6 Ways to Take a Basic Builder-Grade Condo From Whoa to Wow

A revamped artist's condo bans boring and says hello to color and statement-making pieces. Follow these expert tips by interior designer Caitlin Murray for decorating a condo with personality. 

A blank, neutral canvas might seem an appropriate background for an artist. But living in a beige box didn’t do anything to spark inspiration for the painter who inhabits this 900-square-foot condo in West Hollywood. Enter interior designer Caitlin Murray. “I wanted the space to reflect the homeowner—to be her grown-up bachelorette pied-à-terre,” Murray says. “I wanted it to feel luxe without taking itself too seriously."

Cream walls were repainted in crisp white to create a gallery-like backdrop for the homeowner’s art and other pieces she’s collected. Next, color came in with a few bold strokes delivered via upholstery, rugs, and the ceiling, which is painted high-gloss black in most spaces and even wallpapered in the master bath. See the other ways she took the bare bones of this builder condo from bland to fabulous.

1. Pick Pieces that Can Do Double Duty

Murray added new energy to this living room with velvet jewel-tone furniture and an antique Persian rug. She balanced the dark tones with reflective pieces, including a vintage mirrored folding screen, shiny brass tables, and black metal lamps. The designer layered various textures—mirrored and lacquered, soft and fluffy—and mixed furniture styles for a look that’s eclectic yet polished. 

She also tucked a narrow console table into the living room to work as a desk. Side tables with drawers store linens, candles, and other tabletop goods for the nearby dining room.

There are hints of vintage, traditional, and contemporary, which keeps a home feeling classic, not locked into one decade or era. It’s definitely a theme of cultivated caprice.”

Caitlin Murray

2. Don't Be Color-Shy

Neutral colors can make a small space seem even smaller. Colorful hues on walls, floors, or ceilings add interest and can make rooms look expansive. In rooms without natural light, Murray adds her own sunshine. She painted the walls in the powder room a peach color to create a jewel-box effect. Dated industrial-looking floor tiles were replaced with graphic concrete tiles. Murray carried the tile’s grounding shades of black and gray throughout the room with a new marble-top vanity, black fixtures, and a rounded mirror. Deco-inspired sconces amp up the opulence in the small space.

Consider adjacent spaces when choosing colors in a room. Tie spaces together by repeating a hue. A colorful pair of modern works of art by Julian Opie depicting a man and woman coming and going seems to reflect the purpose of this hallway, which is just around the corner from the main living spaces.

3. Layer with Accessories

Beige carpet throughout the condo was removed and replaced with sleek seamless stone flooring that mimics the look of poured concrete. It provides a contemporary anchor for retro-style pieces, such as the black metal hexagon shelving unit and velvet-clad chair in a corner of the bedroom. Show off your personality with accessories. Stacked books, throws, pillows, vases, and collections neatly contained on trays, tabletops, and shelves lend soul to a space. “Don’t go to extremes, but if a room is too bare, the space feels smaller,” Murray says.

Every room should have at least one black object. It offers a sense of sophistication.”

CAITLIN MURRAY

4. Play with Scale

Sculptural rattan chairs, a black lacquered oval wood table, and a gem-shape faceted glass pendant provide shapely silhouettes in the dining area while allowing the eye to travel through the space. Jolts of color come from a lavender rug and a gallery wall of art. “You have to strike a balance between hefty pieces and furniture with more modest silhouettes,” Murray says. Vary the proportion of furniture. Try using a few large pieces instead of packing a room with a plethora of small-scale items, which can crowd a space.

5. Change the Layout

The kitchen remains within the same footprint but a wall that closed it off from the rest of the condo was removed. Murray added a waterfall peninsula as a subtle divider and painted the new cabinets gray to contrast with the white quartz countertops.

6. Add Wallpaper

There’s a softer side on display in the master bedroom where Murray added interest to a long wall with a graphic yet muted-color wallpaper. An airy iron four-poster draws the eye up, while floor-to-ceiling draperies provide privacy and soften the hard edges of a sliding glass door leading to a balcony.

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