The Power of Paint

Kyle, the other half of New Minimalism is here to welcome you to the Chill Zen Room.  Take off your shoes, kick back and stay awhile.  This is now clearly a room to relax and unwind, but it hasn't always been this way...

When Cary and Cam moved into their apartment, they knew that the small room connecting the kitchen to the living room had great potential.  Cam dubbed it The Chill Zen Room early on, but in practice, it was serving more as a glorified hallway.  Cary asked me what we could do to  define the room from the rest of the home, to make it a stopping point, rather than a thoroughfare.  After some thought, I determined it just needed a little extra pizzazz and some key furniture replaced.  Enter, painting project! 

Changing the paint color is a tried and true strategy to completely transform a space.  If executed correctly, it has a relatively low investment for a high reward. 

Above are before and after shots of the Chill Zen Room, as viewed from the kitchen doorway.  Looking through the space and into the living room beyond, you can see how the room integrates with the rest of the apartment.   By choosing a high-contrast color, you can't help but stop and linger in the room for a bit. 

Notice in the after photo, we chose two different paint finishes in the same color.  We painted the walls a flat finish and the trim a glossy finish to emphasis the difference in depth.

The dark, earthy color creates the perfect backdrop to display Cam's incredible photography. You can view more of Cam's work at his online gallery: Steep Ravine.  The brown leather and wood tones of the furniture strengthen the ode to mother nature.

 We all agreed it was time to replace the overstuffed, circa '94 cream armchair that had followed Cam from apartment to apartment.  After a few weeks of searching, we scored this super high-quality leather loveseat on Craigslist for less than $200!   We anchored the reading corner with the wool rug, and intentionally placed it on an angle for a causal air.

Remember when starting a painting project on your own: it is all about PREPARATION.  Have patience, as this takes some time.  But once you prepare well, then painting is a breeze.  (Tip: for the most eco-friendly waste, opt for old newspaper rather than plastic drop-cloths).

So go forth, readers, and embark on those bite-sized design projects that make a huge difference in your space.  

Even if you don't choose a completely dramatic color, paint has a freeing power, symbolic with a fresh start.  And we could all use a little refresh, now and then.


BTR: An Adorable Hayes Valley Studio

Hooray, another Behind the Redesign!  Thank you for being so patient, dear readers.  We had a BTR hiatus this past season due to a series of confidential projects.  We are excited to kick-off 2015 with some new content and, of course, tips for you to use at home.

Room: Bedroom/Living Room

Hours to Complete: 8.5 (Day 1)

Main Objective:  Transform the layout of the room to establish distinct and optimized areas for sleep, entertaining, and creating art.

The Details: Our lovely client, “M”, landed in this charming Hayes Valley studio by way of karma-heritance (that's our way of saying this positive karma-related inheritance).  Wanting to adopt a simpler lifestyle, M decided to downsize from her large loft in SOMA.  Coincidentally at the same time, one of M's co-workers was relocating to New York, leaving his perfectly-sized apartment.  With this transaction, M inherited several pieces of furniture, but she also inherited a less-than-optimized furniture layout.  A small space with too much stuff and an awkward furniture layout?  New Minimalism to the rescue!

Over 2 day-long sessions (18 hours total), we worked swiftly to create a serene and comfortable home, one that reflected M’s dynamic personality: creative, open, approachable and intellectual.  Session 1 focused on the bedroom/living room, and Session 2 tackled the large walk-in closet, as well as a utility closet.  Today's Behind the Redesign will focus on Session 1, the bedroom/living room.

Windows: Before // After 

We knew right away that we wanted to move the bed away from the windows.  Resting your head against a solid surface is important for deep sleep.  When you sleep with your head against a window it is almost like sleeping against a door, the reptilian (think Neanderthal) part of your brain subconsciously stays alert to outside noises so that you will be prepared to defend yourself.  So, first order of business was swapping the bed and the couch.

Tip: Is the head of your bed against a window or a non-functioning door? Look around your room and reevaluate the position of your furniture. Is your desk, which actually only functions as a drop-all space, taking up the best wall in your room? Or perhaps you can condense your clothing into a capsule wardrobe so that it fits entirely in your closet and you can donate your dresser? Whatever you decide, make sure that your bedroom functions firstly as that, a BEDroom. And give that bed the best wall in the room. To get extra fancy, Feng Sui recommends that you are able to view the entrance of your room while lying in bed.

The existing couch was extra-long, so when we moved the couch into bay window, we placed it on a slant in order to decrease the amount of dead space between the window and the back of the couch.  This, we surmised would be a temporary solution, recommending that our client replace the couch with one that would better fit into the window alcove. 

However as we worked within the space, we realized there were a lot of benefits to placing the couch on a slant.  By angling the couch towards the bedroom, we drew the couch-sitter’s attention away from the entry hall and the kitchen, creating a conversation area with the base of the bed and the new-and-improved music corner.  Other benefits of the current couch:  the extra-long couch worked great for our extra tall client, structurally, it was super solid and in great shape, and we all agreed that the draped fabric lent positively to a casual, comfortable vibe. 

Tip: Add texture and warmth to a minimally-decorated space using fabric, blankets and pillows. Here, a drapey fabric covering contrasts well with the bare hardwood floors. If you are working with a textured rug, balance it with clean lines with the furniture.

Accent Wall: Before // After

With this redesign we were lucky that M already had these perfectly proportioned and matching side tables, adding some nice symmetry to the general eclectic vibe.  We also scored with the charcoal accent wall.  This wall helps to define the sleeping area, signifying that it is separate from the rest of the space.  With the two table lamps, the contrasting shapes add interest, while unified color keeps it, well, unified. 

As an artist who gets fully-absorbed into projects and then moves on to the next, M did not want to adorn her walls with art.  Over the bed we chose to hang a series of simple line drawings to stand out against the charcoal, neutral enough that M would not tire of looking at it. 

Music Nook: Before // After 

Music is an important part of M’s routine.  Whenever she is home she is sure to have some pleasant tunes playing the background (M even introduced us to FIP, our new favorite radio station out of Paris).  So with this design, we wanted to ensure that she had easy access to her speakers.  We also wanted to make order out of a mess of cables. 

Enter, amazing large leaning mirror that was karma-herited.  If you don’t already know, we are quite fond of large mirrors.  When positioned strategically, they reflect light and can feel like another window.  Added benefit: when placed on the floor to lean, they can hide those unsightly cords and cables.  So that is exactly what we did here.  And I think it is worth noting that opposite there was a wall that was perfectly sized to fit the mirror, but if placed there, the mirror would reflect the white wall - booooring.  By placing the mirror on the wall opposite the light and bright kitchen, you extend the eye and draw some of the brightness into the bedroom.

Tip: When using a large mirror in your space, make sure to consider what is in the reflection. Are you opening the space by reflecting other bright, airy spaces? Play around with placement. As the sun light changes throughout the day, maybe you will discover something new about your space that you would like to highlight. Not into the idea of always seeing your own reflection? Look for a distressed mirror with a patina over the glass so obscure the reflection.

Overall we were quite thrilled with the results of this decluttering and redesign.  We donated two carloads of items to the Goodwill and local library, in the meantime creating a calm, inspiring sanctuary for M to enjoy. 

Up next on BTR:  The fancy closet system we custom designed and installed to house M’s clothing and art archives.

340-Squared: 5 ways to personalize a rental (and still get your deposit back)

Many of us understand that while renting does have its benefits, one of the “cons” is that any demolition or major changes to the space are usually out of the question.  With this post I hope to embrace the rental and detail ways to add personality to your space without having to pay out of your deposit.

1. White walls are the perfect backdrop for colorful art.  Don’t be afraid to put some (small) holes in the wall to hang your art or shelving.  Fork up $3 for some spackle at your local hardware store.  This handy little white paste easily hides nail holes when it’s time to move out.

2. Make unexpected art from paper items.  Paper is inexpensive and easy to hang.  Check out the stores in areas like Chinatown or Latin American districts – stores in these areas usually sell an abundance of paper goods that can double as décor.   You could even check out your local party store for unexpected inspiration.  Because everyday is a party, right?  Suspend a flock of lanterns, or in the case of my home, paper puffs.  Monochromatic is extra powerful.  I also use postcards as a rotating mini gallery on my refrigerator. The nice thing about paper is that it is not so precious.  It opens up a lot of possibility and can even be recycled when you’re ready for the next thing.  

3. Select a few small walls to use for an accent color.  Be strategic here so that the wall has visual impact, but is small enough so that it is easy to paint white again at the time of move out.  The wall I chose to paint pink has a white piece of furniture in front of it.  This contrast helps the furniture pop against the background.  I also did the opposite to my kitchen island and painted the base a dark brown, so that it would recede from the eye.  I used the same pink to paint a third accent wall as you enter the bathroom.  Here, the small touch of the string of black (paper!) flags makes the act of entering the stark white bathroom almost ceremonious.

4. Do not underestimate the power of task lighting.  Task lighting is basically a fancy way of saying lamps.  I think it might be impossible to have too many lamps.  They add instant mood and ambiance in what might otherwise be a fluorescent-lit, crumbling apartment (I’ve lived in my fair share).  In my current, thankfully non-crumbling space, I use inexpensive rope lighting to create a backlit effect behind my console.  Since this sits against the pink wall, it has the unexpected benefit of creating dimension, fading from orange to pink when illuminated.  It’s like a sunset every night in here!

5. Plants make a big difference with air quality and all around hominess.  If you have the sunlight, by golly use it!  If you are afraid of your black thumb, start with just one easy-to-care for plant and slowly build your mini indoor jungle from there.

So while renting may have its woes, there are lots of ways you can get creative.  I hope that you can use these simple tips to have a big impact!   And please, don’t be afraid to send your decorating questions my way: