Sean and I spent a good portion of the beginning of the year house-hunting. We felt like it was a good time to buy, and it felt like we were just bursting at the seams in our current apartment. Sean felt claustrophobic with our living space, and I hated the lack of counter space I had in the kitchen. All of our storage spaces were completely packed with boxes and we had no room to grow.
As we started looking at houses we quickly realized that our budget (which we thought was pretty good) could only buy us homes that needed major work. One home we looked at was great but needed the roof completely torn off and replaced; another one we just absolutely loved but the entire yard needed to be dug up and re-sodded. In a nutshell all the houses that we could afford were money pits. We spent countless nights stressing about mortgages and house maintenance and when on earth we would be able to take our family on a vacation if we were completely house-poor. We went back and forth about all different scenarios and finally had a very serious conversation about what we really wanted for us and our family. When it really came down to it, we realized we don't care all that much about owning our own house. What we really want is freedom from debt and the ability to take our kids on vacations every year. We want to have money to buy clothes and get haircuts when we need them; we want to be able to replace our car's tires or windshield when needed without worrying about where we'll get the money to do it. We finally made the decision to stay put; our apartment is great and has plenty of space, we just didn't feel like we were using it very well.
The first thing I did was go through everything we had in storage and in our closets and do a major purge of things we don't need or use anymore. I think we probably took about five or six carloads to Savers to donate and with each load we took I felt better and better. We also decided to start with a clean slate in our living/dining/kitchen space. We sold all of our living room furniture and sat down on Ikea's website to decide what would best work in our space. We decided on a grey, orange, and green color scheme (sounds weird, but it definitely worked). Sean built a 3D model of our apartment in Google Sketch-up so we could see how everything fit, and when we were happy with the layout we sat down and made a shopping list. We decided we'd take most of the money we got back from taxes this year and rather than putting it toward a down payment on a house we'd spruce up our current place.
It took us about two to three weeks to completely finish our makeover, but we're so happy with the results and feel like we could stay here for at least a few more years. As someone with a degree in Interior Design it sure feels great to put my skills to the test in my own home. Here are some pictures of all the things we did.
Since we sold all of our living room furniture, the first thing we needed to do is decide on a sofa to buy. We went with a Karlstad sectional in Sivik Dark Grey from Ikea. We absolutely LOVE this sofa! It gave us a lot more seating, it's big enough that even Sean can stretch out on it with room to spare, and every inch of fabric is removable and machine washable. We also bought a Karlstad ottoman, but didn't want it to match perfectly with the sofa so we got a green cover for it. I love how the two pieces go together.
We couldn't find any pillows at Ikea that we really liked for the sofa, so we wandered over to their fabric department and found the perfect fabric. I bought a couple of yards of two different patterns and some pillow forms and made the pillows myself. It was a bit more time consuming but I love the way they turned out.
My mom bought us some storage bins that fit perfectly underneath the sofa. Half of them are for Taylor's toys and make living room clean-up super quick. The other half are for Oliver's toys, diapers and wipes, and other baby essentials. Even my Boppy pillow fits under the sofa!
I decided to go bold with the drapes and bought a set of bright orange panels to go with our color scheme. I repainted our existing drapery rod and brackets in a medium grey, and I love how the two colors go together.
I placed one of our existing side tables next to the sofa with one of my favorite vases, a framed picture of Taylor, and a plant my aunt gave me after Oliver was born. When she gave it to me it was in a little ceramic baby bootie - cute, but not really the style I was going for. So I transplanted it into a vintage Pyrex beaker I found at a thrift store. Love it!
On the opposite wall from the sofa we centered our TV stand and hung a matching floating shelf above the television. This was Sean's splurge - he got a 50-inch Panasonic 1080p plasma TV. He was (and still is) in absolute geek heaven. On either side of the entertainment center we put a super stylish floor lamp. I wasn't sure how they'd look in the space, but I absolutely love them. I also like that they're height-adjustable.
On the floating shelf above the TV I put a 1960s globe I found at a cute consignment shop (that I just happened to work at a few years ago when I was in college). Next to the globe I put a framed photo that I took at Liberty Park in SLC, a green pillar candle on a stand I made from an old candlestick and plate, and an orange frame of Sean and I in high school.
I can't believe we were this young!
On the wall adjacent to the kitchen we hung a framed poster we found at Ikea. I love the graphic numbers, and the greens go perfectly with the color scheme. Next to the poster I put a floor clock we've had in our bathroom. I love it in this space; it's another consignment store find I bought a few years ago.
One of the biggest complaints I've had with our kitchen (and most kitchens we've had in our past apartments) is the lack of counter space. It's hard to cook much of anything when you've only got two little 3x3-foot areas of counter to work on. Our solution was to get a freestanding kitchen island that would fit perfectly next to our stove. It would give me about five feet of counter space and also give us a lot more storage. We bought a larger countertop than the one made to fit the island so that it would protrude into the living room about 16 inches, creating a bar area. Sean cut a notch in the countertop so it would wrap perfectly around the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, and it turned out even better than we thought it would!
It's great to have all that counter space, and paired with a couple of Asian-style barstools from Walmart it looks fantastic. It's also nice to have another place to eat if the dining table is covered with other things.
We needed some storage for our camera, computer cords, iPods, and other things we need on hand at the bar, and we found this cool metal breadbox at Target in the clearance section that worked just perfect.
We decided we needed some extra lighting over the bar, but obviously we can't hard-wire anything in the ceiling because we're renting. We bought a Basisk track light from Ikea and a flat extension cord and switch from Home Depot, and my genius husband was able to convert the light fixture to be able to plug in to the wall. We ran the cord along the ceiling and down the wall in the kitchen, attaching it with removable double-stick Command strips and cord tacks.
He was able to attach the switch along the cord so it was even with the other light switches in the kitchen. It makes it so simple to turn the light on and off, and everything is removable when we move!
I bought this dining table last year at a yard sale. It was a natural pine color and was stained and marred pretty badly. I sanded it down and painted it with a black lacquer-based spray paint. It turned out pretty good, but it's already chipping in some places, so I may have to re-finish it at some point in the next couple of years. We bought the chairs on Walmart's website and I love the style of them. They match the table perfectly and are really comfortable. Above the table I hung my oversized wall clock I've had for years (another consignment store find).
On the table I put a large black vase I bought a few years ago at Tai Pan Trading, a glass hurricane glass filled with limes, and a metal bird figurine I found at a thrift store and spray painted grey.
To add more storage to our kitchen we hung shelves above the dishwasher and sink. The one above the sink holds all our glasses and cups so that we've got more room in the cupboards for food.
The shelves above the dishwasher hold four decorative boxes full of office supplies and all most miscellaneous things you have in your kitchen (batteries, flashlights, sticky notes, etc.).
It's been so much fun to work together with Sean to create a space that we're really proud of and love spending time in. Everything we've had in our living and dining rooms have been hand-me-down pieces that weren't really our style, so it's been really exciting to pick out things that we love. I feel like our home reflects us so much more now, and I can definitely picture us staying here for at least a few more years now. Plus we'll be saving a ton of money every month that would have gone to a mortgage payment, and we'll get our debt paid off much faster now.
I've learned so much these past couple of months about how to live in a small space and still be comfortable: purge unused and unwanted items, come up with creative ideas to use every square inch of space, and pick out pieces that fit the space well and reflect your personal style. Simple!