I’ve moved into a new dorm or apartment for the last nine consecutive years of my life, and each time I’ve employed a similar protocol: schlep as much as possible from one place to the next then buy everything else from IKEA — my bed, my nightstand, my closet, my shoe rack. That means my bedroom in New York today doesn’t look that different from my dorm room in D.C., give or take some cooler artwork and a new duvet cover to replace the one I stained with pizza my sophomore year. I guess what I’m saying is, no one’s asked me to be featured on “Real Cool People, Real Cool Apartments.”
Since I seem to have no natural knack for making a small space look sophisticated on a budget (fortunately for our living room, my roommate Sofia does), I was curious as to how an actual interior decorating expert would approach my conundrum. What are some simple tricks for making a twentysomething’s apartment (hi) look and feel more grown-up? I tapped Eddie Ross (no relation to me but great last name, right?), current Style Director of The Mine and former magazine editor at Martha Stewart, House Beautiful and Better Homes & Gardens, for some answers.
Below, find nine suggestions in his own words.
1. Consider a headboard.
Nothing says “dorm room” more than a bare mattress against a white wall. Headboards are an easy and affordable way to turn the sophistication up a notch. Plus, there are so many options out there, from sleek and wooden, to patterned and fabric-covered.
2. Swap out your white lampshades.
Swapping out white lampshades for black adds instant chic to any space. They give off a moody and mysterious vibe, like an old gentleman’s club.
3. Stock your home bar.
Channel Don Draper with cocktail glasses, linen napkins and crystal decanters. If you’re entertaining, order “hors d’oeuvres” from Seamless (dumplings are a great option) in advance and serve them on nice platters.
4. Layer, layer, layer.
Add depth to your decor. Fill up the corners of your living room with plinths (short pillars) or pedestals topped with potted plants (an old trick from famous decorators like David Hicks and Billy Baldwin).
5. Don’t underestimate fresh flowers.
Make your home a priority; make it a space that you love and enjoy coming home to each night. Fresh flowers instantly improve any space — even cheap ones from the deli.
6. If you’re going to splurge, do it thoughtfully.
A round table with a pedestal base is a great splurge option. You can load it up with objects and coffee table books, use it as a nesting place for keys and mail in a big, chic bowl, or pull up chairs when you’re having friends over.
7. Don’t be afraid of wallpaper.
Wallpapering or lacquering a small space like an entryway or closet makes your apartment feel more personal. If that’s not an option with your lease, fill your walls up with art from floor to ceiling. You can even add sconces or wall brackets for extra dimension.
8. Go nuts for rugs.
Big sisal or seagrass rugs are affordable and blend well with most decor. It’s also nice to pick one spot (maybe a dining or seating area) to define with one that’s a little more special, like a cool kilim in colors you love.
9. Experiment with bookshelves.
Start by taking the jackets off hardcover books to reveal the design beneath — it’s usually their best-kept secret. Then arrange them with art, objects, lighting and other keepsakes.
If anyone wants to send me fresh deli flowers in support of my grown-up apartment mission, my best dorm room vase is waiting.
Photo by Nicole Cohen. Follow her on Instagram @sketchfortytwo.