July 9, 2010

Summer Friday: 4 Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Pad

Every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day I'm going to be featuring guest bloggers as a part of my "Summer Fridays" series. This week's entry comes from Brennen F. who shares some cheap and simple ways to rejuvenate your living space.

I live in one of the smallest and oldest apartments in Manhattan’s East Village. Over the past few years I’ve been experimenting with idea after idea to give my little shoe box a bit of character. After many trials and errors, I have come up with a few ideas that work for me and I’ve decided to share them here.

Tip #1: Cheap is great, free is better
While out shopping, and rummaging through the clearance section at Urban Outfitters, I found a print of a water gun for $9. It wasn’t anything that I would have gravitated toward had it been full price, but I knew that I could do something with it to work it into my room. I had the print for a month or two and never got that excited about it. One day my roommate, came home with an antique frame that he had found on the street. After the two of us looked at the frame for a bit, we decided it was exactly what our "water gun" needed to make it unique, eclectic, and fit in the room.

As I visit family and friends’ apartments in the city I repeatedly see one trend: The IKEA Malma mirror. Everyone either has one or knows someone who does. They are absolutely impossible to resist at $3 a piece. So naturally, on a recent trip to IKEA, I bought 6! I took 3 of them and painted them to match my bedroom and decided the other 3 would be perfect above my kitchen cabinets. As I was brainstorming to find a way to hang them so they would stand out from the rest I came across an old hanging potted plant in the apartment's recycling area. I decided that this would be the perfect way to hang my "Malmas"! I installed 3 simple coat hooks horizontally above my kitchen cabinets. Then I used fisheye screws and attached the chain links from the potted plant hanger to the top corners of each of the mirrors. They’re still the same $3 mirrors that everyone else owns, but mine are slightly more difficult to recognize!

Tip Number 2: Paint! Paint Everything!
Painting is one of the easiest things you can do to dramatically change a room. Whether it is just a solid color on a living room wall, or a an old piece of furniture that doesn’t quite fit with your place, a little paint goes a long way. I even painted my tile back splash and dated cabinets in the kitchen. To do this, you must make sure the tiles and cabinets are really clean and free of grease and kitchen grime. I started with a "Gripper" primer from Glidden. This primer is made to help paint adhere to unconventional surfaces. After that, I used a high gloss white interior paint. Using high gloss allows you to scrub the surface when it gets dirty, and is also much less likely to chip. I painted mine over 3 years ago and they still look fantastic.

A fun paint alternative is chalkboard paint. I had a tall, thin and rather blah wall in my kitchen that really served no purpose. After almost giving up on finding something interesting to fill the space, I decided it needed a chalkboard. I used a plastic masking tape, traditionally used for pen-striping cars and can be found at any auto parts store, to mask out my design on the wall. Next I painted on two coats of chalkboard paint and waited for it to dry. Once dried, I peeled back the masking tape. I then had a unique chalkboard that became the focal point of my kitchen.

Tip Number 3: Make your clutter part of the room
No matter where you live, we all have one thing in common. Too much junk and not enough space. One tip I’ve learned is to make your junk look like it’s supposed to be there and no one can tell that it’s not. I have a ton of magazines and instead of leaving them thrown around the apartment I have stacked them up in an organized pile next to my living room door. By stacking them neatly and placing a tray on top, they have become a space to drop your keys instead of a messy stack of magazines. I use the same idea for my coffee table books. By placing a vase with flowers on top, they look more like a centerpiece than just a stack of books.

Tip Number 4: Distract the eye away from the ugly
My toilet is ugly. I mean, I know most people’s toilets are not a work of art, but for some reason mine really bothered me. I was mainly annoyed with the broken corner on the toilet lid. After numerous attempts to find a new lid that matched, fit, and wasn’t ridiculously expensive, I decided to give up and just hide it. I purchased a simple tray, similar to this tray found on Amazon, and filled it with things to attract your eye away from the broken lid. I used items that matched the blue color of the bathroom tile to make the tray feel like it belongs in the space. I then pulled out a few toiletries with attractive packaging, anything from Kiehl’s or King of Shaves is perfect, and grouped them with a few things you wouldn't normally find in a bathroom. For this I used a framed photo and a vase with a flower. I finished with a candle because nothing is as distracting as fire! Now I barely notice my broken toilet lid, and I’m hoping my guests don’t either.

These are just a few ideas that I have used in my tiny apartment to make it more inviting, unique, and less messy.

Can't wait to try out a few of these ideas in my new apartment. Click here to read all of the Summer Friday entries.