Once in a while you have the optimal situation where you get to start from scratch on your home decor. In this case, my friend Adriana was moving from her temporary spot at her parent’s house to her first solo apartment and had little to no furniture, and she graciously turned to me to help her plan the space! Shopping for a space that I am bound to spend time in that I also don’t have to pay for: living the dream.
We went through an in depth design process, and I thought I would step you through each of the steps, as well as show you some of the best layouts we came up with!
1. Talk about the goals of the space.
The most important part about designing a space is understanding how you want to use it. In this case, the room was a large rectangle that was to be used as the kitchen, dining, and living rooms, so it was important to keep in mind that this was a multipurpose area.
Entertaining, spending time with her dog, watching TV, and cooking were some of the things we talked about for Adriana. This helped me understand that she needed an cozy area for lounging, as well as a space to feed guests and work in the kitchen. By knowing these key items, it was easier for me to know what pieces were essential and which were just “nice to have”.
2. Talk about style.
In order to get an idea of what she liked, we sat down and took a look at some basics. What colors she liked, what styles she gravitated toward, and what sort of vision she had for using her space. We found that we had very similar styles, appreciating mid-century modern design with touches of glamour, like fur, velvet, and metallic finishes. These two styles work well together because they are contrasts, creating balance in a space. A clean lined sofa with a fluffy pillow looks inviting, instead of cold (an issue with modern design) or too over the top (an issue with glam design).
Her favorite colors were more on the bold side, gravitating toward deep mustard yellow, navy blue, and burgundy. It is great to get one piece that has all of the staple colors you will want to use in a space, so we found a patterned rug that could tie everything together and worked from there.
3. Talk about tricky issues and budget.
As a starting point, the room is small, though the shape is normal, so it gave us a few different options for arrangements. To keep the space from looking bulky, it was important to find smaller frame furniture, which also worked well with the modern style. I also tried to think about the space being used in multiple ways. An island can be used for food prep, as well as a dining space. A circular table can be used for serving dinner for four, or playing games with friends.
Another point of interest was that there was going to be a new, black puppy living there too! The patterned rug was chosen for the colors, but also to keep it looking cleaner more often. Darker colored furniture was also used so that the black dog hair wouldn’t be obviously covering every surface of the space.
The budget for the space was $1,500, which was an ample amount of money to get some great items!
4. Shopping and arranging.
My favorite, and the most time consuming, part of the design process is shopping for furniture and placing it in the space. I searched online for tons of different options: multiple couches in different sizes and shapes, accent chairs, tables, islands, dining chairs, and decorative items.
I placed images with the links and prices for each of the items into a PowerPoint presentation so that I had all of my options in one place to pull from. I then used my PowerPoint method for designing a space to create each of the items and the actual living space to try multiple layouts.
5. Finalizing and styling.
I created about 5 layouts to start, and then we talked about what she liked and didn’t like about each of them so I could tweak them. As she started to chose pieces she definitely wanted, it because easier to limit the options and we finally had a space she loved. Sometimes things like bar carts and extra pillows that were favorite pieces of hers threw off the budget, but we were able to find compromise by using a different chair, by limiting the table to fewer dining spaces, etc.
In the end we had gone through about 15 different layouts, and these four were some of the best options with the most variation. All four incorporate her style and design goals, while sticking within her $1,500 budget after coupons had been applied (always sign up for the emails to get at least 15% off!). Though she doesn’t move in for another month or so, we are so eager to see the plans come to life!
Option 1: Mid Century Elegance
Total Price: $1,708
This was the final layout and design choice that Adriana went with! We both loved the calm color palette consisting of mainly gray and navy, with a few pops of gold and yellow to warm it up. By including a sectional sofa and a lounge chair in dark colors, she will have ample seating for guests to watch TV, as well as hang out with her pup without her making a furry mess.
One of the other great features about this design was that she would have a full dining space to serve dinners and parties. The table seats four and the kitchen is open to move around and cook. The bar cart will also be the perfect addition for entertaining, allowing guests to serve themselves a glass of wine!
The layout on this space is open, yet packs in tons of seating a utilizes the space to it’s fullest potential.
Product Details: Sectional – Houzz | Velvet Navy Pillow Cases – IKEA | Gold Bar Cart – Target | White Fur Pillow – Target | Yellow Patterned Pillow – Target | Gold Bulb Lamp – Target | Blue Chair – Target | Bohemian Rug – Overstock | Gray Dining Chairs – Target | Dining Table – Kirkland | Gold Nesting Coffee Tables – Overstock
Option 2: Bold Eclectic
Total Price: $1,483
Since Adriana loves color, this was the option that was the boldest showcasing navy and yellow. She kept going back to the idea of a bright yellow chair which would add a fun pop to the space. Since it is always a little hard to tell what color something will be online, it was a bit of a gamble to order a chair and not know how it would really go with the rug, so we opted away from this design.
Though the second layout is similar to the first, the sectional is rotated to divide the room in half. If two separate spaces for living and dining are desired in a small space, this is a great way to do that. Another benefit to having the sofa turned this way is that none of the windows are covered up, allowing as much light as possible into the room.
Since there were so many colors going on, this layout featured a simple coffee and dining table that almost matched, not adding too much extra “noise” to the room.
Product Details: Sectional – Houzz | Velvet Navy Pillow Cases – IKEA | Yellow Chair – Walmart | White Fur Pillow – Target | Yellow Patterned Pillow – Target | Dining Table – Target | Bohemian Rug – Overstock | Blue Dining Chairs – Target | Tripod Lamp – Target | Gold Coffee Table – Overstock
Option 3: Calm Conversational
Total Price: $1,510
For a truly balanced space, Option 3 is a great layout. Utilizing two lounge chairs opposite a sofa is a very appealing look in any space and allows for great conversation. Though the living area was a little close to the kitchen counters, this was made up for by the additional prep space on the island. The island we picked had a lovely dining option for two, featuring seating on both sides. Most islands allow for people to sit on one side, but in a space where there is no other dining area it is nicer to have something closer to a dining table.
The color scheme in this layout is very similar to the first, but without major pops of color.
In the end, the island was vetoed since any future space that might be larger would probably have an island or not need one, so a true dining table was chosen as a better investment.
Product Details: Sofa – Overstock | Gold Bar Car – Target | Bohemian Rug – Overstock | Blue Chair – Target | Gold Bulb Lamp – Target | Gold Coffee Table – Overstock | Blue Bar Stools – Target | Island – Wayfair
Option 4: Light and Bright
Total Price: $1,491
The last option is unique because it features silver as the metal finish. I gave Adriana this option since the hardware in the kitchen was silver, and having it match would create a nice cohesion of the furnishings to the cabinetry. In the end, she decided that gold was more her style and I agreed that it would compliment the rug well.
This layout also featured a desk space to show how the alcove could be used in a different way. Other options that would work in that space might be a book case, shelving, a storage cabinet, or a dog bed.
In terms of color schemes, this one is the lightest and brightest since it features so much white and light silver. Using white will always make a small space seem larger, so it is a great option in an apartment. As shown in all of the layouts, a bit of green makes a space feel lived in, so make sure to have a plant on the counter or a vase of flowers on the coffee table. Here I chose a faux fiddle leaf fig tree that would make a big statement in the corner of the room.
Product Details: Sectional – Houzz | Velvet Navy Pillow Cases – IKEA | White Bar Stools – Wayfair | Silver Coffee Table – Overstock | White Fur Pillows – Target | Bohemian Rug – Overstock | Island – Wayfair | Silver Desk – IKEA | Blue Chair – Target | Faux Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree – Joss and Main | Gray Desk Chair – IKEA
So what do you think? What layout would you have chosen? I think that all of the layouts definitely have strengths and weaknesses, but the fact that they all came out to about $1,500 is pretty amazing to furnish an entire living space of an apartment!