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Your Space, Your Rules: Become Your Own Interior Designer

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  •   Jul 18, 2018

Whether your current humble abode happens to be a cozy downtown studio or a roomier flat, condo or living space, there are a myriad of ways to customize any room into a personalized haven which will welcome you (and your guests) every time you walk through the doors.

Let's call a spade a spade - urban living these days comes hand-in-hand with a need for ingenuity, both in terms of limited space to work with and constrained budgets.

Armed with a smidgen of creativity, an eye for detail, some dedication and a vision of what it is you imagine yourself wanting to come home to every evening, it is entirely possible to transform any space into an oasis of calmness and personal satisfaction - what any girl owes herself after the hours we spend toiling away to bring home that cherished bread and butter (I do admit to wholeheartedly loving butter).

Whether your current humble abode happens to be a cozy downtown studio (shoutout to my New York, London and fellow Montreal city girls) or a roomier flat, condo or living space, there are a myriad of ways to customize any room into a personalized haven which will welcome you (and your guests) every time you walk through the  doors.

The ideas, tips and resources shared below can be adapted to any room size or floor layout - best of all, they're highly unlikely to break the bank.

1. Create a focal point using a piece you love and build on it.

The human eye is trained to naturally zone in on items which stand out from the surrounding areas . Choose one mid to large-sized must-have furniture piece that you are drawn to and can imagine looking at, longing for and loving day after day - while this may seem like a tall order, all it takes is that one accent chair, bedframe, coffee table, bookshelf, chaise, desk or sofa that you just couldn't resist. 

Once you've decided on your focal piece, choose a practical and aesthetically pleasing space/position for your chosen item. This focal point will serve as a bridge for other complementary items which will help bring your space together. My own apartment sports a large, black chaise positioned in a window corner brimming with natural light. I've paired it with a sleek circular tempered-glass/rattan end table piled high with coffee table books, candles, geode coasters and ethnically inspired glass decor items.  The rest of my furnishings are a deep, almost-black chocolatey wood. For bedding and accent items, I went with light, airy white and grey florals to complete the design. The effect is a cool, clean, crisp yet feminine living space I truly look forward to retreating to every day.

Where to find a focal furniture piece:

  • IKEA - If you're unwilling to dish thousands on a designer/antique piece (often not worth the pretty penny) and are not easily daunted by DIY furniture assembly, IKEA is home to a smorgasbord of well-priced furniture finds. Contrary to popular belief, they actually carry a variety of styles and are not limited to sterile-looking modern, boxy utilitarian Swedish pieces.
  • Pier 1 Imports - While much of Pier 1's inventory is a tad pricier than is often desirable for a girl looking to prioritize how she spends her hard-earned pretty pennies, you may actually be willing to splurge a little on that one focal furniture piece. Better yet, Pier 1 frequently has sales and liquidates floor models to help clear out the last piece of a particular item. My Pier 1 bookshelf, a floor model treasure and iconic focal piece in my teenage bedroom served me well for a decade and was easily re-painted/repurposed when my younger sister moved into her first apartment.
  • Pre-loved furniture, restored with a dash of fairy dust and creativity, can become excellent focal pieces with a better-than-new feel. More often than not, a simple coat of varnish, spray paint or replaced hardware  can turn a shabby-looking piece into an eye-catching piece featured a Vogue Living cover. My sister-in-law once found an antique telephone table (you know, from back when landlines were a thing?) at her local thrift shop, re-upholstered the seat in a lovely patterned fabric with a few simple staples, added a coat of varnish and was forever the envy of every houseguest she had for the next ten years. Browse neighborhood thrift shop, summer yard sale, Salvation Army or Goodwill store for stellar vintage finds. Pinterest and Youtube are brimming with easy DIY ideas - as with all design projects, creating (or improving) something with your own bare hands brings an unparalleled sense of satisfaction you'll be able to relish for years to come.

Once  you've created a focal piece, you can then build on it by adding complementary items such as footstools, ottomans, rugs, end tables and lighting which go with the general aesthetic vibe you're looking to achieve.

2.  Choose neutral base colours and a FEW accent colours - things can change!

Small spaces are easily overpowered by too many colours crowding a single area. Moreover, let's face it - you'll eventually want to change things up a notch (new bedding, accent pieces or artwork and being eternally wed to a particular colour scheme can be limiting. To allow for easy integration of new pieces, choose a neutral base colour for your walls, carpeting (or flooring) and most of the furniture - doing so will allow you to switch things out and incorporate those beautiful ruby-colored brocade cushions you're going to find on a trek to Southeast Asia a year from now or that new rug which just gives the room a brand-spanking new refresh. Change is both essential and good - anticipating and allowing room for natural new finds as you meander through life (and the marvellous world of online inspiration) helps ensure you are able to give your space the occasional (albeit much-needed) facelift.

  • Neutral base colours for walls, carpeting and flooring: whites, eggshell, ecru, taupe, greys, creams and beiges serve to open, illuminate and accentuate the spaciousness of any room.
  • For upholstery, bedding, rugs, lampshades, artwork, drapery, and accent items such as cushions, ottomans or throws, choose a simple palette of a few accent colours to complement the base. Some ideas include:
    • Dusty beige and robins-egg blue for an elegant, feminine look
    • Canary yellow and coral prints for a summery feel
    • Navy and white for a crisp, nautical aesthetic
    • Cherry red and deep aubergine tones for royal, luxurious finish

Feeling chromatically challenged? Check out these beautiful, carefully chosen home design colour schemes featured on  House Beautiful for inspiration. Also, Pinterest is your bosom buddy - don't be shy to hit her up for additional ideas.

3. Finally, choose ONE metallic accent colour for any hardware or accent decor items.

There's nothing quite like an amalgamation of unmatched, mixed metal to throw off any home design concept. To help avoid the cluttered look of too many metals, stick with a single metallic finish for your hardware (drawer/doorknobs) and accent pieces such as lighting fixtures, frames, sculptures and other decor items with metallic trim.

  • Dull golds and brassy finishes add a vintage or rustic finish. Paired with florals, this can turn your space into the ultimate shabby chic establishment.
  • Slightly shinier golds add a more luxurious feel
  • Silver/chrome contribute to a sleeker, more modern aesthetic and can work brilliantly with more modern decor

Now that you've decided on your focal pieces, base/accent colours and metallic finishes, you are well on your way to creating the beautiful living space you've only imagined and longed for - the rest, as they say, all lies in the details. With the main components of your vision nailed, you can easily scope out your local Target, HomeSense, Winners, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls for one-of-a-kind finds to complement your design concept. 

On the off-chance that you're up for a splurge on some more luxurious, carefully curated homeware to finish off your DIY decor chef d'oeuvre, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters carry some of the prettiest eye-catching crockery, candles and knicknacks a girl could ask for. A beautiful glass jewellery or candy-dish on your bedside table might just be the cherry on your perfectly iced cupcake (confession numéro deux: I live for cupcakes -  possibly because they contain copious amounts of butter).

With that, fellow decor demoiselles, I wish you a happy decorating and serenity in your newly created personal retreat filled with beauty, luxury, and zen - à votre gout (to your taste!).

À plus!

for Asma

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  Montreal, Canada
Asma Shahabuddin

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