Grace Maldarelli, a medical student in Baltimore, finally has her own apartment and calls herself an “absolute design novice.” She says her 330-square-foot studio unit (kitchen, living space and bedroom, all in one) feels “impersonal” and lacks cohesiveness. Maldarelli wants to decorate but doesn’t know where to begin. Her requests are simple: She loves warm, muted colors and needs plenty of shelving for her schoolbooks. But the space is a challenge: With white walls, white wall-to-wall carpet and a 7-by-6-foot sleeping alcove, it hardly feels like home.
By adding storage and creating two distinct rooms, designer Margery Wedderburn turns the bare apartment into a student’s sanctuary. When selecting furniture, Wedderburn looked for “fun, fresh pieces” that serve dual purposes to accommodate Maldarelli’s small living room. Ideally, she said, each piece will be an investment that Maldarelli can use in future homes.
Modern patterns can make the space feel younger and give it new life: a Missoni-inspired area rug and sunburst mirror, for example.
An ottoman at the end of the bed can provide additional seating and storage for spare blankets and pillows.
Prevent clutter by maximizing storage space. The headboard has hidden shelving for an alarm clock, books and magazines.
Close off the sleeping alcove with curtains. Magnetic holdbacks will prevent damage to the walls.
Smaller rooms call for simple bedding. A busy duvet and collection of throw pillows would make this alcove feel too crowded.
Use pieces that serve double duty. The compact console table converts to a laptop desk.
Invest in a few staples that will last, such as a classic hutch or bookcase.
Don’t be afraid to vary the seating.
A rustic bench can double as a coffee table by the sofa.
Add whimsical, personal touches. Classical music buffs may enjoy a bust of Beethoven.
Plan ahead for parties. Stackable dining chairs can be stowed for large gatherings.
Frame photos and hang with adhesive hooks. Match the frames for consistency.
Replace dated blinds with sliding panels. Add curtains to soften and break up the window wall.
Furniture: Silverado dining table ($350, www.cb2.com); Provence dining bench ($184, www.worldmarket.com); Bornova side table ($200; www.ballarddesigns.com); convertible desk ($150, www.homedecorators.com); Stig bar stools ($17 each), Martin chairs ($30 each) and Oppdal headboard in black-brown ($120 for full), all from www.ikea.com.
Accessories: Chevron area rug in blue ($250, www.homedecorators.com); Beethoven bust ($35, www.amazon.com); assorted metallic spheres ($5 each, www.pier1.com); float frames (from $20, www.cb2.com); Metro faux silk panels ($30 each, www.lnt.com); Dagny panel curtain in light beige ($20) and Tanja Brodyr duvet cover and pillow shams ($40 for full), both from www.ikea.com.
Gentry chair in
off-white linen (from $580, www.ballard
Clear glass table lamp with metal base ($80, www.overstock.com).
Lydia dining chairs ($300 for two, www.world
Jonsbo Barby glass table lamp ($50) with Jonsbo shade ($10), both from www.ikea.com.
Sunburst mirror ($650, www.horchow.
Ava storage ottoman in beige linen ($550, www.frontgate.com).
Poncha mirror ($301, www.lnt.com).
Jonathan linen storage ottoman in cream ($163, www.overstock.com).
Tell us about your design challenge.
Send photos, room dimensions and contact information to email@example.com.