DIY Door Mats to Make Your Apartment Warm & Welcoming

welcome-home

Apartments don’t really get to play up the whole curb appeal thing like houses do, but as apartment renters we can certainly spruce up the front door! A really fun and flexible DIY weekend project is to personalize or create your own special front door mat. Creating your own welcome mat is a quick way to add some unique charm to your front door.

Some of these projects require more work than others, but many are truly easy ways to personalize a store bought doormat.

Updated “HOME” Textured Outdoor Rug

This DIY uses a small outdoor rug purchased at Target and some colorful exterior paint to make a bold and welcoming door mat. It is perfect if you have house paint leftover from other projects!

“Come Back With Tacos” Mat

A simple DIY of cutting a stencil and spray painting onto a plain mat – very simple to do and hilariously cheeky once it’s done!

Fun Fruity Semi-Circle Doormats

The House That Lars Built always has such whimsical DIY’s and these fruit slice welcome mats are no exception. Use a plain semi-circle doormat and some paint to transform it into a summery tropical way to welcome guests in.

Minimalist Wooden Doormat

If you like neutral colors and clean lines, this welcome mat may be up your alley. Made from wood and rope, it’s very Scandi. This project is a little more labor intensive than the previous two, so be prepared (with a drill)!

Braided Rope Doormat

This one is definitely the most labor intensive, but looks so amazing! If you love nautical themed decor or you’re into macrame, this is the perfect project. The directions suggest practicing the weaving by making a scaled down version first.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Window Treatments

window

I was standing in the curtains aisle scratching my head the other day. The blinds I have aren’t cutting it and I decided to spring for some curtains instead. I don’t have much experience with curtains, so it’s the Wild West for me. How long should they be? Do I want them to block light? What’s the difference between a shade and a curtain? I was like a lost puppy, wandering up and down the window treatments section of Target. So instead, I decided to go home and do some research first. I thought it would be helpful to share my findings and provide a breakdown of what’s out there and the best ways to use what’s available.

First of all, what do you want? Choosing the Right Curtains

  • Light filtering / Sheer: these allow light to pass through. You may want blinds underneath for privacy.
  • Light blocking / Blackout: these are more opaque and provide more privacy.

Measure your windows. Take height and width measurements and keep them with you when you go shopping.

Length: It’s generally accepted now that curtains look best when they’re floor length. Short curtains can look a little wonky or silly – and trust me, they do. I had to get some short ones for a kitchen door window and they’re downright goofy looking. Most curtains in the big stores are 63” to 144”. Always get them a little longer than the length of the rod to the floor. For small windows, like in a kitchen, you can opt for something like a cafe curtain which covers about half to two thirds of a window and is more decorative than anything else.

Width: They should be about twice as wide as your window, together (both panels combined).

Color, texture, and pattern will all be up to you. It may depend on your decor or it may depend on price, or availability. Shop around and see what’s out there.

Installing Curtain Rods

If you don’t already have a curtain rod mounted, check with your landlord before you install one. Once you have the go ahead, they should be mounted several inches above your window and several inches wider than your window. Here’s a good guide for installing curtain rods, including the tools you’ll need.

Shades and Blinds

If you want to use something other than curtains, you can try shades or blinds. Most apartments already include mini-blinds.

Shades: Shades are a great economical option. They are a single sheet of fabric which cinches up to let light through the window.

Blinds: Blinds come in both horizontal and vertical varieties and are slatted, letting light in between the slats. Most plastic and aluminum blinds are affordable for a student budget and can be found easily at home goods stores.

Harry Potter Decor to Make Your Apartment Positively Magical

castle

I recently visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios for the first time and it rekindled the love I have for the entire Harry Potter universe – especially the books. Although I will admit the movies brought a certain fantastical visual experience to the original stories I loved so much. Being the design nerd I am, one of the great highlights of watching the movies for me is seeing how all the interiors look! So if you want to recreate your favorite Harry Potter space from the movie (or the books!) there are some fun and whimsical products available to help you bring it to life!

There are so many delightful Harry Potter themed pieces on Etsy. I narrowed my top picks down to the following items:

Pottery Barn [Teen] (don’t laugh! It’s pretty grown-up looking for the teen section) has an amazing collection of Harry Potter themed goods to make your space feel as whimsical as a room in Hogwarts castle. My two favorite items are this velvet Platform 9 ¾ throw pillow and this set of starry owl bed linens.

On Society 6’s website, you can get your favorite designs printed on a number of household items, such as pillows, shower curtains, art prints, and more. There are so many great artists who upload work there as well so it makes it a perfect spot to find the right piece for your apartment. I love this well designed Basilisk print– and there is a whole set of other fantastic beasts related prints on this particular artist’s page. The same artist also has a “When in doubt, go to the library” design that makes a fabulous tapestry to decorate your wall with.

You can get crafty with your Harry Potter decor too and DIY it. There’s a plethora of ideas on Pinterest, of course. Embrace your love of all things magical and make your apartment fit for a wizard.

Expecting the Unexpected at IKEA

I just walked out of one of my all-time favorite stores…the beloved IKEA. It’s had quite the cult following in the United States for years and now the brand is enjoying a more mainstream success. One of the reasons this company seems to do so well is their penchant for creating not only functional and clever designs, but attractive and modern ones too. After weaving around the showroom, following the arrows lighting up the floor, I was not surprised by how IKEA continues to surprise and delight me with their ingenuity.

The thing that IKEA does best is helping apartment renters utilize the space available. We’ve all seen under the bed storage, hanging shoe racks, and wall-mounted shelves, but they go above and beyond.

One of my favorite apartment finds from this trip was the PS secretary desk. It’s slim, so it takes up very little space, and the front folds open so you can work on your laptop or homework, then fold it back when you’re finished. It’s also very minimalist and attractive with a two-tone wood grain and white design.

A smaller, yet very clever little item I saw today was the Pudda storage bin. It’s made from a heavy gray felt and is accented with little gold buttons. What’s so cool about it and its origami inspired design is it means you can undo the buttons and unfold it to be flat. So while they’re in use, they’re very stylish and modern looking and then when they’re not in use they take up a very miniscule amount of space. So this little bin is the best of both worlds.

Something else I noticed was something I feel often gets neglected in apartments: sufficient lighting in storage spaces. When I was looking around the showroom, opening drawers and cabinet doors, often a light would come on when I opened them. At the end of the day, you can have an organized cabinet or wardrobe but it’s difficult to utilize if you can’t see it very well. You can find a whole list of options for integrated lighting systems at IKEA here.

There certainly are some things things that IKEA is not ideal for, but when it comes to attractive and clever small space design, they take the cake!

 

Hit The Books: Decorating With Books in Your Apartment

books

When you have a love for books, they typically appear in droves after a trip to the used bookstore, and pile up rapidly. But it’s ok if you have a desire to lost in a story, or many stories, which fill up your book shelves and gradually creep into all the corners of your apartment.

Why not spotlight your beloved books in your Apartment instead of squirreling them away? Highlight your individual interests with these creative ways to display your library.

Color Coding Highlight your colorful books by arranging them on a shelf in chromatic, or rainbow, order. You can also add objects of the same color in front of books on the shelves to add to them color theme. If you have a large wall of bookshelves this makes a really powerful statement.

Artful Covers What are some of your all-time favorite book covers? Some iconic ones come to mind – The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, etc. Display your favorite book cover designs by placing them facing forward on floating picture ledges. Large coffee table books make especially good choices for this type of display (Side note, music lovers- this is also a great way to display your favorite album covers and you can easily switch them out for a rotating gallery).

Strategic Stacks Elevate objects on your coffee table, desk, night stand, etc. by using short stacks of books. Larger books are best for this as well and help create a tiered, multi-dimensional surface for your other objects to sit on.

Books as Furniture Create a nightstand or side table out of a sturdy stack of books. Small paperback novels will not be as useful for this unless you stack them Jenga style, but larger hardcover books make for great furniture substitutes. For an example, look at this one here. If you want to make it more minimalist or simple, use one stack of larger books instead of the combined stacks.

Exploring and Defining Your Apartment’s Style

apt-style

Your environment and surroundings can contribute significantly to your mood and how you feel regularly. Home is supposed to be a safe, comfortable, maybe even invigorating or stimulating space. However, I don’t think we all are hardwired with the knowledge of what makes us feel this way. Often when we feel it we don’t take note of what in particular contributes to that feeling – we simply notice the effect. Here’s how you can begin to pick apart what makes you feel at home.

It’s taken me a while to really find what makes me feel good in a space. The process can take time, but I know now I prefer dark moody interiors with a lot of green, minimal well designed furniture, and good ambient lighting. These help me both relax and think. After reading an article on the psychology of space and our relationship with spaces, I took note of this particular quote:

Every minute of our lives is spent in physical dialogue with the space around us. The spaces we occupy directly influence our psychological well-being and creative performance. Space has the ability to shape who we are and how we behave.”

With that in mind, I’ve written before about how much of a difference the color of your walls can make on your mood and well-being. When you’re somewhere you love to be, whether it’s your favorite cafe, your friend’s place, or back home with your parents, take note of the colors they use. Keep a log of what those are and notice whether they’re warm or cool colors. For example, a warm yellow is almost orange, but a cool yellow is like the color of a lemon. Some people feel cozier in warmer colors, but others prefer the more stimulating feel of cooler ones.

A good method to figuring out your style is to keep a mood board with pictures. You can get a home decorating magazine (there are a multitude of them) and cut them out or peruse sites like one of my favorites, SF Girl By Bay, which features spaces of all kinds, all over the world. So once you’ve filled up a little board with pictures, you will see a pattern. Then finally that pattern can be applied to your space to make it your own.

I know an apartment is sometimes too temporary for paint, so think in terms of window coverings, furniture, and rugs. Those large pieces provide a lot of color and style to your rooms. Consider your lighting as well to make sure you have options that are good for your mood.

Once you explore your style, you’ll create a space that makes you feel good and right at home.

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

mirror

Since apartments tend to be on the compact side and mirrors are well-known ways to make a space feel larger…it’s a decorating match made in heaven. Using mirrors in your apartment will make it feel more spacious and they’re also a great way to add visual interest to a room. But you don’t want to just go get a blah mirror from a big box store – there are more unique types to suit your individual style.

Rainbow Mirror – I like this arc-shaped rainbow mirror from Urban Outfitters because it’s a good sized mirror that is not a typical mirror shape. The arced shape helps you create a more dynamic space in your apartment. It’s also very affordable considering both its size and the uniqueness of it. $59

Stockholm Mirror – This is one of my all-time favorite mirrors and is high on my decor wish-list. This lovely mid-century mirror is a great size and has one feature that blows other mirrors away in my book. The frame gently extends out at the bottom to form a shelf for setting knick knacks or your keys, change, or accoutrements when you come in the door. $100

Hub Floor Mirror – The Umbra floor mirror is a little pricier, but does more than your average mirror. Not only does it have an attractive, sleek, minimalist design, but it does double duty (which is what I say all good apartment furniture does). The back of the mirror is a rack for clothing, towels, or jewelry so not only do you get a great floor length mirror to see your whole outfit, but you get some precious storage space out of it as well. $200

Hanging Rectangle Mirror Jewelry Storage – The second Urban Outfitters piece here, proving UO’s mirror game is strong. This particular one is a double duty option as well. It provides functional and attractive space for organizing your jewelry as well as a gilded mirror to adorn your wall. And it’s affordable to boot. $39

 

Give Your Apartment a Makeover with Spray Paint

spray-paint

Now I don’t mean literally spray painting your walls or anything – let’s stay away from that one. But there are a number of items in or around your apartment that you can give a makeover with a simple can of spray paint. It can make such a difference that you may not have to replace some things you were considering junking. Or you can make what you have fit your color scheme better.

First things first – you’ll want to make sure you’re buying the correct type of spray paint. If you’re painting metal furniture, there is a special type for that vs. the regular kind for plastic and wood. You may also want to invest in a spray paint that has a primer mixed in. You can also choose from gloss, satin, matte, and metallic finishes like you can when you’re purchasing house paint There are a surprising number of options available!

Next you want to prepare your surfaces. Make sure all items you want to paint are clean and have any debris or dirt removed from them first. Otherwise, this will prevent the paint from sticking. It may also help to wear gloves to prevent the oil from your hands from getting on your project. When you’re preparing your project, you will need a workspace that is most likely outside (unless you have a work studio of some kind) and spray painting requires pretty good weather – no wind or rain is optimal.

Spray your project pieces and give the recommended drying time between coats. You’ll most likely need to do more than one coat of paint to ensure the entire object is evenly covered. You might also want to practice on something before you tackle the main project.

Here are some ideas for things you can improve with a simple can of spray paint:

  • Picture frames
  • Hardware (not if it’s the landlord’s!)
  • Metal furniture
  • Decorative objects like vases, planters, etc.
  • String lights – change the traditional green string part, just remove bulbs first
  • Wire storage baskets or metal storage bins
  • Light fixtures

5 Small Bathroom Changes That Make a Big Difference

bathroom

When you’re living in an apartment, it may not seem like you can make significant changes to your space. While this is true on the whole, you can still make a difference if you find small changes that come with larger impact. Sometimes all a living space needs is a simple change to make it feel like an entirely new environment, which will have a positive influence on your day to day life!

Bathrooms are a great place to start since they are heavily trafficked rooms and often get less attention than they really deserve. It’s inevitable that a portion of your daily routine will be spent in this [generally tiny] room, so why not give it some much-needed love? Before you set out do make any of these changes, even if they are temporary, contact your property manager or landlord to get approval first!

  1. Swapping hardware helps you update and customize the look of your bathroom. Places like Anthropologie, World Market, and Amazon sell funky, fun cabinet hardware that can help you improve your current vanity or other bathroom storage that may be looking lackluster.
  2. Consider temporary wallpaper for your bathroom walls. Painting also works, but temporary wallpaper is a commitment-phobe / renter’s dream that makes it easy to redecorate without being stuck (no pun intended!). Find a funky pattern or a new color to liven up your bathroom.
  3. Replace your shower head. As long as your landlord permits it and you’ve got a wrench handy, get to work! Most apartments come with relatively standard shower heads, but if you find a good one at your hardware store or online, it can dramatically improve your grooming experience. Some shower heads help reduce the amount of water used and others have filters to help improve the water quality for you.
  4. Change the light fixture, or even just the type of bulbs. Getting a better or more attractive light fixture can have a pretty significant impact on the way a room feels. If changing the fixture isn’t an option, look into the best type of bulb for the room – check for a bulb which mimics natural light.
  5. Tile Stickers are a super cool idea and great way to either cover up ugly tiles or just add some fun color to your current tiles. They stick on with water and can be removed easily leaving no residue! Voila! Perfect.

What Exactly is Scandi Style?

scandi

Scandinavian interiors have worked their way up to the top of the charts for the interior-obsessed population (not just because of IKEA). If you’re feeling curious about how to decorate your apartment like a Nord, but not sure where to start, first take note of these key descriptors:

  • Minimalist
  • Neutral
  • Clean
  • Airy

These characteristics are part of what makes a space look “Scandinavian”. You might be wondering what the great appeal is. As an example, for me it’s the connection to nature juxtaposed with sleek, modern design – organic materials plus geometric patterns. You may like the light, airy nature of Scandi style spaces – an abundance of windows are a common factor (which you may or may not have the luxury to), but sticking to neutral monochromatic color schemes can help achieve the same uplifting feeling. Perhaps you’re drawn to the minimalist style. It can be very calming to have very few objects in a room or pictures on the walls.

That covers the more abstract side of the style, but if you’re searching for something more concrete, some things that make a space look distinctly Scandinavian could be:

  •  Natural materials such as unfinished wood, metal, and leather.
  • Strategically placed decor with minimal clutter
  • Muted, neutralized colors
  • As much natural light as possible
  • Texture – textiles or small shag / [faux] sheepskin rugs
  • Simple, cleverly designed art

A few websites which beautifully exemplify the Scandi style are Scandinavia Standard, Danish website Bungalow5, and My Scandinavian Home.