Designer Tips for Creating a Collected - Not Cluttered - Apartment
“The best part about living in a small apartment is that you don’t need a whole lot of furnishings to fill it up and decorate,” says interior decorator Whitney Jones. “But it’s really easy to make a small space feel closed in and cluttered.” Below are seven ways Jones met the challenge of designing an eclectic and efficient living space in her 600-square-foot rental apartment in New Orleans.
Apartment Life 1: Kayla Stark, original photo on Houzz
1. Dedicate a space to artwork. One of the easiest ways to add personality to a space is by incorporating art that speaks to you personally. But finding a place to hang your artwork can be difficult if you live in a small space.
If you have more than a few pieces, make the most of the whole height of a wall, as Jones did here behind her sofa. Using similar frames, acquiring pieces based on a theme or hanging the work according to a grid are just a few ways you can make a gallery wall feel unified and organized.
“In art, I like to let my collection build organically by buying only pieces that I love. All the art has been purchased over the years, and are usually impulse purchases that I loved and needed to have,” Jones says.
Consequently, the living room is her favorite space in her home because she’s surrounded by art pieces that make her happy.
2. Let the light in. Embracing the natural light can make a space feel more open and roomy. Large windows give the illusion that the space is a continuation of the outdoors beyond the window.
Indoor houseplants also thrive with an abundance of natural light. “I love bringing the outdoors in with plants and trees. They clean the air and bring natural color in a room,” Jones says. The plants in her living room include a fiddleleaf fig, a ponytail palm and an air plant. A small patio with additional seating just outside is filled with more plants.
Apartment Life 2: Kayla Stark, original photo on Houzz
3. Choose multipurpose furniture. The upholstered ottoman in the living room functions as a coffee table and as extra seating when Jones hosts parties. Putting decorations on a tray that can be easily removed when guests arrive lets her quickly switch between coffee table and seating.
4. Embrace color and texture. “When I first moved in, it was a blank slate of beige carpet and beige walls. Since being here, I’ve added color and personality through art, reupholstered furniture and custom pillows,” Jones says. The red, blue and neutral pillows in a mix of fabrics are a DIY project that helps tie the sofa into the artwork above it. Repeating a color or colors throughout a space can also make a room feel more cohesive.
The bold geometric pattern in the rug not only adds texture and visual interest, but its repeating pattern also gives the illusion that the floor is bigger than it is.
Apartment Life 3: Kayla Stark, original photo on Houzz
“Since mixing fabrics is one of my favorite parts of a design project, I usually start there. Then I’ll use those fabrics to develop a color scheme and inspiration board,” Jones says.
This small nook is an example of her approach. The reupholstered chair, which provides extra seating in the living room, was re-covered with a luxe cut velvet, and the frame was painted black to give it more life. The playful ponytail palm and beaded sconce introduce additional texture to the space, while the bold blue credenza brings in the navy from the other accessories in the room.
The credenza is an old piece that Jones’ mother purchased from a yard sale. “It’s been painted every color under the sun and is one of my favorite pieces,” she says. Jones also added the leather pulls.
5. Use mirrors. Mirrors reflect the light to make a space appear bigger and airier. Jones incorporated a hanging mirror and a mirrored side table to make her living room feel more expansive.
Another large mirror hangs on one wall of the dining space, which is open to the living room.
Apartment Life 4: Kayla Stark, original photo on Houzz
6. Bring in a bar cart. Bar carts not only provide extra storage in the dining room, but they also are a fun place to display tableware and other decor.
Jones’ bar cart holds midcentury-inspired glassware along with other playful pieces. “I search every inch of flea markets and thrift stores for cool pieces that are conversation starters. I can’t resist a miniature animal figurine,” she says.
Apartment Life 5: Kayla StarkKayla Stark, original photo on Houzz
7. Utilize flat surfaces for displays. It can be hard to find a space to display and enjoy the small treasures collected over the years, but using the flat surfaces on top of dressers, ottomans, wardrobes or shelves can be one solution. The large white feather piece is an African headdress called a juju hat. It’s a symbol of prosperity that is said to possess qualities of birds and is traditionally worn during tribal ceremonies. Jones combined it with candlesticks, stones and a bust of a woman.
The top of the ottoman is home to a DIY air plant terrarium and some favorite design books.
“I love fun, unique pieces. Oversized and miniature accessories are some of my favorite pieces to find,” Jones says.
Apartment Life 6: Kayla Stark, original photo on Houzz
Jones, pictured here with her Maltipoo Poca, is the oldest of eight children, and she credits her mother as an inspiration for her creativeness in design. “My mom had to be extremely creative when it came to maximizing space in a small three-bedroom apartment,” she says. “I picked up a lot of tips from her. We moved furniture around every time my mom got the urge. I knew I loved to make a room pretty and more functional, but it took a long time for that to translate into a career for me.”
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