Editor-in-chief Sarah Humphreys moved into a cozy (okay, claustrophobic) apartment. Stumped by her pressing problems, she talked (okay, complained) about them at work, all the time.
The home editors, in a moment of selfless generosity, volunteered to work their magic on her itty-bitty abode, and dreamed up a slew of impressive solutions.
A quaint one-bedroom apartment in an 1830s row house in New York City's West Village.
The Transformative Projects
Pressing Problem No. 1: No Room for My Furniture
Rebecca and Shane Powers (who was along for the ride) were befuddled, all right. The living room was filled with a mishmash of furniture, some too large-scale, making it feel cluttered and cramped. One reason for the mishmash: I purchased the white Ikea sofa and oversized chair from the woman who lived in the apartment before me, since I was (rightfully) doubtful that my own sofa would fit in the space (it wouldn't have even made it through the front door). In addition, the walls were painted a bland butter color (affectionately dubbed "masking-tape yellow" by Page), which made the apartment dark, and therefore even more confining and cavelike.
Impressive Solutions: Scaled-Down Style
Page, Rebecca, and Kendra swapped out the overstuffed furniture for trim, tailored pieces, including a 69-inch-long sofa and a Danish-modern replica chair. With a small space, your primary furniture should not only be compact, but also sleek, without much embellishment, and, ideally, neutral-toned, says Page. To that end, the sofa is skirtless and lichen-colored, making it seem less imposing, and the chair is simply wicker and stainless steel, rather than a padded upholstered style. That said, it certainly doesn't require an entire room-change of furniture to make a tiny area feel bigger: "Even swapping out just one piece-like the sofa will help your place feel more composed and livable, says Page. And as for finding that new sofa, a number of companies are now selling small-scale furniture lines, including Crate & Barrel, West Elm, and Pottery Barn, making your search easy.
Impressive Solutions: A Cooler Color
There was a reason I felt as if the masking-tape-yellow walls were closing in on me: Warm colors make a room feel cozier (not what I needed). The team repainted with a cool-toned blue and instantly the walls began to recede. "Camden" sofa, $900, and Chatham mirror, $400, crateandbarrel.com. "Meso" chair, $600, whiteonwhite.com for stores. Martha Stewart Colors paint, Surf" (286), $25/gallon, available in April, lowes.com for stores. lamp by George Kovacs, $132, lightingbygregory.com. Leather pouf, $185, Imports from Marrakesh, 212-675-9700
Pressing Problem No. 2: A Kiddie-Size Kitchen
Oh, where to begin? I am 31 and still have a mini-fridge. And the oven barely fits a Cornish game hen. I was able to put a few plates in the 1975-ski-condo cabinets, but most of my pots, pans, and dishware remained in moving boxes. My utensils were stuffed into Ziploc bags, since the kitchen was drawer-less, and all the glasses were still tucked away in their packing paper. As for food, what food? Prepared dishes from Gourmet Garage had become my nightly staples (even more than they were before). One last point, lest it go unnoticed: The kitchen was a real eyesore -- an affront to the living area.
Impressive Solutions: Now You See It, Now You Don't
Recognizing that there was no way to improve the look of the actual kitchenette unit (short of tearing it out entirely), and to make the living area more serene, Rebecca installed a sheer linen curtain with hospital tracking to hide the kitchen when not in use. (Zarin Fabrics and Home Furnishings sells the supplies for around $50 total; call 212-966-6690.)
Impressive Solutions: And When You Do See It, It's Quite Beautiful
With a few basic steps, the outmoded cabinetry turned modern: The team first removed the doors, then they painted the frames white and the back of the cupboards the same blue as the walls. Painting makes even the cheapest-sorry, Sarah-wood laminate look better, Kendra says. And when you remove the doors, the kitchen feels more open." I now store my food in the white canisters on the shelves (though tortilla-chip bags have sneaked their way back into plain view since this photo was taken-sorry yourself, Kendra), and those large storage boxes above hold platters and holiday decorations. ceiling track system, $42 for 8 feet, end caps, $1.50 each, snap tape, $4 per yard, and snap carriers, $1 each, all Zarin Fabrics and Home Furnishings, 212-966-6690. Warsa linen fabric for curtain, $7.50 per yard, graylinelinen.com. High-gloss paint (White Dove), $46.50 per gallon, benjamin moore.com for stores. Gemak tins with lids, $20 each, ikea.com for stores. Canvas-covered storage boxes, $59 each, westelm.com.
Impressive Solutions: Shelving Saves the Day
Here is the MVP of the makeover: The team installed floor-to-ceiling shelves on either side of the fireplace -- finally, a place for my stuff! "The shelves' symmetry makes the apartment feel orderly," Kendra says. "And their height makes it feel lofty." While freestanding shelves may work for some, cut-to-fit, wall-mounted versions were essential here -- not only did they allow us to use every inch of space, but also nothing prebuilt would sit flush (the floors are tilted and the walls are lumpy).
Impressive Solutions: Another Lesson Learned Here?
Storage can be beautiful. The team stacked my books horizontally by color, re-moving dust jackets when the titles looked better topless (this English major has come a long way -- though my professors might not agree). My utensils now live in egg-shaped vessels. And the white boxes hold votives, cookie sprinkles, etc. Eight-inch shelf brackets, $2 each, lowes.com. Asker" containers, $6 to $8, ikea.com for stores. Similar boxes, $22 each, containerstore.com.
Pressing Problem No. 3: A Shortage of Surfaces
A console table sufficed as a place to rest a lamp and deposit bags (as the team did during their visit). But when it came to eating dinner or working, my only choices were my lap or the lowly coffee table. Not so great for the ole back. Another sticking point: Even if I were to find a surface to sit at, I had no chairs to sit on-except for boxes, filled with more kitchen supplies. (I know, for someone who doesn't cook, I have a lot of kitchen supplies. I dream big.)
Impressive Solutions: The Unbelievable Folding Table
We shipped off the console clutter-catcher (another bequest to my lucky brother) and replaced it with a drop-leaf design, adding a chair on either side. When both leaves are down, the table is less than a foot wide (with a large drawer running through the center). With one leaf up, I have plenty of room to work (in fact, I wrote this story there). And with a 90-degree swivel, I can extend both leaves and seat six-count em, six for dinner. It might be takeout, and I may need to borrow a few more chairs, but still: progress! Wing drop-leaf table, $756, scandetails.com. Similar chairs, $400 each, hivemodern.com.
Impressive Solutions: A Few Other Tricks
One ingenious tweak that made a huge difference? A mantel extension. Page cut a piece of wood about 30 percent larger than my skinny mantel shelf, painted it white, and screwed it onto the top. Thanks to the sofas spindly silhouette, there was room for an almost large coffee table. Kendra pushed two smaller tiered tables together (just $25 each!) to create another vast work surface. I own two of these myself," Kendra says. When I have people over, I reconfigure them into an L shape and set out a big hors d'oeuvres spread."
For the sake of the story (of course), I broke down and bought an LCD TV, which allowed me to replace the deep, low TV stand with a narrow bench. The TV itself is quite chic, a doppelganger for an iMac, but Page made a cozy for it. It added a little more color to the room, she says. Lack coffee tables, $25 each, ikea.com. Similar bench, $87.50, unfinishedfurnitureshowcase.com. Samsung 23-inch television, $800, bestbuy.com. Sun prints by Rinne Allen, $128 to $188 (unframed), Hable Construction, 877-422-5304
Pressing Problem No. 4: A Bedroom That Feels More Like a Bomb Shelter
If I didn't have an alarm clock, I would never know when it was time to wake up. This nine-by-seven-foot chamber, where I sleep (and oversleep), receives no light, and the Silly Putty-colored walls didn't do anything to remedy this. I was forced to cram my bed in the corner, college-dorm-style, because I had to accommodate my two dressers, and even then I had bins of shoes and sweaters stacked everywhere.
Impressive Solutions: Finding the Center
Though there were just 13 inches left on either side of the bed, Page, Kendra, and Rebecca insisted I center it against the back wall. Then they added a headboard -- really just fabric hung from a wooden dowel. "There was no room for a headboard with any depth, so this serves as a stand-in," says Rebecca. And we used the same fabric here that we did for the sofa pillows, so the apartment felt unified. The law of symmetry prevailed again, this time in the form of bedside tables. Impressively, it took only two attempts to find versions that were narrow enough (the first set missed by a maddening half-inch). Built-in drawers and the storage boxes below now hold underwear, bras, socks -- you get it.
Moondance" fabric on headboard by LULU DK, $90 per yard, Boston Design Center, 617-449-5506. Hemnes" bedside tables, $50 each, ikea.com for stores. Canvas storage photo boxes, $26 each, westelm.com. Linen bedding by Area, $60 to $225 for full- or queen-size, areahome.com. Hector Dome" table lamps, $185 each, Marston & Langinger, 212-965-0434. Vintage framed doilies, from $165 each, Camp, 212-463-0419.
Impressive Solutions: Some Hidden Storage
Now all that was left was the off-season stuff, my jewelry, and, gulp, all my shoes. Sweaters were placed under the bed in a 27-by-63-inch drawer that I can roll out for easy access. Rebecca screwed simple shoulder hooks into the inside of my closet to hold necklaces. And as for my shoes, they stand proudly -- and neatly -- in two sturdy wooden organizers. Aspelund bed storage box, $50, ikea.com for stores. One-inch shoulder hooks, $1 for three, sealenterprises.com. 12-pair shoe organizer, $35, containerstore.com.