5.11.2011

It will save me some physical therapy, at least

I just rearranged my living room furniture.

Last night at around 10pm I looked up from the pages of Apartment Therapy Presents: Real Homes, Real People, Hundreds of Design Solutions and asked, "Hey, what if we were to move the couch that way instead of this way? We don't have to do it, and we for sure don't have to do it tonight, I'm just trying to visualize."

GH smothered a deep, deep sigh, stood up, and got ready to start moving things. Forty-five minutes later, I was pleased with the results. And no, our living room does not look any bigger as a result. Traffic patterns are not improved. There are no groups of seating for intimate chats that do not involve the television. The massive eyesore of an elliptical machine is still right there in the room. But want to know what's different?

THE CORDS.

One of the most annoying design flaws of this apartment is that if you try to put your couch and television into any kind of functional relationship with each other, you wind up with audiovisual cords that cross the carpet right in front of a hallway. There is NO other place to put them. You just have this twisting jungle of cords right across the entrance to the rest of the apartment. I have tripped over these cords approximately 86 times, usually when I am holding a baby. I swear the electrical outlet configuration was designed by a drunken and spiteful Luddite.

BUT NO LONGER. We sucked it up and created a counter-intuitive, cluttered furniture arrangement that will possibly save my poor neck and my baby's skull. GO US.

The thing that miffs me about Apartment Therapy and similar resources is that I have a hard time seeing anything remotely like my apartment in there. (I also get miffed over my complete lack of vision or style, but this is nobody else's fault.) The apartments featured are always things like pre-War apartments in Manhattan with hardwood floors, or tiny light-drench lofts in San Diego, or places where the landlords are perfectly fine with you knocking out walls or painting the floors black.


(image from Apartment Therapy--you really do have to go look at this apartment, it's kind of amazing what they've done in their teeny tiny space.)

Just once I would like to see this:

"How we transformed our step-down, 1978 apartment into a sunny lair of style. (Note: original vomit-colored shag carpeting could not be changed, nor could the chipped and stained dark-brown cabinets and doors. Paint and wallpaper were out. Popcorn ceiling is in. Disgusting paint-spattered mini-blinds must stay. Also we couldn't do much with shelving or other wall decorations because these walls do NOT hang on to things.) Now come on in for the tour!"

GH reminds me that we are paying about $4 a month for this apartment, so what did I expect? Our rent is higher than $4, but it's quite a bit less than we were paying when we lived in Salt Lake, which is one of the reasons we can afford to have me staying home with TDL instead of working full-time and then handing over all my earnings to a daycare center. So I know I need to focus on being grateful instead of being all eaten up with house envy. And I am definitely grateful that I'm not tripping on the kudzu cords anymore.

But still. You show me an apartment makeover like that and I will tip my hat to you. And for those who are current or past apartment dwellers, what were some of the best things you did to make your space better? One thing I'm kind of proud of is that I took down the disgusting, heavy, dark-wood sliding closet doors in my room and the baby's room and hid them under the bed where they stick out just far enough to break my little toe every now and then. Then I put up nice cotton shower curtains on a rail from Target to cover the closets instead. Much better! Would love some more ideas, though.

17 comments:

Kip said... [reply]

I don't have any great design ideas but we live in a one bedroom and have tried very hard to keep the baby clutter to an absolute minimum. With a 14 month old, a second bedroom is becoming a necessity, but I was surprised at how long our arrangement has been doable. I, too, try to remember that the saved money allows me to be home with my daughter.

I recommend walking around Ikea for small space design ideas.

annie (the annilygreen one) said... [reply]

i cover my icky mini-blinds with curtains (cheap sheer ones from ikea so it doesn't feel dark....or like i spent tons of money on curtains). and i cover my gross walls with tons of art that i love (in cheap, simple frames...again from ikea), which makes me feel better. and the best thing i ever did was admit to myself that a couch AND a loveseat don't fit well, and a living room will survive without the set. smaller scale chairs feel much better. then there's the usual advice....bright pillows, hide clutter in bins and drawers...you know, stuff that is easier said than done.

brinestone said... [reply]

It really depends on the place. Some apartments are impossible to make pretty no matter what you do. Like, our current place has 1991-style forest-green carpet in the living room, which, no matter what I do in there, is going to look dated, dark, and dirty. It doesn't help that our couch is red. I have been tempted to paint horrid kitchen cabinets, but Jon Boy always talked me out of investing that much time and effort into something that isn't ultimately mine.

A few smallish investments, such as a shower curtain and towels that coordinate with your bathroom, or throw pillows that coordinate somewhat with your carpet, can go a long way. And they're a lot cheaper than renting a better apartment, I tell you what.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Thanks for the ideas so far. One of the things that's so tragic about apartments, I feel, is that once you've gone to the trouble & expense of getting the problems solved in your current place you then move to a new one with all DIFFERENT problems and a lot of the things you bought for the first place (curtains, area rug, storage, etc.) don't work or fit in the new one. It makes me say grrr. Of course, if I stay in UT county for the next little bit that shouldn't be a problem, since about 95% of the apartments have this floor plan. ;-)

Nemesis said... [reply]

But yeah. Still cheaper than buying a house you can't afford.

Kelly said... [reply]

I know Maxwell and Sarah Kate are design superheroes, but the pictures of their apartment kind of made me claustrophobic.

I always have grand design ideas, but never really fulfill them because it usually ends up costing more than I think it should. We just happen to be in a beautiful fairy tale house now, with window treatments, paint and area rugs chosen and paid for by the landlady. It's fantastic, but the next time we move, we'll be back to square one and I'll be back to bare-with-possibly-mini-blinds windows because I'm too cheap to buy curtains.

But, yeah, IKEA is probably your best bet.

Bridget said... [reply]

Maybe you're super social so this wouldn't work for you, but we have survived tiny/ugly apartments by having as few items of furniture as possible. Every once in a while you wish you had a loveseat or side table or whatever but otherwise the SPACE is so worth it.

Maggie said... [reply]

I'm not sure how much you are willing to spend but here are some of my ideas:

-Try to find a place that sells carpet remnants and just buy a remnant that is only about six inches smaller than your room. If you can have it bound, even better, but that would take care of your carpet problems. Plus, then you can take it with you to your next place.

-If you use liquid starch you can "paste" fabric to your wall sort of like wallpaper, but then when you want it off you just use a spray bottle to wet it down and it slides right off. Just doing one accent wall makes a huge difference. The down side is that when you take it off you do have to wipe off the wall, but I justified that by knowing I would have to wipe down the walls anyway.

-For cheaper art I recommend going to the book store and buying old calendars with pictures you enjoy. They're really cheap that way so you can cover your walls in them.

-If you're having trouble hanging things on your walls, 3M now makes a product to hang things on your walls. I think they're called picture hanging strips. It has the sticky back that you pull to release, but the front has a velcro type surface that holds to the object. They're pretty strong if you follow the directions on the box.

Sorry that was a long comment.

Kristi said... [reply]

As a landlord, I can tell you that if my tenants said, "hey, can we paint this neutral color on the walls and replace the miniblinds?" I'd jump up and down, thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to do it (and would cross my finger that it was done well). I'd pay for all the materials and give them a break on the rent as well. Same goes for the flooring, if they found a good deal and let me know about it and it was functional.

If they put foam tape on any walls or doors, though, I'd ding their security deposit.

Nemesis said... [reply]

I just bought a cute throw pillow for the couch! Am on my way . . .

Rynell said... [reply]

Ikea is the obvious answer for storage.

Less is less. And I like it that way. Too much furniture is too much to navigate (in my case--fall) around in a small space.

White sheets, white dishes, white shower curtains worked for me and I didn't have to re-think everything when we moved again. I'm in a house now and am slowly getting around to adding some color that I like. I have an painter/photographer husband and I am still going neutral because I want his art on the walls to be a focal point.

Everyone has different taste. I have friends that freak out that I still have (and like) a blank wall or two. Whatever reflects your family will make you happy -- even with the unfortunate aspects of rentals.

(I like the idea of a bound carpet remnant to cover shag.)

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I think you should ditch the couches and go with camping chairs. A couple of girls did that several years ago when their other roommate got married and ran off with the sofa. They were cool chics, and the chairs added some personality to the apartment.

:-)

Jill said... [reply]

Rugs to hide ugly carpet-Ikea has cute ones for even just $14.99!

Pictures-pictures of friends, family, spouses, babies...makes the room happier.

Light. Lots and lots of lamps and windows open.

And I find a candle or even candle warmer help as well. (Hobby Lobby sells candle warmers for $5)

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

The thing I hate about all books/suggestions/webpages/lovely pictures/etc. is that everything looks better when it is clean. How do those tiny spaces look when they are cluttered? And I tell you what. There is exactly ONE place in my house for each thing. If any ONE thing is out of place, we look cluttered.

Mrs. Clark said... [reply]

I'd like to know how that couple make the bed. Or get into it, for that matter. And they are going to HAVE to get out of there oncer that kid is 16 months or so.

Mrs. Clark said... [reply]

But I did not offer advice. I lived in a 1-bedroom in UT CO for 3 1/2 years while DH got his degree. Had a baby six months before we moved. His crib was in the dining area and we sat on the cheap vinyl sectional (from his mom's place) to eat. Luckily the beautiful maple dining table from my mom has gateleg sides, so it folded down. I went ahead and papered the walls of the kitchen without permission. And I bought good furniture for the bedroom. It was tight in there, but I might consider trading my 5-bedroom, beautifully decorated house (made my own draperies--girls, get sewing!) for that six months I stayed at home with my baby in that place. It was one of the happiest times in my life.

lylaburns123 said... [reply]

I love what you've done with the place. Also, if it saves you a trip to the physiotherapy toronto clinic, then I'd say it's a job well done. ;) I'd love to do something like this for my house as well. Stupid cords!

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