Before-and-After: A Modern Makeover for a Small Apartment

Apartment Decorating
A run-down, 750-square-foot apartment had seen better days, but a smart makeover enhanced the charisma of the 1920s unit and layered in contemporary twists.

BEFORE: Yikes Living Room

A cozy apartment in a charming 1920s building sported some swoon-worthy period details, but was stymied by a lack of charm and style. The homeowners set about their renovation with the goal of restoring the good bones and layering in modern style and amenities. 

After: Fresh and Fun

Midcentury modern furniture and layers of colorful accessories brought the living room to life. The sleek furniture brings a design-minded look to the apartment and charming maps from a Paris flea market pull the color scheme together.

BEFORE: Kitchen Shell

The kitchen wasn't at all functional and was a priority during the renovation. Without space to expand, the homeowners had to work within a tiny footprint.

After: Compact and Complete

The farmhouse sink and butcher-block countertops were affordable IKEA finds, and the walls were dressed up with white subway tiles. A wall-mount storage rack turned a blank wall into valuable organizational space.

Bright and Fresh

White cabinets, another IKEA find, keep in step with the apartment's vintage origins, as do pulls and latches. 

Utilizing Space

A bar fit perfectly on the small wall that divides the living room and kitchen, packing function into unused space, a must in a small apartment. The homeowners hung a pair of upper cabinets just above the floor and added two wine racks between them. They topped the cabinets with the same butcher block that was used in the kitchen.

Dine in Style

The dining room in the apartment is a small nook between the kitchen and living room area and the bedroom. Although small, smart design choices make it hardworking and stylish. The art on the wall -- a grain sack the couple picked up for 20 cents while in Guatemala -- is the centerpiece of the space. In a furnishings twist, the green buffet is actually a dresser. The homeowners needed something in a particular size and the dresser fit the bill. With a paint makeover and new knobs, it's a bright and personalized addition to the white dining room.

Black + White + Color

A set of bookshelves in a just-right size look like built-ins, but fit perfectly in an awkward-shape nook in the dining room. Color-coordinated books pop against the black and white storage boxes, which conceal odds and ends.


The bathroom was decent, but still needed a little refresh.

After: Graphic Punch

An affordable facelift refreshed the bathroom. The homeowners painted black and white stripes on the walls, added sleek new light fixtures, and installed towel bars, proving that simple and small updates can have a big impact.

BEFORE: Blank Slate

The bare white bedroom needed a modern face. 

After: Personality-Packed

In lieu of wallpaper, the homeowners hand-stamped a diamond pattern on their white walls after penciling in a grid. They used a regular ink pad and stamp and were surprised by how ready it was. The plush headboard and handmade quilt cozy up the room, while the big black-and-white pillow adds a graphic punch.

Gallery Style

Gray paint on a hand-me-down dresser refreshed the old piece and a nearly new butterfly chair proves secondhand can be just as stylish as brand-new. The collage wall, which is filled with framed photos, maps, and ephemera, is a tribute to the homeowners' wanderlust.

Take-Along Pieces

Apartment dwelling can involve moving from place to place from time to time, but fortunately, furniture that served you well in one abode can do the same in your next rental. The homeowners purchased their nightstands for their first apartment and they work just as well in their new one. 

Just because you're renting doesn't mean you can't have a stylish home. Use these apartment decor ideas to spruce up even the smallest of spaces.

BONUS: Apartment Tips

Ready to give your apartment a fresh facelift? Try these rental-friendly ideas. 

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