Shannon Claire Smith is a decorator and author of the design blog Burlap and Lace. She joined a live Home Front chat with staff writer Jura Koncius, who featured Smith’s 850-square-foot, D.C. apartment in a recent article. Here’s some of her best design and rental advice.
Choosing an apartment-size sofa: Smith advises clients against buying smaller furniture. She finds in most cases people don’t need a small sofa but a better furniture arrangement.
Cat-friendly apartment living: To cover up the unsavory aspects of being a cat owner, find an out-of-sight spot for the litter box. Smith’s box for her two cats is tucked away in a corner of her office/sunroom, behind a bookshelf. “It’s not visible to guests, but the cats know exactly where it is,” Smith wrote. If you don’t have a spot to tuck it away, you can get creative. Smith said her parents bought a vintage steamer trunk and cut a hole in the side. “They open the lid to put the litter box inside, and then close it again to disguise it,” Smith wrote. “The cats love it, and guests are none the wiser.”
Finding an apartment with character: “The Internet is your friend,” Smith wrote, pointing out there are many, many resources for listings online, even YouTube home tours. It’s best to select a neighborhood, then put together a list of your wants: centrally located, high ceilings or new appliances. The next step is researching whether your wish list is feasible. “I read reviews, used Google image search, watched videos, everything,” Smith wrote. The key, she said, is doing your research before you start the search.
What to learn from living with less: Only buy an item if you absolutely love it or it has a specific purpose. “If you stick to that, you’ll have a space filled with meaningful and purposeful items,” Smith wrote.
Craigslist tips: Don’t browse aimlessly; you can get bogged down if you aren’t looking for a specific item. Smith filters for items with images that are being sold by owner (as opposed to dealers). Viewing posts through the gallery option allows you to cut down on time and clicking. It’s helpful to search using keywords to get the best results.
Updating lighting: Many renters are stuck with ugly overhead fixtures. Add some ambiance with a vintage lamp paired with a more modern drum shade. “My only rule for lamp shades is that the width of the shade must be wider than the base,” Smith wrote. Start with a classic white drum shade and see how you like that. Smith suggests adding ribbon trim to the edges if the white drum feels too bland.
Built-in bookcases options for a rental: Smith recommends the Billy Bookcases from Ikea because they’re inexpensive, customizable and can be made to look like real built-ins with molding and trim.
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