Revamp Your Home (Without Leaving)
If you’re like me, a nomad living in Northern Italy, dreaming about our someday LA apartment, you’re scowering YouTube and Pinterest, learning how to re-floor a kitchen.
I’m craving an art project! So, let’s roll up our sleeves together and make something.
I love painting with acrylics. Turns out, there are tons of easy things to paint that actually look professional. The first thing I do is get onto Pinterest.
I usually search the specifics of what I want to paint: mid-century modern paintings…simple color block paintings. I never take on anything too crazy, because I am a laywoman artist. When I get home, I want to build at entire stylised GALLERY WALL.
Gallery Walls are incredible because you can really pair art together in a way that showcases your lovely art, but that creates a cohesive piece of art, together. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m in a museum!
Whether you’re in a temporary living situation (hello pandemic), or a permanent one, DIY art is a great way to add your personal color palette, taste, and style to a space. If you have old canvases, fabric, frames, etc. pull out some paints and get crafty. You can also order paints online from your local art store, or place an order for pickup at certain shops! I love mixing BAKING SODA with my paint to create an earthy, thick texture.
Because we’re in a temporary space, I got these canvases and a small amount of acrylic paint for a date night for us from the art store down the street. But now they can be our temporary art here in Italy! Okay, I may try to squeeze them into our luggage, we’ll see.
Mason jars and organization
We have so many dried goods! Beans, lentils, pasta, tea, etc. When we first arrived at the apartment, we had dozens of precarious bags that were half open, filled with highly messy contents like rice or couscous.
I realized by perusing some of my boyfriend’s grandma’s drawers, that she has hundreds of mason jars saved. They’re all different sizes and shapes, which is really fun. I washed them out and got organizing! We have a really cute orange shelf over my workspace, so I thought they’d be the perfect organic, colorful addition. You can see them in the photo above!
Tupperware is another great thing to have and can really transform a refrigerator. I love glass tupperware, just because it makes me feel really good about nothing leaching into my food. I also found some gorgeous baskets (see in the orange picture above!) that I was able to use for the storage of books, workout supplies, tea, and our toiletries.
Reassessing storage is the perfect thing to do when we’re home so often, and for me, it helps keep my “office”/the kitchen clean! For me, organization is a necessity. Shop your house and give it a new organizational layout!
If your room has four walls in theory, think about how prominent a set of curtains are, that probably occupy the majority of the space on one of the walls! Curtains set the mood of the room.
They’re a great tool to tie in your color palette, and to increase the comfort of the room. They add great texture and keep the light out or in. Recently my mom sent me a picture of curtain options for her room with cream walls. She sent me options of heavy navy curtains. I told her I was concerned and asked her, what is your goal by having curtains? Are they for decoration? Or for keeping light out?
She told me the morning sun had been waking her up and that she needed curtains to keep the light out. That’s why she chose the dark navy. However, I explained that the pairing of a yellowish cream color and dark navy were far from my favorite colors together. Additionally, her room is lacks natural light and I was concerned about the dark curtains being to heavy for the space.
At the end of the day, she ordered a set of light gray, yet opaque curtains instead. They still offer the light-blocking value, but they brought a lighter vibe into the space.
So, assess your curtain needs! Is it your first time curtaining? Check out IKEA for an inexpensive rod. They also have great options for the curtains themselves. Amber Plaster taught me two very important curtain lessons:
- Sheer, pretty white curtains inside of opaque colorful curtains are always a great option to add some class to the room and make it feel a little expensive. Even if you bought the curtains at IKEA on sale like I did ;).
- Hang the curtains at the top of the wall, not at the top of the window. This adds height to the room!
Maybe you already have curtains, but you want to try to lighten up the room or add something more textured? Check out the sales and give a new pair a whirl! In reality, $50 to upgrade the vibe and light in your space is really wroth it, especially when we’re home all day.
Lastly, curtains get dirty. If you have a steam cleaner (I don’t, but I have my eye on one…) give them a steam…some curtains you can put in the wash on delicate. Or you can always dry-clean (just leave them to sit in a bag for 24 hours after, due to COVID concerns).
Let’s talk about pillows
If you’re like me, you have a ridiculous number of pillows since your friend gave you a ton of hers when she moved. The only issue? None of them match! The good news? Pillows are really easy to recover. I usually order a new pillow cover on sale at H&M home or Target, but you can make your own pillow covers. I don’t have a sewing machine, but someday I’d like to have one and be able to do this. Check out this easy video by DIY, DALIA on how to make a pocket pillow cover — seriously so simple.
Changing out your pillows are a great alternative to making any big furniture decisions. They’re the focal point on the couch, and a great way to introduce a new accent color!
Is your color palette working?
Sit in your space and right down the specific colors you’re working with. At our temporary place here in Italy, the walls are a dark sandy brown, with a basket-like texture. It’s difficult to stray from this all consuming color, but there are a lot of colors I love that actually lean into the 70’s vibe in a cool way. VELET BUBBLEGUM, A TROPICAL GREEN PATTERN, SNOW WHITE, VELVET HEATHER GREEN.
Be specific when you do this exercise, because shades of blue are very different. I like to take a close-up picture of the colors I’m working with and put them into a grid as “swatches” — like this!
Now I can look at the colors up close. Fortunately, the red and white tiles are in the kitchen. The rest of the colors work together in a neutral way — except for the pop of bubblegum pink! This is my favorite color in the bunch, so I keep these pillows right on the couch to draw attention to them.
You can’t always control your space, but you can brainstorm colors and assess the space. What is it missing? Is it overwhelming with color and texture? As we discussed before with art, curtains, and pillows, there are plenty of ways to introduce a different color palette into your home!
Is your work space working?
My workspace is in the kitchen. I even have a desk elsewhere, but I love the orange pops of color paired with white in our kitchen. It’s also the sunniest room in the house with a view of the alps!
I also love that the desk isn’t precious wood from the 1920s like the furniture in the rest of the house. If I’m writing, painting, or for some reason I have sunscreen on my arms, I feel better knowing I won’t damage the desk!
Write out what IS working about your workspace…then assess what maybe isn’t: The TRASH is right next to my desk (you can see it **slightly**)
I had to promise myself to stop letting the trash pile up. SOLUTION: Instead of allowing a trash corner, I put our foldable bikes there! There’s no longer room for our trash. We just have to commit to taking it out a few times per week.
Some common issues with workspace are natural light, organization, space, comfort of a desk/chair, and privacy. Another reason I work in the kitchen is because my boyfriend works in the bedroom. Because he’s a composer, it’s important for us to have two doors in between us while we’re working so we can both have the quiet we need!
Take the time to think about how you can improve your workflow by making little changes to your workstation. I’m a big proponent for delicious smelling candles, padded seats, and a view.
How is your sleep?
Additionally, focusing on making your sleep space tranquil may also help your productivity during the day. In Italy, most of the apartments have electric panels that come down that completely blackout the room.
At first, my boyfriend was ecstatic about this and we slept in complete blackness for a few nights. But we noticed that our bodies weren’t waking up naturally, and we had to start setting an alarm. Eventually, I noticed that I was sleeping a lot more.
Now we leave the sheer white curtains to do the trick, leaving the blackout panels open. I grew up in a very sunny room and need to wake up to a sunny room, or else I feel depressed all morning. Sometimes we close them halfway if we’re really tired and want to sleep in!
Long story short, we had to figure out a sleeping situation that worked for us. Another example is, we shut all the technology down (my boyfriend’s office is right next to our bed) and try to have some quiet time in bed before going to sleep without technology. This doesn’t always happen (especially if I’m binging a show…), but I try to read, stretch, and chat with my boyfriend while we calm down for the night.
Some things that can inhibit sleep:
- Mirrors facing the bed: this is not good for Feng Shui, besides that, it’s annoying to look yourself right in the face before bed. If you want a mirror in your bedroom, find a soft scarf or fabric to drape over it while you sleep, or turn it around! When Amber re-did my room, she hung a mirror in my closet. I still had access to a mirror, but it wasn’t such a central player in the room anymore.
- Technology near your head: try to keep the room technology free if you can. I make sure to shut off my phone and stash it in a different room. But I’m often guilty of stowing my computer, still on, in my nightstand. There’s a lot of debate about the proximity of technology to our bodies (like whether smart phones cause cancer if put close to the breasts or the head). My motto? Just play it safe. I don’t put my phone up to my ear (it also makes me break out) or near my chest. And I’m working on kicking out all of the technology at night.
- Too much activity in the bedroom: Someone once told me bedrooms are for sleeping and sex .I know, I know, it’s quarantine and you do everything in the bedroom! That’s okay. When you’re approaching sleeping, try to just relax in your bedroom. Dim the lights if you can, leave all streaming devices in the living room. Sip some tea and read (I think reading is totally fair game in bed!). We have a little electric candle on my nightstand that burns so brightly with extreme white light. Last night I wanted to read in bed, so I borrowed a soft shade from a lamp in the living room and just placed it over the the electric candle to achieve a soft, warm glow.
“Flow out the door”
My boyfriend constantly asks me, where’s my (keys/wallet/phone/hand sanitizer). Which is why I tell him everything needs a spot. The only issue is, he never puts anything back — but we’re working on it!
I’m big on a “flow out the door ” method, which usually entails coats hung-up on hooks, shoes on a mat, and all items that need to be brought along: hand sanitizer, a purse, tissues, the house keys…are LINED UP right by the door.
Everything has a home, so losing an item is more difficult (in theory)…
This is something that’s easier when you’re in a permanent spot, because you can hang up hooks, shelving, or use felt boxes or baskets to create storage for these items. However, we’re finding little wins here: there were plenty of hooks hung up already for hats, scarves, and masks. We received a box that housed several bottles of wine for Christmas. I repurposed the box to be a “flow out the door” storage center, with each panel holding receipts, winter wear, and miscellaneous junk. I also found several cute ceramic dishes for coins, keys, and hand sanitizers. Most of the time we can flow on outside!
Books are beautiful
Books not only have sentimental value (or is that just me?!), they are sometimes gorgeous. I tend to buy books that I love that also have a beautiful jacket (like Untamed by Glennon Doyle) in person instead of on a kindle because I love decorating with them. Old books especially can have a lovely texture to their jackets.
Other things that bring warmth and texture to your home (that you may just have lying around!): scarves, sweaters, anything made of yarn, tapestries, baskets, and fake flowers / plants. If you’re not sure how to style these things (I’ll admit, some are pretty random), check out YouTube or Pinterest for inspiration.
A fresh coat of spray-paint
Getting sick of that desk lamp / glass vase / metal tray / tea tin? You can completely revamp all of these with something as easy as spray paint.
My roommates and I once bought a lamp with a giant sculpted bird on it. The bird was multi-colored, which made this lamp look completely insane. We originally bought it for a Haunted Mansion Halloween party we threw, but afterwards, we decided to spray paint it white. Suddenly, the lamp looked like something you’d buy off a boutique on Melrose.
These solid white animal lamps are really trendy — check out my friend Andie’s room remodel where she makes a monkey lamp!
Some things you may need to spray with a primer/ spray paint mixture. Some things (like glass) you may need to sand with some sandpaper. I’d recommend searching for DIY spray-paint flips online (there are so many!) for some inspiration before jumping in. Here is a video I love by Tina Lee where she transforms a few basic vases and bowls and makes them fantastic!
Want to transform your plastic desk to make it look like wood? Want to “install” subway tile on your kitchen backsplash? How about re-tiling your ugly brown bathroom tile? Contact paper is a renter friendly way to do all of this! If you’re looking for a little bit of a project, that is…
- Pick your pattern: you can browse patterns on Amazon or check out the site WallPops, but there are a ton of patterns out there. I always use Pinterest before I make the final decision.
- Measure the space: whether it’s a backsplash or the floor to figure out how many sheets you’ll need. When it arrives, lay it out.
- You’ll need an EXACTO KNIFE to cut the pieces to the size they need to be. Be cognizant of patterns, etc.
- Lay and stick! Here’s some videos by Tina Lee, and XO MaCenna where they use contact paper.
My favorite way to transform any space? Greenery. I’m not as big of a fan of flowers (they’re expensive and they don’t last), but I love love love plants and succulents. To me, they’re a must in any apartment, not just for detoxing the space, but for some natural, textured, soft, calming elements. Plus, you can get a beautiful plant and still be a on a budget!
Anywhere I go, even if it’s for a few weeks, I tend to purchase at least a tiny succulent. They make a space so much brighter to me. Especially when we’re home so often and isolated from the outside world considerably, it’s a good idea to bring the outside inside!
My boyfriend’s dad knew we were missing LA a bit and got us these adorable cacti. I put them on my desk, but had to move them to the window to make sure they get enough sunlight in the Torino winter. My boyfriend’s grandma had this fake plant on this cute trunk in the kitchen. I just added the cacti — not everything needs to be a real plant and not everything needs to be perfect… it’s 2020/2021: there is no perfect.
If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s how to roll with the punches. But just because I’m a nomad without my own apartment doesn’t mean I can’t find ways to improve my space! I hope these ideas helped you find your peace in yours and maybe add some extra simple, extra special elements.
Whenever I Need A Pick-Me-Up, I “Queer Eye” My Life
Here’s how I channel the power of the Fab 5