Tips for making a drap space stylish
May 13, 2012 1:01 PM   Subscribe

How do you decorate a small apartment with white walls, beige carpets, and not much natural light?

My decorating style tends to rely on some color on the walls, so I really don't know what to do with the apartment I'm planning on moving into. I found some pictures I like of styles that work with white walls, but they all rely on lots of space/big windows and wood floors. I doubt I could recreate the same effect without those components.

The rooms I need to furnish are a small dining room, a living room and the adjacent balcony, and a bedroom. Here are a few sample pictures:
living room 1 2

I really dislike the decorating style in those sample rooms. I would prefer something a bit more light and airy that doesn't overpower the small space. What's a good way to add color without having it look out of place like those red sofas? I've had a hard time finding examples of what I'm looking for, so I'm hoping someone here can help. I'm not a big fan of IKEA or super-modern styles.
posted by lali to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Large fabric panels are among the easiest way to add (renter-friendly) color/pattern/texture to large spaces. You can attach the corners to the walls with those removable command strips or thumbtacks or something else that you can take off easily. You can also find some large cheap frames and frame fabric if you want to go smaller. You can go subtle or not. Try browsing around on spoonflower to see if there's anything that catches your fancy.
posted by brainmouse at 1:06 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are there some examples of things you like that you could post, so that we could help adapt them to this space?

Also, I think one answer is a lot of small accent lights. Nothing makes those white/beige spaces worse than overwhelming central lighting. It just creates gloomy, grey corners.
posted by mercredi at 1:08 PM on May 13, 2012

I kind of like these rooms: 1 2

Honestly, white rooms are such an uncharted territory for me that I'm open to pretty much any idea.
posted by lali at 1:17 PM on May 13, 2012

Oh gag! No wonder you hate those rooms. Heavy furniture that just overwhelms, no personality, bleah. Lali has the right idea, except I might add one or two small bits of color. The lighter and more airy you can keep it, the better. Two things that bring in light are mirrors--even placed higher than you naturally would put them for combing your hair and cheating on the size of your windows by placing the curtains so they don't actually hang in front of the window, but are just at the edges (sides.) You can also create a false window by placing lights behind sheer curtains. Also, what do you already own that you love to have around you? You need to put out things that express the essence of who you are and what your interests are.

Google image search on 'white walls bedroom' and white walls bedroom decorating'. There's a ton of great ideas there in different styles. Same for living room etc. Bound to be something that you'd like to emulate. Are you into antiques? Check out thrift sales for faux antiques or smallish old style stuff that you could work into a light antique finish. If you're not into do it yourself, and have the money, maybe pick up stuff and have it done.

Good luck.

PS It would be so cool if you could post pics of your place when you finally get it done. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is curious...
posted by BlueHorse at 1:55 PM on May 13, 2012

My strategy is to keep the big stuff neutral, but add pops of color with throw pillows and curtains, possibly rugs as well.
posted by peppermind at 3:30 PM on May 13, 2012

Consider pale spring colors: white, yellow, lilac, pink, pale green, with small splashes of orange, grey, darker green, or blues. One way to go is to combine analogous colors with a lot of white space-- that is, shades of blue, shades of grey to white, tiny splashes of yellow (for example). It's great if you found 'central points' of artwork or crafts that inspire you or make you happy and are delicate-- a large painting with lots of 'white space' and the right colors. Things like botanical or wildlife illustrations can be useful 'cause they're always going to use white space with splashes of color. Then, if you use birds (for example), you can use that theme as a subtle theme (a bird vase for fresh flowers, some birds on curtains or a throw pillow, stuff like that).

White is difficult to live with and keep clean on fabrics, if that's an issue, but you can get a similar effect with light grey, lilac, pale yellows and greens in fabric and whites on any decorative objects or furniture. The right translucent white curtains work well if there's enough natural light. Also, you can use simple materials (natural linen is a pretty beige color, say), and it'd correspond well to a rice-paper lantern or lamp. I know painting things like frames white is a cliche by now, but it can work well, especially if you frame things like dried flowers or even jewelry (a few necklaces, say) on a small nail inside the frame.

Just because there's carpet doesn't mean you can't put a linen/cloth throw rug over the right area (like beneath a coffee table), if the colors are harmonious. I think that glass objects reflect and hold light very well. Instead of getting painted white or dark furniture, look for pale woods like beech (lighter than oak), and focus on sleek lines and fewer angles. If your room is neutral and you're not messy, a white sofa with bright (red, yellow, green) pillows is a great way to pull things together. Mirrors are helpful too, if they're positioned to catch the light. I would also look for long/narrow furniture pieces that elongate the room for the eye. Naturally, it helps to have fewer stuff in the room, or stuff that's either along the walls or not blocking the line of sight.
posted by reenka at 4:57 PM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel you, the sample pictures...yikes!
The rooms you like have practically only white pieces, predominantly furniture. It's almost a bit of a shabby chic in the Elle Decor pic.
Color is added through accent pieces like flowers, pillows, a comforter etc. (= stuff that can be replaced easily, if you get tired of the color).

If you think of your empty rooms, you can definitely achieve the look you want by adding white furniture to scale and keeping most things simple (note: there is no random stuff in this pictures, no clothes, books, electronics and so on). So try to plan where to stash all the stuff you have/need to achieve a cleaner look.
Decide on color(s) you want and try to stick to those! (Elle has two: yellow and orange, in different shades, but nothing else). The tumblr pic is one taupe-grey-brown, no other color.
Both feature empty frames, so I am assuming you like those. I think BlueHorse's mirror idea is good. You could also add different lamps (placement, size) to get more light, like mercredi said.

For your living room I would replace/hang over this window treatment with breezy, light, white cotton fabric curtains. It actually is a big window! I would treat the balcony as part of the living room by extending the decor there. An area rug could connect room & balcony in the summer, floor pillows/same chairs could be in&outdoors, I would put up lights/candles there, which would reflect into the room.

Also think about the placement of the furniture and if you want to switch up the assigned uses of the rooms. I know you said you don’t like super modern, what is your opinion on acrylic/glass furniture? I am not sure if you already own furniture or if you need to get some.
It seems like you don't want big furniture, rather smaller pieces so the rooms look lighter, airier. Note the big plant in the living room? It is totally over powering the whole area & blocking daylight, go for smaller pieces instead. Only limited colors, the pictures you like show plain fabrics with no patterns. Decorating effects are achieved by 'grouping/stacking' the same/similar elements together (frames) in designated areas.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:22 PM on May 13, 2012

Google "shabby chic" and a lot of white-based apartments will come up like the the pages you like. Here's a version of it that's manufactured, but you can do a lot of it yourself.

Also, I always put down a rug with good colors, even on top of carpet. It adds color and saves the carpet and with it my deposit.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:14 PM on May 13, 2012

« Older Is AskMe now it's own weather system?   |   some of my best friends are libertarians? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.