This Tiny Studio Will Inspire Your Next Apartment Makeover

Photographed by Julia Robbs.
For Redmond Aldrich designer Taylor Shanahan, revamping homes is second nature. When it came to her own Haight-Ashbury studio, she approached it like she would any job: with a lot of determination and patience. 

Shanahan transformed her 450-square-foot space into a colorful oasis full of vivid wallpaper and Craigslist-sourced furniture. The result? Proof that small-space living is anything but boring. It was no easy feat though; the project took about 15 months to complete, and involved endless hours surfing social media for ideas and inspiration. 

We invited ourselves over for a little tour, just as Shanahan put the final touches on the space. While this apartment may be small, it's packed with personality thanks to Shanahan's insider secrets — and we've got them right all here.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Tell us about the space. How did you find this apartment?
"I found it on Craigslist! I fought the S.F. apartment wars for a month, and I was competing with 20 other people for my place. And, I didn't even have to sleep with my rental manager to get it. Integrity maintained."

We love the gorgeous color in the bedroom. Who makes it?
"Thank you! I gotta say, it is one of my favorite paint schedules. The wall color is Grand Banks from Collections of Color and the ceiling color is Perfect Pink by Philip’s Perfect Colors. Both can be found at G&R Paint Co. at Sutter and Van Ness."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What is the biggest challenge living in such a small pad?
"My apartment is teeny tiny. 450-square-feet. The roughest part, I think, is knowing I can never have more than two people over at a time — it just feels so cramped with more than two."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
We're guessing you had to pare down a lot of your stuff. How did you master the art of minimalism?
"I learned from the best. I lived with my best friend for years prior to moving in to this studio and she is the epitome of a minimalist. She is the reason I only own four drinking glasses."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
You did everything in this apartment yourself. How did working in interior design help with the revamp?
"As a designer, I know what’s required to make a room feel complete. For example, treating the walls and the ceilings is a must. Lots of people overlook the ceiling, but I’m a big believer in the power of a painted ceiling."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What did the place look like before?
"It had a very old-timey feel. I think the former occupant was more function, less form."

What S.F. shops do you hit up for decor items?
"My favorite shops are Leftovers, Past Perfect, and Dandelion. Dandelion has the most wonderful book and accessory selection — two stories worth. Leftovers and Past Perfect are my go-tos for vintage pieces, when I want something interesting, but don’t want to spend too much cheddar. My acrylic nesting tables are from Leftovers."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Many of your finds were from Craigslist, like this gorgeous peacock chair. What tips do you have for scoring good pieces on CL?
"Narrow your search by using key words, like faux bamboo, Chippendale, vintage, or Hollywood Regency. If sellers are describing their furniture in these terms, you’ll have a better chance of finding greater quality and more interesting pieces."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What was the first big thing you did to the space?
"Painting came first and that was a huge investment of time. But, it had to be done. I treated my move-in process the same way we do our all of our clients, except, of course, I was contracting myself."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
We love the generous use of color throughout your space. How do you keep it from feeling like too much?
"I'm all about color. My palette relies heavily on bold walls and statement wallpaper. I’ve counterbalanced these selections with soft ceilings and upholstery colors."

We know you used Pinterest for inspiration. Where else did you look?
"Sometimes I try to remember what life was like before Pinterest and then I look at my big box of wrinkly, old magazine cut-outs, and I’m like, Oh yeah, that’s how we did it before the Pin It button. Instagram is another great tool for getting ideas and spying on fellow creatives. I like to check Instagram to see what my favorite designers are liking and who they’re following. Also, magazines still ring true for me. Nothing is more calming for me than holding a copy of House Beautiful in my paws and dog-earing all my favorite pages."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Were you working on a set budget?
"My project was executed on a serious budget — everything included in the space is a mix of high and low-priced items. Vendors range from Craigslist and West Elm to trade-only resources like Stark and Quadrille. In the end, I spent $2,000. That includes everything from wall and window treatments, flooring, lighting, upholstery, case goods, and accessories."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What pieces did you splurge on, and why?
"My big ticket items were the kitchen wallpaper and bedroom area rug. I tend to invest more time and money on statement pieces like these. They become the shiny jewelry of your room. Especially in my case because of my kitchen: the layout is so funky! The moldings are crazy low and the room is narrow. I wanted to transform the space without messing with the framework or built-ins. An exciting wallpaper was the answer.

"The antelope rug in my bedroom is a rug we’d specified for a few clients in the past, and it is my absolute favorite. It’s one of those chameleon pieces. It looks good with my existing palette, and will no doubt be beautiful with my future palettes."

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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What's your favorite feature of the apartment?
"My kitchen wallpaper! It makes me so happy. The installation was completed solo, and I truly think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Wallpapered walls is when you know you’ve made it in life."

Who makes it, and why did you choose it?
"I logged about 20 fantasy hours on it before purchasing. It’s called Birds and Bamboo and it's from Bob Collins and Sons. They've always had some of my favorite floral fabrics, and then one day they started manufacturing wallpaper. And, my world changed."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What was the biggest lesson you learned throughout the project?
"Sit with what you at first think are your mistakes. I drove all the way to a ranch in Sonoma to purchase a peacock chair from a sweet elderly woman. She brought over a few of her lady friends to oversee the transaction, I think in case I was a Craigslist creeper. When I returned, I realized the fan of the chair was way bigger than I’d expected. I was about ready to throw it out, but my laziness got the best of me, so I didn’t. Now it’s one of my favorite pieces and I hope to have it till I die."

How would you describe the apartment in three words?
"Lively, natural, and charming."

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