Friday, February 10, 2017

Dark Boring Apartments....What to do?

You find an apartment in the perfect location at the perfect price and you jump on it only to discover after you've moved your stuff in, that's it might be a bit small, a lot darker and with far less storage than you'd remembered.  I think we've all done that a time or two.  Now you're stuck in a lease for at least a are you going to make this work?

With just a little creativity and imagination, that small, dark apartment will work without breaking the bank.  Let's take a look at some great ideas from Better Home and Gardens as well as a couple from Pop Sugar.

Kitchen Storage

Kitchen storage is usually the first thing sacrificed when developers build apartments.  I guess they think apartment dwellers never cook anything more involved than a frozen pizza.  Depending on your sense of style and the style of your apartment, you have tons of choices in a free standing "pantry".  Head down to the nearest thrift store, garage sale..or if you're flush with cash...a big box store that sells shelving.  Keep in mind that closed in shelving such as bookcases with closed in sides and backs are heavy to the eye and tend to close in a space even more than it already is.  Ornate shelving does the same thing.  You don't want ornate moldings or ornate metal work on your new pantry.  You want clean simple lines preferable in a material that reflects light.  Chrome works best in my opinion.

Helpful tip:  Keep all the less pretty items hidden in your cabinets and only put the pretty items on the open shelving.  Canned vegetables, boxes of pasta, your cat food really needs to be hidden away.  Instead free up valuable cabinet space (for the ugly stuff) by putting your wine glasses, decent dinnerware, colanders and the like on this shelving.  Anything that isn't super attractive can be placed in nice baskets or wooden crates and placed on the shelving to keep it handy but out of sight.  I think this is also a great place to store those pasta pots, roasting pans, mixing bowls and bakeware that never seems to fit into the cabinets of an apartment kitchen.


What about those windows?  Most apartments made between 1980 and 2000 have fewer windows which are smaller and without casings.  While this gives you more wall space to hang your prized artwork or photographs and it helps keep the utility bills down a bit, it also tends to make a room dark and feel a bit closed in.

One way to combat this problem is giving yourself a wall of curtains.  Now, curtains can be pricey.  Especially since you are putting them from one end of the wall to the other.  The solution?  Fabric shower curtains.  One shower curtain is the equivalent of 2 to 2 1/2 panels of curtains and usually cost about half of what 2 curtain panels would cost.  Nowadays fabric shower curtains come in a huge assortment of colors and patterns.  

The beauty of this trick is when you move, you take the curtains with you versus painting where you are out of pocket for the price of paint and supplies yet when you move not only will you obviously have to leave your investment behind but you just might lose your deposit as well.

Another beauty of this trick is the fact that fabric will add color, pattern, texture and movement to your room not to mention that if your tastes or furnishings change, it's easy to swap out.

Helpful tip:  Hand the curtain rods higher than the top of the window.  This will give the illusion that your walls are taller and the window larger.  Curtain rods can be pricey.  A cheap alternative to those rods are copper tubes usually used for plumbing.  Measure the length you need, head to the hardware store, have them cut what you need and then purchase the brackets at a discount store.  If you don't like copper, get aluminum pipes or even wooden dowels.  If all else fails....go to the dollar store, buy a few brooks with wooden handles and use those.  You're only going to see a few inches of the rod when the curtains are opened.  Otherwise the rods will be covered.  Last tip on this subject:  If you don't like the color of the broom sticks or pipes, spray paint them.  Problem solved.


Some people are okay with dark rooms.  They like the cozy, cave like feel of it.  I do not.  I like light and bright.  If you like light and bright rooms what do you do if your room only has one window or maybe more than one window but they're facing shrubbery or trees or another building is blocking a lot of the light?

What you do is invest in lamps.  Table lamps, hanging lamps and floor lamps.  Lamps of all types.  In a previous post, I wrote about transforming ugly, garage sale lamps into gorgeous "new" lamps.  There's no need to break the bank buying lamps.  Head out to the thriftstores and garage sales and grandma's attic and redo them for a fraction of the price of new ones.  Here is a link to that post

A floor lamp in a dark corner will immediately make a room feel larger.  To keep the electric bill down and prevent the room from being over lit, try to limit the bulb wattage to 40 or 60 watts per lamp.  You will still achieve a dramatic difference without making the room or a particular area in the room appearing overly lit while keeping the electric bill down.


Lots of apartments come with standard, builder's grade, boring carpet.  Usually beige.  The best way to combat this is by investing in room sized rugs.  Again, this is a fix that you can take with you when you move so it's money well invested.

Rugs aren't the expensive luxury they once were.  The best thing about the price is if you get tired of the look or it becomes stained, you can throw it out and replace it without getting a second mortgage.

Texture, pattern and color aren't the only benefits to having a rug.  Rugs also offer insulation not only from the weather but also from noise which is a great benefit if you live above another apartment.


Mirrors can open a room almost as much as a window.  Well placed mirrors will bounce light around a room and will also trick the eye into thinking there's another window in the room.  If you find a mirror whose frame isn't really the color that you like....spray paint it.  There's precious little that spray paint won't improve.

Ugly Dated Bathroom Tiles

Sometimes you just have to wonder what the contractor's were thinking when you look at some of their "design" choices.  Especially when you see some of their tile choices.  An otherwise perfectly fine bathroom can become a real eyesore in the blink of an eye when you look on the wall.  

Ugly tile isn't something that you can easily remove or paint over.  BTW it can be painted over with the right technique and products.  But I doubt your landlord would allow it.

What to do this case?  Try to tone it down.  That's really all you can do.  The picture below shows a bathroom with yellow tile that was toned down using a lot of green accents.    Pink tile was all the rage for a while.  Black, gray and white are all good choices to tone down that pink.  Ugly tiled bathrooms would be the one time that I'd beg a landlord to allow me to wallpaper and/or paint the walls.  Sometimes the tile simply has to be toned down in order to live with the bathroom.

Below is a pink tiled bath left alone and another of a pink tiled bath that has been accented with a nice gray upper wall and accessories. Notice how the additions of a gray upper wall and black accidents tones down the pink?

The following bathrooms are, in my opinion, beyond toning down.  They are too wild for any accessory to cure.

Apartment living can be frustrating in that you can't really make dramatic changes to your spaces.  However, you can make changes to how you live in those spaces through your accessories, furniture and lighting.  That can make all the difference in the world!  

As always, enjoy your space!