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An interior designer critiqued my one-bedroom rental in NYC. Her tips showed me easy ways to liven up the eclectic space.

Cozy living room with lamps on with red X and arrows pointing to curtains and angled TV
The interior designer would change a few things about the living room.
  • I had an interior designer critique my New York City sublet, and she'd make mostly minor tweaks.
  • The neutral color palette in the bedroom could be broken by some bright hues and decor.
  • The living room's bookshelves and TV can be rearranged to appear more pleasing to the eye.

Since moving to New York City from England, I've been subletting apartments in various neighborhoods while I find a place I want to settle in permanently. I most recently rented a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side.

After seeing some photos and viewing the sublet via FaceTime, I fell in love with its eclectic artwork, soft furnishings, and huge bookshelves. However, I was intrigued to see how the decor fares in an interior designer's eyes, so I sought the advice of Bronxville-based interior designer Stafford Meyer of Stafford Meyer Interiors and Porte + Hall.

Her clean, easy-breezy style spoke to me straight away, and I was excited to see what she liked and which things she would change about the apartment.

Since I already liked the style of this apartment so much, I hoped her tips would help give me extra ideas as I headed to my next rental. 

Meyer said the eat-in kitchen would benefit from some soft furnishings.
Kitchen with four chairs and a black table
The dark kitchen table and chairs looked a little drab.

The apartment has a spacious eat-in kitchen that comes in handy for mealtimes or hosting friends. I also used the kitchen as my work area.

Meyer suggested adding a bold peel-and-stick wallpaper to the white walls to inject a little character and fun into the space.

"An eat-in kitchen is a luxury in New York City," Meyer told Insider. "This space could really feel like a special room with the right finishes. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is also a semipermanent way to give a smaller space an entirely different perspective."

She recommended switching out the dark table for something with a lighter finish and adding soft furnishings, like an area rug and seat cushions, to give the space a softer feel. 

White or gray could help liven up the kitchen.
Wooden kitchen cabinets and drawers with a stone counter
Ideally, the cabinets could be painted white to lighten the area.

Ideally, Meyer said that she'd paint the kitchen cabinets white to give them new life.

But since some landlords wouldn't be OK with painting over cabinets, she also recommended laying down a white or light-gray runner to break up brown cabinetry and cork floor tiles.

Rearranging the bookshelves could hide the vertical rails.
Books and fun prints on bookshelves
The vertical rails of the bookshelf may be a bit of an eyesore for some.

The apartment's living room was by far my favorite space. I loved its personality-filled artwork and the bookshelves, which my landlord told me were a passion project during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Meyer was also a huge fan of the bookshelves but she suggested some tweaks to make it look a little neater.

"I love a wall of books but the support rails showing does diminish the look," she said. "If budget allowed, I'd replace it with floating shelves."

For now, she'd minimize the appearance of the rails by strategically stacking books, art, and other decor, like vases, in front of them.

The positioning of the TV and shelves could also be played with.
Eclectic living room with red rug, dark-colored sofa, and angled TV among bookshelves
The placement of the TV and shelves could be maximized.

Meyer said she'd also move the shelf above the TV down to frame the device and further hide the vertical rails. She also recommended lowering the height of the TV so it could lay flush against the wall and give off a more streamlined look

If the budget allowed for it, she'd also replace the device with a TV that displays a piece of artwork on its screen when turned off, like the Samsung Frame TV.

She advised switching out the long curtains for some shorter ones.
Living room with chair and white curtains pooling on the ground with red arrow point toward them
The curtains pool on the floor.

Meyer wasn't a fan of the white floor-length curtains, and I agreed.

Not only were they heavy and hard to maneuver at times, but their light color meant they showed dirt from the wooden floor.

"Unless you have a very large room, I would stay away from puddling any curtains on the floor — it takes up quite a bit of space and looks disordered at times," she said.

A larger mirror would open up the foyer area.
Entrance area with a shelf and small oval mirror
The mirror in the foyer right now is a little too small.

I noticed that the ground-floor apartment didn't have a lot of light in certain parts of the home, especially the foyer. I relied on the windows from the kitchen and living room to bring some light into the space, but it wasn't enough, especially on a gloomier day.

The designer recommended incorporating a larger wall mirror to combat the darkness and add style and sophistication. According to the expert, mirrors are great for helping brighten and open up a smaller space.

She also suggested replacing the existing shelf with a stone or marble slab to elevate the overall look.

Meyer loved the monochromatic bathroom.
Monochromatic white bathroom with shower and shelf
The black-and-white bathroom looked chic.

I thought the bathroom was lovely and will definitely be taking inspiration from it for my own apartment someday.

Meyer was also fond of the space and suggested a few additions to make the black-and-white room even lovelier.

The items in the bathroom could use some minor tweaks.
White shelf with four rolled towels, eucalyptus, gray and black folded towels, and four rolls of toilet paper
All-white towels and a basket for toilet paper could elevate the shelves.

Meyer would swap the plain-white shower curtain with a white cotton one with a black border and monogram in the middle for an "instant bespoke" vibe.

She also suggested buying all-white towels and adding a basket to hold the rolls of toilet paper.

The neutral color palette let the bedroom down.
Neutral bedroom with gray sheets on bed and faux plant hanging in corner of room
The bedroom could use more pops of color.

Though the bedroom may seem like a good place for a calm and serene neutral color palette, Meyer said that this can sometimes feel a little drab.

She suggested incorporating bright, bold accents such as throw pillows and a new area rug to bring more color into the bedroom.

She'd also replace the bed skirt with a thicker, heavier flat panel that stays smooth and swap the current bedding set for a 100% cotton white duvet cover and sheets.

Overall, Meyer's suggestions were easy tweaks that can elevate the space.
Black and white photography and illustrations in black frames hanging from wall
The apartment already has character but it can still be improved.

Most of Meyer's advice was small, simple fixes to show off the apartment and help it reach its potential. I'm certainly going to be implementing some of her advice, like adding pops of color and brightening up spaces with mirrors, when I get my own place.

I'll keep her suggestions in mind as I continue to sublet by decluttering busy workspaces and adding my own decor to make the space feel like my own without taking away from the vision of my landlord.

Read the original article on Insider
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