don't mind having your bed higher than normal, you could also find a frame that allows lofting and place shelving underneath. Another never-fail idea is to buy long and shallow plastic storage containers that can just slide under your bed frame. With a duster or extra-long comforter, you're guests will never know they're there!

4. Utilize all your closet space
Let's face it: women have a lot of clothes. And shoes. And handbags. Store them right with a few closet add-ons. Add an extra bar, which will be perfect for shirts, halfway between the floor and the top bar. Add shoe or purse shelving on the closet floor to keep your accessories organized. A closet door shoe organizer is also a great piece - whether it's for shoes or other items like hairbrushes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

7 tips for decorating walls without paint

While spicing up apartment walls with paint is a great way to add color, many young apartment residents are renting - myself included - and aren't allowed to apply Dutch Boy to the walls. Don't fear! There are other ways of snazzing up otherwise drab surfaces. Here's my top 7:

1. Try sticking up a couple of interesting mirrors on the wall. They add visual interest as well as reflect the interior of the room, making the space appear larger.

2. Create a photo wall. Print out some of your favorite photos and place them in different sized (yet complementary) frames. Then attach the frames to the wall, varying spacing and orientation. Instead of photos, you could also frame dried flowers, posters, or patterned paper or fabric.

3. Attach a piece of fabric or a curtain to the wall. This option allows you to add fun patterns to your apartment and can be easily switched out with other pieces of fabric or curtains.

4. Get natural. Adding varying heights and colors of plants and flowers to your apartment will give it a more nature-like feel and add instant color. Also, play up your windows. Arrange your furniture so your natural light source is the focal point. With plenty of sunlight and foliage, you'll hardly notice a couple of bare walls.

5. Put up stick-on wall art. You can find various shapes and patterns of stick-ons that let you personalize a wall while you're living there - and let you remove it hassle-free when you move.

6. Buy a screen. Screens come in a variety of colors and patterns and can add interest to any room. They're functional too. If you live in a studio apartment, they can be used section off a private area for your bed.
7. Add some interesting shelves. No one ever said you can't hammer some nails into the wall. Pick up funky shelving that will add appeal to your walls and will allow you to store items too.