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Ajai’s Back (With Some Big News!) + How To Make An Apartment Bedroom (Quickly) Feel Like Home

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Hey you all, Ajai here, and I’m back with some pretty big news! After seven long months of living with my parents, we’ve moved out! To make a very long story short, because of such uncertain times (me being pregnant during a pandemic and now flu season) our OB/GYN wants Jack (our sweet baby boy) to only be around mommy and daddy during his vaccination period, so my husband and I had to bite the bullet and sign an apartment lease. We were able to save a fair amount while living with my parents, and selling our previous home also helped. However, we’ll use this time in our apartment to adjust to parenthood and take our time to look for the perfect home for us. But this doesn’t mean we won’t make this apartment feel like home in the meantime. 

Along with driving back to my parent’s home during the weekends to complete the projects we started there, we’ve lined up some apartment-friendly design and decor updates for our new space as well. Again, our goal was to make our apartment feel like a home. But the big question is, how exactly do you do that? Especially with the apartment being a new-build (just built at the end of 2018). This will be Jack’s first home, so it’s important for us to make it as relaxing and cozy as possible. Moreover, it’s important for us to make it feel like a place with character, and one that reminds him of comfort and love. We needed to tackle our main bedroom first, so we established a few guidelines to achieve this homey-feeling. Below are seven principles we established to help with adding character and coziness through decor. 

BUY KEY BEDROOM PIECES AND UNPACK ASAP

My husband and I did our best not to fall into the trap of living amongst boxes. We tackled those moving boxes ASAP, because we know the dangers of “leaving them and getting around to unpacking another time.” Living amongst boxes can be a constant reminder that we are not at home. Thus, instead of grabbing our things from boxes on a daily basis, we purchased a dresser and hangers immediately to get our clothes organized in closets, and put away neatly in our dresser. We also made it a priority to build our bed instead of sleeping on the floor. Nothing like a blowup mattress or sleeping bag to remind you that you’re not at home. 

CHOOSE COMFY (AND BEAUTIFUL) BEDDING 

I cannot urge enough how important it is to have good sheets and bedding. Our main bedroom is our sanctuary and good sleep can really aid in our recovery from a long and chaotic day. Something you should know about me; there’s the Ajai who had a good night’s sleep, and the Ajai who had a not-so-good night’s sleep (you’d enjoy the first one much more). So to make sure I’m my smiley, enjoyable, and upbeat self, I do my best to source comfy sheets. The sheets we have on our bed now are like sleeping in between fluffy clouds. We got our bed bundle from The Citizenry. I was on the hunt for the perfect neutral linen sheets and had been eyeing their stonewashed sand stripe set for quite some time. These sheets are so soft, extremely light, and beyond cozy. They actually make it hard to get out of bed and get things going, but I’m sure our newborn will act as our built in alarm to remedy that. 

SHOWCASE YOUR SENTIMENTALS 

I’m big on minimalism, but bare walls and empty nooks in an apartment can be so daunting. That said, I go the hygge route to remedy the feeling of emptiness. I need our place to always feel like home and cozy, so I put out sentimental things to trigger nostalgia and memories of family and fun times. I printed and framed a picture from our wedding day, and added it to a little vignette on our dresser. This picture reminds me of our journey and just how far we’ve come as husband and wife (we met eight years ago, got married in 2016, and now we are going to be a mommy and daddy – I can’t believe it). I also added a glass photo album filled with our wedding photos to the vignette too. The throw-blanket on our bed came from our home in Atlanta (I remember us cozying up into it as it snowed last winter). 

TREAT YOURSELF WITH WINDOW TREATMENTS 

The windows are the eyes of your space. Some prefer a bare eyelid and don’t mind going out into the world without mascara and eyeliner. My husband doesn’t care much for my no-drapes approach, but I am this way sometimes. I want all of the windows open with light bursting through. However, there are plenty of days where I’m feeling fancy and love to line my eyes and put on mascara. That said, it’s very important to choose good window rods and panels in these cases. Here’s a trick I learned; the window rods and drapes really set the tone of a room, so if you splurge a bit here, you can get thrifty with other pieces of furniture. To make a real statement with the windows, I added brass curtain rods and curtain rings with clips. Because the apartment came with blinds, I added white linen panels for an open and airy feel. 

GET RID OF HARSH LIGHTING AND ADD LAMPS AND SCONCES

For me, lighting is the jewelry of a space (can you see the trend here?? I typically think of dressing a room like I’d dress myself. I picked up this approach to designing interiors from Emily H.). That said, I received gorgeous sconces from a collaboration with Mitzi and Hudson Valley Lighting Group (the ones featured in the mood board from my last blog post) that I adore. They were originally to be used in my mom and dad’s home (we even hired an electrician to wire them), but I really wanted to show them in my current design. (Don’t worry mom, I’ll be unmounting and returning the lights to you soon, as promised). Adding sconces and lamps allow for you to dress your room thus, adding character, and providing warmer and less harsh lighting. 

TRY ARTIFICIAL CANDLES

It’s important that we abide by our rental agreement and play it safe when it comes to candles. I know how cozy and at home candles can truly make a room feel, and I’m very into warm lighting, but with apartments this can get a bit tricky. To avoid burning down the building, we just purchased rental insurance (HA I’m kidding, though we do have renter’s insurance). In actuality, we added artificial candles to warm up the space (figuratively speaking).

LET YOUR FURNITURE ALSO FUNCTION AS ART

Being able to actually utilize art in my home is a big one for me. I do my best to find beautiful pieces that actually serve a purpose. For instance the nightstands I just had to have in this space. These bedside tables took real patience, and boy was I okay with waiting for them. I visited my local store almost every weekend and called everyday to see if they’d finally made it on the shipping truck. The shape on them is smooth and minimal, yet make such a bold statement. To me they whisper, “I’m beautiful, use me.” I keep our current reads stored in these beauties, and place my tea on them while we cuddle up and watch our nightly shows (with coasters of course). They also give me a place to store and hide not-so-good-looking remote controls, phone chargers, and earphones. 

I should also mention how obsessed I am with vintage rugs. They are hands down one of my favorite decor items. They are essentially like having unique art on the floor. Area rugs are the focal piece of a room and I believe they should call to us, just like wall art. You can even layer them to make a room feel cozy. I used a jute rug for the first layer and the top rug I chose for our bedroom is a vintage wool rug, sent all the way to me from Turkey (Via a truly amazing girl on Etsy). This rug is one of a kind and it makes my feet quite happy, every step of the way. I love choosing pillows covers to act as functional art as well, and the pillows I chose are also vintage textiles (compliments of Marigold Interiors). 

Of course when the baby comes, we have a spot in our bedroom where I’ll have his bassinet (so I can be nearby to check on him during the first months) but did I mention another great thing about this apartment is that we have an extra room?? That extra room will serve as his nursery so the three of us don’t have to be squished into one room AND it means we have extra storage for baby clothes and a changing station. What a dream!

In the meantime, we are driving to my parents home next weekend to finish up the living and dining rooms and I’ll be sharing my mom’s living room gone girl-cave next time around! See you then!

Design and Photos by Ajai Guyot of True Home

Fin Mark

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Alison

I prefer to see the term Main Bedroom!

Molly

I don’t know guys; Ajai is Black, so I would defer to her. We white folks are doing a whole lot of performative nonsense like using the term “primary bedroom” while not actually making calls and writing letters about Jonathan Price, Darius Tarver, Pamela Turner, and so many others. Just a reminder to keep our eyes on the prize (justice! equality! life!) and not get too distracted by painting mottos across sidewalks or policing each other’s vocabulary. (Not to say these things can’t go hand in hand, but one is DEFINITELY more important than the other.)

Vic Jones

Check yourself, your privilege, and why you decided to post this? Do you do so when the other (white) writes and contributors write a word that you don not “prefer?”- I think not! I find grammar and misspelling issues all the time in EHD by other writers. I have a PhD and have done tons of editing- so I have an eye for these things.

Cara Warner

Do you mean white “writers”? You have used white and write several times in the same short post and I am not sure your meaning exactly, but I would like too.

Cameron Hughes

This comment is proof that a PhD has nothing to do with one’s grasp on grammar or spelling. Several major spelling mistakes, improper use of the em dash—you didn’t even use the right punctuation mark—and an elitist, grating tone to boot. I hope your PhD is in something like chemistry.

This looks SO cozy! It’s so true about not falling into the trap if living amongst boxes. We have the same sheets from The Citizenry, I get excited when it’s their turn in the our sheet rotation, so I guess I should probably consider getting a second set, ha. That Leanne Ford collection for Crate & Barrel is so good. I’d love a source for those artificial candles, I had no idea they came in regular candle shapes and not just battery tea lights. My husband is allergic to fragrance so we don’t really do candles at home, but that could be both husband and toddler friendly!

LizM

Pottery barn has really good faux candles. I’m sure you can get them cheaper elsewhere. I have had my pottery barn ones for almost 10 years and they still work and look great (and very real!!) 🙂

Cara Warner

I concur with the Pottery Barn candles. They look as close to real as you can get. You can also get rechargeable batteries for them, which seriously saves money and the environment at the same time.

Thank you so much! I’m happy to hear you like the bedroom.

The artificial candles are from Pottery Barn.

Susan

Is your lovely candle holder also from Pottery Barn? I love it!

Sean

I thought we weren’t using the term master bedroom anymore?

jane

who’s we? give it a rest

Kate

Probably an “old habits die hard” issue. It’s just in the headline too; she uses “main bedroom” in the post.

We aren’t. It should have been changed. Changed now 🙂

April

I’m hoping the default will eventually be simply “bedroom”. If it’s not identified as a child’s bedroom or nursery or guest bedroom, we can assume it’s the main bedroom.

Isabelle

The whole debate about the term “master bedroom” is amusing to me, because most people I know (myself included) only have one bedroom anyway. I hope someday this is a problem I can relate to – ha!

Natasha

too neutral for my taste and why didn’t she follow the ‘how to hang your curtains’ rules, there is so much space on either side of the window.

Tiffany

Me too!! This room looks boring too me. Lacks personality and color. Looks bland, reminded me of a builder grade kitchen. I do love the scones. All those pillows on the bed are impractical. Overall, this design was a miss for me.

Part of the agreement was that we have the apartment maintenance man come in to hang the curtain rods (that way we don’t get dinged in the end). Had to go the apartment-friendly route on this one. Thank you for reading friend. 🙂

Holly

I love the sheer curtains! One option to make them appear wider would be to hang one or two of the outermost rings on the other sides of the hanging hardware. Beautiful room, thank you for sharing!

A.B.

so serene

Thank you!

Amanda

this is BEAUTIFUL! I’m so amazed when designers take a white box of a room and make it something special. hats off! and good luck with the home stretch of your pregnancy, Ajai!

Thank you Amanda! I appreciate your kind words. The big day is right around the corner and we can’t wait to meet the little guy!

this is lovely and simple. very nice. i love all the furniture and decor choices. my only thing is, is there a filter on these pictures to give them almost a sepia-toned feel? i actually like seeing regular natural light pictures without a filter. so i can see what it looks like in real life. just my personal preference.

I hear ya! I typically use this edit for all of my photos. It’s nice getting to know you all and what you like. I will definitely keep this editing style in mind for future posts. Thank you for reading and sharing. 🙂

Caitlin

I would also love to see it in natural light but BOY do these pictures make me want to jump right into that bed!! Beautiful job Ajai, excited to see more of your stuff 🙂

Kelly

So pretty! I can’t agree more with you on making rentals feel like home immediately upon move in. I’ve moved nine times (with kids) and the most important thing for us was to establish cozy bedrooms with familiar things around. Love how you made this room your own!

Thank you Kelly! Yes, unpacking everything from the get-go was a MUST! Otherwise, it would sit for days (maybe even weeks lol).

Veronica

I’d love to know the source the bed! And I love how cozy and approachable this room is!

Thank you! The bed is from Living Spaces (Eastern King Dean Sand).

Julia

This bed is exactly what I had been looking for! Quick question for you- I noticed it is not sold with slats. How did you support your mattress?

Eva

Lovely – you have a great eye, Ajai. I really like the sconce and dresser combo – and how you crop your wedding photo is such a neat idea. I may have to borrow it 🙂

Thank you Eva! Go for it! The wedding album is a favorite of mine, as I was able to save so much on displaying them this way (we didn’t buy the standard wedding album).

Kate

Really beautiful layering of neutral textiles. It looks warm and inviting and even though it’s more neutral than my personal preference it’s soothing without being boring. I like the grasses except the ones on the floor in the corner. Imo that whole vignette needs to be taller; as is it looks like an afterthought.

Thank you Kelly! That space is a place-holder for our bassinet. Just wanted to add the pampas grass that came from our backyard in Atlanta. Makes me feel good to see them. 🙂

Selena

What a peaceful retreat! So needed during the first few months with baby, especially!

Thank you! Hoping it helps to keep everyone relaxed when our little guy gets here.

Ashley

I’m confused, so are the bedside sconces not functional? I’d love to see what you plan to use once they are returned to your moms house instead of it being a ‘prop’ for the shoot

When I don’t have the luxury of hard-wiring sconces, I use a puck like trick! 🙂 However, my mom wants these sconces back, so I have plug-in sconces to replace them. In my last post, I showed these sconces in the mood board, and wanted to keep my word and include them in the final reveal. Thank you for checking out my post. 🙂

Laurie

Beautiful!! Can you share the rug source?

Thank you! Totally would have, but the seller is no longer on Etsy! so sorry friend. I’m looking for new shops to source vintage rugs from now.

Michelle

Thank you for sharing! It’s a good reminder to make an apartment a home. Even if it is temporary, it doesn’t have to look that way. Love the mix of personal touches and minimalist style 🙂

You’re welcome. Thank you for reading. Exactly, even though it’s temporary it will be home for the next 6 months at least.

A

This room is beautiful! Congrats on making a new space feel like home–it must have been really hard to make the call to move after that news from your pediatrician.

Also side note, but I’m obsessed with your wedding photo on display, haha. It makes me wish I had thought to take something like it! Subtle, beautiful reminder!

Thank you. You’re right, it was nice living with my parents, but had to do what’s best for the little one.

I’m so happy to hear you like it. We really like that photo too 🙂

Megan

Hi Ajai, thanks for sharing your bedroom. I love how it looks, but more than that, it FEELS like someplace I would like to spend a lot of time!

Thank you so much Megan. I wanted it to feel relaxing and tranquil so we can feel comfortable spending our time in here.

I looooooove this bedroom. Can I ask where the bed frame is from?

Thank you so much. It’s from Living Spaces (Eastern King Dean Sand Bed Frame).

Kiana

So soothing. Exactly what a bedroom should be. Lovely job.

Thank you so much Kiana. So happy you like it 🙂

Nathalie

Ok, the bedroom is calm and cozy and so relaxing . . . but wow, that wedding photo! Stunning!

Thank you so much. We love that photo from our wedding, so we try to leave it out on display as much as possible 🙂

This is so gorgeous and relaxing! I love it.

Side note and potential debate topic: My boyfriend always gets upset at before and afters because “the befores are clearly taken with poor lighting in the worst conditions and the afters are edited to look their best.” What do you guys think? Is that okay as it ups the drama and who takes time to edit befores? Or should we try to treat them to same to get a more real sense of the space?

Thank you Cici!

HA, I love this! I actually used to edit before photos and was told that it was silly by a few folks. I’d be interested to hear what the consensus is on this one. 🙂

Lane

I always see that too. I imagine the after is still as dark. It’s the same wakl color after all.

Caitlin

I’m torn on this one haha, it definitely crosses my mind every time I see a before and after, but I love the drama so it doesn’t really bother me 🙂

Rusty

Ajai… this is a haven! You’ve created such a cozy, snuggly place to welcome baby Jack, once he arrives.
All the best for the home run, when you’ll appreciate the beautiful space you’ve created even more!!

One thing that seemed out of place with the uber-voluptuousness of the room, were the curtains. It looks like you need more fabric, like the width of the actual curtains isn’t ample enough??

Otherwise, I think I’d want to spend loads of time in that gorgeous space.
Good on you for unpacking straight away… soooo important!

Hazel

I love your calm and beautiful bedroom!

curious what mattress you have…? is there a source for those cool scones?

An idea that has worked for me is to have 2 sets of curtains…sheer ones in the middle and patterned ones on each end extended to the end of the rod.

Jonathan

Ajai – wow! This is such a beautiful transformation. I love how you’ve created such a serene space with neutrals taking center stage. Really great stuff.

Louise

Nice work on the bedroom! So peaceful! The way the candles are arranged in that holder is really beautiful. Where/how could I find a similar holder?

Erin

I can’t BELIEVE how cozy and elegant this rental bedroom looks! Kudos, this is fabulous.

Question: Did you photoshop out the cords on the scones or are you using puck lights?

Jen

So pretty and relaxing 🙂

Sarah

Love this post! I am always looking for ways to decorate my “builder grade” home so that it has a little more character and elegance. I can’t wait for more of Ajai’s apartment reveals.

Jennifer Mitchell

If at all possible, could I have the source of your brass candle holder? This is a lovely space and I wish you much joy in bringing your little one home.

Natasha

I’m also attempting to make my space into a home even if it’s temporary. I love what you’ve done with your space!

julie

I am obsessed with your rug! It is gorgeous and makes the space. Can you share your source?

April

I really like how the jute rug looks wall-to-wall and it’s a smart way to protect flooring in a rental. The vintage rug layered on top is beautiful!

alexa

It looks beautiful and peaceful (which I’d expect to be particularly important with a newborn). I agree that it would be more balanced if the curtains were hung wider, but the rental restrictions are what they are. Especially given the time crunch, and the limits on in-person shipping/vintage shopping right now, this looks great!

Suzanne

We’ve started using faux candles in our bedroom, and we love them. I am sensitive to the burning of even the most natural candles, so the battery operated or rechargeable ones are great substitute. I love the photo vignette. Where did you get the beautiful glass box to display photos? The entire bedroom design is so peaceful and cozy! Thank you for sharing!

Just lovely, Ajai! I love your calming, ease-ful style!

Victoria Gonzalez

This room is beautiful! I love the tips, I have been trying to style my bedroom since moving in February, but I can’t quite get it to come all together! I will us this room and your design tips as inspiration. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

Sonja

Wow, Ajai – the room is stunning. I hope it brings you peace in the final months of your pregnancy and beginning of motherhood. I am not an expert at either design nor parenting but I have felt so lucky to be able to create a space for my growing family so I feel extra warm and fuzzy when I see fellow parents do the same. While wishing you sleep might be out of the question at least you’ll have a gorgeous place to nurse, cuddle, etc. Also, that picture of you and your husband is stunning.

bubu

I love this – so beautiful and peaceful in the bedroom, which will be key with a newborn. I would not worry about it feeling homey for the baby – home is where you are. But for you, it will help you stay calm and relaxed and at home with him. The selections are also so smart, because everything you’ve picked could work in almost any future space, big or small, whatever color/lighting you have to work with. Yet none of it looks generic or bland. Well done, love it!

Rachel

All those pillows make that bed SO INVITING, just like a cloud! Do you have a basket where you stash them all at night? I have a few pillows I put on the ground at night, but I think it’s kind of gross since I probably don’t vacuum enough to store pillows on the floor.

Abby Frank

So pretty and calming! I have had my eye on those bedside tables for some time, and wasn’t sure how they’d look in a real person’s bedroom — gorgeous!

Kathryn

Beautiful, peaceful, elegant. Well done, Ajai!

Cathy foster

I agree..it’s lovely. I’m sending this to my 25 yr old granddaughter who seems to like cutesy. I’m trying to teach her to spend her money on quality, even if it takes a little longer! And I’d love to see your vintage rug source.

I’m so in love with what you’ve pulled off, it’s all so beautiful and while being pregnant! Yesssss Queen!!!! Jack’s new digs look cozy and warm!

Rosie

Wow, you guys have been through a lot of transitions and a major one still to come! Congratulations on your newest blessing. I like how thoughtful you are with each of your choices and how well you know yourself and what you like. I have linen shears too and love how the light filters through them. Agree, vintage rugs are special and can make a space. Well done!

Maria

I’m sorry, I’m equal parts worried and annoyed: am I not supposed to light candles in an apartment?? I really didn’t understand the argument for artificial candles in an apartment! Can someone elucidate me/tell me I can continue to light candles? Thanks!

Crissy Perham

Gorgeous! Looks like a soothing space to start your life as a family of three!

Valerie Bernard

Thank you for this wonderful update! Looks beautiful! Can you tell me where you got the white vases and the pampas grass? Looks so chic!

Diana

Lovely. And thanks for sharing the principles behind your choices–they would help anybody in any space!

I just want to say that you’re right on track about having bedding you love. My third kid had me out of bed a LOT in the nights, but in the middle of that difficult stage we got a quilt that we both *love* for our bed. Getting to get back into bed several times a night under such a luxurious topper made the whole experience a tiny bit easier! 😉 Congrats on the impending arrival of your son.

caroline

This will be a lovely first home for your sweet bundle of joy! so serene!

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