At the beginning of any given week, taking on an ambitious, weekend-long home-improvement project feels like a wonderful idea. A crack-of-dawn trip to pick up a handsaw? Sure. A couple hours of building, sanding, and staining? That’s what Saturday is for. Once Friday approaches, though, it’s a whole different story. With five solid days of work to successfully ground us, we remember that these commitments require exorbitant energy, ditching the Malbec, and way more square footage than our apartments have. Suddenly, watching other people tackle home makeovers on TV sounds exponentially more appealing. Reality check: We need home upgrades that are super easy but somehow still yield long-lasting, petite-quarter-enhancing results. Well, these four so-good-they-might-be-magic hacks fulfill this tall order. See them in action in these before and afters, think about how to make ’em fit your personal aesthetic, and pop open a few buckets of Benjamin Moore Natura and Aura Bath & Spa paints. Your most productive, stylish self is going to be awfully proud.
Streamline Your Sanctuary By Banishing The NightstandFor those of us with roommates, it’s extra important that the bedroom remains a cozy enclave, not a storage unit with a bed shoved in the middle. This requires parting with stuff that a.) you don’t love or b.) doesn’t serve a strict purpose. That is to say, kill the clutter. One easy swap comes by way of trading your bulky nightstand for an above-bed shelf. This may seem like a bold move, but it frees up plenty of floor space — providing room to move the bed away from the window in this case — while keeping your possessions close enough to not require (ever) getting out of bed. “A simple shelf forces you to decide what you really need,” says architect and interior designer Leigh Salem. “It also gives you a chance to display your favorite books, plants, and other nightstand pieces to greater effect.”
Create Depth With Two-Tone WallsTeensy apartments are not known for their large living rooms. In fact, most have in common a boxy communal area that starts to look overstuffed the minute you dare bring in anything besides a compact couch. To combat this cramped appearance and add instant depth, paint the bottom third of the walls a darker hue — we chose Benjamin Moore's Fruit Shake hue — and leave the top two-thirds a lighter one. This geometric arrangement makes any room feel taller while also framing your furniture. To pull it off, use a tape measure with a built-in leveler and apply a line of painter's tape where you want the color to stop. Then simply roll on your paint. When it dries, rehang wall art so that it ends a few inches above the line you’ve created. This completes the sky-high-ceiling effect.
Take Advantage Of So-Called Unusable Space Thanks to the bag-lady-approved amount of stuff we schlepp from home to work to gym and back again, it's to be expected that we stop and drop everything the second we walk in the door. Unfortunately, this is makes apartment entryways a major magnet for mess. After all, where else would you put soggy umbrellas and reusable grocery bags?
Look up. “Keep items off the ground by taking advantage of your wall surfaces,” advises Salem. “Line your entryway in hooks, and you'll see that with a little bit of organization, the hanging objects can look like decor.” Up the cute (and cheap) factor by scouring local thrift and vintage shops for a quirky, mixed-and-matched variety.
Load Up On Optical IllusionsIf you’ve ever stuck your leg out of the shower to use the toilet seat as a shaving ledge, you know the struggles that accompany shoebox bathroom life. There’s no getting around the square-footage deficiency, but you can hack your way to an optical illusion that makes going about your business feel much less claustrophobic. Start by choosing a motif that complements your current wall color — we swapped out polka dots for nautical stripes that pop against the vibrant tangerine background. Carry this across your shower curtain, bathmat, and towels. “A uniform pattern gives an impression of the infinite,” says Salem. “Extending it across your walls and floor unifies the room rather than visually segmenting it.” The result is an opened-up space that tricks the eye and impresses guests with its artful coordination.