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Renovate the Space
Living's decorating editorial director Kevin Sharkey chronicles the ups and downs of his apartment's transformation.
He had hundreds of decisions to make when renovating his space. Here, he details the choices he made and why. Plus, helpful tips and resources that you can use.
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One of my apartment's most distinctive features is the floor, which is made of wenge, an exotic wood with a rich coffee color. It's beautiful, but I really wanted whitewashed floors, which are easier to keep clean -- dark floors show every speck of dust and dirt.
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When it came time to set up my new kitchen, I had lots of questions. Namely, what are the essential tools and appliances? And how should they be stored? I knew whom to call for answers. Martha shared her expertise and assured me that the best solutions would be the simplest.
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It sounds simple, but finding a system that really works for you isn't child's -- or even decorator's -- play. Since moving into my apartment in 2008, I had been storing my clothes on rolling racks and in plastic bins. Although I'm fortunate enough to have ample closet space near my bedroom, I couldn't figure out how to make it truly functional. But I suspected that an organizational whiz would know what to do.
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When selecting a wall color, taking the color of your floors into account is crucial. People often forget that their floors have a color, and they think only about how a paint hue relates to their furniture. In my apartment, the bleached wood floors really drove the bus and led me to go for beige walls and ceilings to create a cohesive look. But which beige? Neutrals are not a free pass. They can be as nuanced as bright colors, so you have to experiment with warmer and cooler versions of the shade you think you want.
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With my apartment renovation nearly complete, it was time to get a grip on my media, to find the most up-to-date components and the smartest way to organize them. What I wanted was simple: to watch television and movies and listen to music throughout my apartment. What I did not want was exposed wires and 50 remote controls.
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Many of us have the same boring bathroom problem: white walls, white tile, white tub. Normally, to enliven a space, I'll paint the walls a color. But in my master bathroom, where the shower and sink area are made of white Corian, color would have been tricky. Instead, I used tile to bring in texture and warmth and also to create a visual transition between the dark stone floor and the Corian elements. A few other small but big-impact adjustments, including adding an under-sink shelf for storage and mirrors for light, make the space more practical and personal.
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You've probably gazed at a piece of your furniture and thought, "It's okay, but it would be fabulous if only it had... " These days, we're so conditioned to throw things out. If the finish is outdated or the fabric is ugly, we think it's done for. But there's almost always an opportunity to do something sensational with an old piece.
My found oak pieces (a desk and chair set, a large dining table, and an armoire) were stripped and given a ceruse finish, which forces wax into the grain, creating a salt-and-pepper effect. My dining chairs also found new life. Velvet cushions made the 1930s design feel just modern enough. A living room bench, once covered in a dull gray, went from dreary to classic, thanks to a linen fabric with just a hint of sheen.