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Mallory’s MOTO Intro + All of Her “Beginner” Design Questions Answered

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design by martyn lawrence bullard | photo by jaime kowal | via the sands hotel and spa

Imagine this: you just moved into your first real adult apartment and you own zero furniture, and somehow you have to go from that to a fully-fledged, perfectly designed space that’s going to be posted up all over the internet for thousands of your closest friends to see. AND YOU HAVE NO INTERIOR DESIGN EXPERIENCE. Well, that’s precisely what I’m dealing with at this moment in time and it’s incredibly exciting.

Here’s my thinking. If your apartment is supposed to be a reflection of you and your personality, then how hard could designing your own space actually be?? The answer is really hard. Very difficult, in fact. If you’ve ever tried to design your living quarters you know this already, and if you’re on this blog reading this, you’ve probably tried to do it once or twice. The reason it’s so difficult is because when you have a blank canvas the options are ENDLESS. We run into all of these questions we so desperately wish a well seasoned interior designer could answer so they can just tell us what to do. That’s what I’m bringing you guys today. The answers we (my boyfriend Chase and I) so desperately want and need. Hopefully, they are relatable and can help you in your design process too.

My Naked Apartment

First, let me show you what we’re working with:

This is my boyfriend, Chase, and my studio apartment. It’s the first apartment that we both actually care about since prior to living here we lived in either college apartments, random New York subleases, or our parents’ houses. But this is our place which means we are real adults now. So let me tell you about our plan for this lil space…

Our apartment is located ON Hollywood Blvd, (yup, it’s above the walk of fame people) and so we feel like it’s our duty to lean into that at least a little bit. At first, we were thinking we should go full-blown glam. Full-blown. But after throwing our “glam” options into a google slide mood board, we realized it wasn’t “us”. So we went back to the drawing board. To start, we asked ourselves “what are some interiors that we both LOVE?” and this is what we came up with:

The Inspiration Photos

From left to right: image source | unknown image source | annie segal’s house | image source | image source | image source | image source

The place we collectively love most in this world is the Parker Palm Springs. When we saw it for the first time, our hearts dropped straight out of our asses. This. place. is. beautiful. Not to mention it’s designed by my favorite designer (and probably the only interior designer I knew for the first 15 years of my life ), Jonathan Adler. Luckily for me, Chase understands and respects my love for Jonathan Adler and in fact, he now has a STRONG love and appreciation of his style, too. So it’s our main inspiration and the basic gist of our style – let’s call it “chic palm springs hotel.” It suits us and we love it.

via jonathan adler

While we’ve been staying at home, designing our apartment has been our absolute FAVORITE quaran-tivity. We’ve been watching interior design classes online like Emily’s Skillshare class and Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass to try to understand how we’re supposed to do this whole thing. After educating ourselves a little, we realized a critical flaw in our plan that was brought to our attention by Kelly Wearstler herself (well, in her Masterclass). The problem was there was no story. What she means by this is there needs to be a throughline, a reason behind the design that will ultimately make it feel more cohesive. For example, in the Santa Monica Proper Hotel design, she wanted it to reflect the feeling of being at the beach, so every material and piece of furniture she curated was something “you could find at a beach.” Genius. So if Kelly tells me I need a story, I need a story.

After days of thinking about why we were all of a sudden making this “Palm Springs themed,” we came up with it. Palm Springs was THE ultimate getaway for Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s, and we want our apartment to feel like our little “escape” from the wild Hollyweird below us in that same way. So we want it to feel like a vacation, with a twinge of Hollywood Bungalow to stay true to the location and vibe of where we are. Want to know what the heck I mean by all this?? If you missed it from the “Projects We’re Working On” post a few weeks back, here’s the general mood board I showed you guys over there:

The Basic Design Plan

Obviously, for someone like me that so desperately wants my apartment to look awesome, this mood board wasn’t gonna cut it. I need to see every wall, every detail laid out so I can KNOW FOR SURE what this will actually look like. I now have 2 google slide presentations (and over 200 actual slides) with different options for how it could look (stay tuned for more of those). Naturally, we still had questions (and some I was embarrassed to even ask). So luckily I work for an amazing interior design company and was able to show Julie this early rendition of my design. This way she could understand what I was even talking about when I asked her my “dumb” questions. (She also assured me there’s no such thing as a dumb design question. Julie is very kind.)

Okay, now that you’re all caught up, let’s get to the meat of this. After staring at blank walls debating all of our endless possibilities, here are the questions that arose and the answers from EHD lead designer, Julie Rose:

My Dumb (or Shall I Say Beginner) Questions, Answered.

design by jonathan adler | photo by nikolas koenig | via dwell

How do we make a small space feel bigger?

Make sure to vary the “visual weight” of your furniture pieces, there should be some with legs or open arms that can help make your room feel more spacious cause you can actually see more floor space. It’s all a mental game. For example, instead of a banquette bench seat where the base is fully on the floor, add some legs from Etsy to make the corner area feel more “airy”. Also, think about the materials and colors throughout the space. Too many upholstered pieces can start to feel “one note” or repetitive and make a room feel smaller than it actually is, so shake it up in the material department. Another misconception is that because you are in an apartment you should only buy pieces that are small scale but in actuality having a standard-sized piece can help ground the space and steers you away from over-cluttering with too many furniture pieces.

Do we want to try to make each space feel separate? Or do we want it to feel like one big space? 

A little bit of both, you want the spaces to feel special on their own and yet cohesive. So instead of physically separating your space with a room divider try adding in a “special element” for each area. Try adding wallpaper in the living room and in the bedroom you could have a headboard feature wall or large scale art in the same color scheme.

How do we add texture? Do we create a feature wall where the bed is? WHAT THE HECK DO I DO WITH THE BLANK SPOT ABOVE MY BED???

via new york times

Creating a headboard feature wall is a great idea to make your space feel more custom to your style as a couple. Box paneling using a thinner lattice lumber will give you that added texture but at the same time will be easy to remove and repair when you find your next place to live. A great example of this is the photo above that we featured a while back in the “Add Character to Basic Architecture: Wall Paneling” post from 2017. But remember that texture can be brought into your design in a lot of different ways. Wallpaper, even though it isn’t “texture you can touch,” will add the depth you are looking for as well as other patterns in the space. Textiles are an easy and affordable way to add texture and layers. Also, different types of lighting like a sconce, table lamp, floor lamp, etc. will make the “boxy space” feel cozier. Basically, it’s not always about the physical texture but the visual as well.

Where should I add color?

In the same sense as adding texture to a space, the easiest way to add a dose of color is through textiles, art, and accessories. These are all low commitment and do the least damage to your bank account. Ideal.

I love wallpaper so much but I have no clue where to put it? One wall? Our bedroom nook? The whole thing? Where do we stop wallpapering in an open floor plan studio? 

In this case, I would wallpaper starting from the wall with the door to your balcony all the way over to the cabinet that divides the desk and the kitchen. If you were to add wallpaper on the return wall where your bar cart will go then you don’t have a good stopping point and over time the wallpaper might come away from the wall on that corner.

How do I know how much wallpaper to get?

A lot of online wallpaper vendors will have a tool on their site to help you calculate the quantity. So simply measure the width and height of your walls.

Hot Tip

Our wallpaper installer advises to add 4-6 inches to the length of the rolls (or overall height of the wall) this makes it easier to have some wiggle room when hanging the wallpaper so the design properly lines up!

If we leave some walls white, should we repaint it to a different white? How do I know which white is good!?

If you weren’t putting up wallpaper with a primarily white background then I would say to skip painting your walls (and ceiling) essentially the same color. Paint adds up and it already looks great as of now. Wait until you get your wallpaper sample to compare it to the rest of the room, if it is drastically different then pick out a white paint color from this post or this one. 😉

If we paint, what kind of paint should I use? Why are there SO many finishes?

A good rule of thumb is to go for a flat or eggshell sheen (aka finish) in living and bedrooms. In areas where they are likely to be more stains on the walls like kids’ rooms (which you don’t have to worry about), bathrooms, and kitchens, then an eggshell to semi-gloss finish is ideal. Millwork like baseboards, window trim, etc. should have a higher sheen as well. But sometimes we break this rule if the aesthetic is more important to us than the clean factor.

Should I get two different rugs, two of the same rugs or skip a rug in the living room and bedroom?

You could either skip the bedroom rug or get two different rugs for the two different spaces. Having the same rug will look like they should be connected when the point is to visually separate the spaces for those zones.

What size rug should I put under my bed? Should my nightstands be sitting on it?

If the space can allow you typically want to have an 8’x10′ rug for a queen size bed like yours. And it’s best to have the rug a couple of inches in front of the nightstand (no touching:)), this post has every bedroom rule you should know!

Speaking of my queen size bed, I have the space to upgrade to a king… should I go for it?

Although you technically have the space to fit a king-size bed I’d stay with your queen for now. This apartment isn’t one that you’ll be living in for a long time and you never know how big the bedroom will be in your next space. Also, you don’t want the bedroom area to suddenly look cramped especially since it is open to the rest of the apartment. Unless you and Chase feel like you don’t have enough space in a queen to sleep soundly, then stick with what you have.

How to add storage in a small studio?

Think about pieces of furniture have are more than one function. A bench with storage for the dining nook which can even be reupholstered to look more custom. Make sure to find a bed with enough clearance under to place bins. Even a deeper credenza, like the one you have on your mood board, will help to store larger items that you don’t want to be seen daily. A coffee table with closed storage or a shelf below can help store your remotes and random books. Here is a post we did with A LOT of storage furniture pieces.

Can I add a hanging light fixtures if there’s no electrical set up? How do I do that?

You’ll have to install a plug-in version but luckily these days there are plenty of options out there. Just be sure to check the cord length and measure it out to the nearest outlet. Yes, that means the cord will show, but there are some ways to disguise it. Or you can have an electrician replace your cord with a pretty one. If this is for the dining nook area then I think an articulating sconce option would be amazing here!

Last but not least…how do we make the kitchen feel special?

One of the easiest ways is to add in a rug but skip a long runner for your space. Opt for either a 2’x3′ or a size up (3’x5′) for the sink area. That way it won’t impede on your entry area. Additional kitchen accessories and smaller art mixed throughout will give you enough of your personality in the space (especially VINTAGE!). Since the kitchen already looks good, spend your dollars in the other rooms.

So those were my basic, beginner questions that were literally keeping me up at night. I hope some of these answered your problems so now you don’t have to ask! Thanks for reading all of this and I can’t WAIT to show you more of my baby apartment! What other questions do you guys have when designing? Comment them below, we love trying to help you out when we can:) Otherwise feel free to email [email protected] and we will do our best to answer here on the blog!

Opening Image Credits: Design by Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Photo by Jaime Kowal | via The Sands Hotel and Spa

Fin Mark

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Sahaja

What a great idea! This is suchhh a great place to start. I can’t wait to see how your MOTO turns out, Mallory! Funny enough, we just said if we replaced our bed we would get a queen to replace our king, because we just didn’t need that much space. And it’s nice to have more breathing room. Maybe it’d be different if, like my friend, we had dogs and a kid in our bed, but so far, our son hasn’t done that. Haha.

Random q on the paint finish on trim – we just put board and batten in our dining room using lattice boards, but should we paint it semi gloss like the rest of the baseboard trim or is it ok to do it all eggshell bc it’s more about the look?

Sahaja

Oh, also the light streaming into your bedroom is sooo beautiful! How nice is that to wake up to? Also, THANK YOU for asking the “what goes over my bed”q…I’ve always wondered that!

Jessica

Love your design inspo and “story”! I’m totally stealing that idea for when we move.

I was hoping that you were going to add a screen for the bed area like in the pool cabana picture, but I can see how that might make the space feel smaller…

Anne

The window in your “bedroom” area is so beautiful! If you put your bed there, you will need significant privacy window coverings. Is there any way to put the bed on the kitchen side and use the bedroom side for your living area so you can enjoy the view and the daylight, without sitting on your bed?

Kaia

I LOVE it. I’m so excited to see it! Thank you for tackling this huge project and sharing such a personal side of your life with us : ) This has been one of my favorite quaran-reads.

Cecilia

Very good questions and answers! And a lovely space! This suggestion is probably coming too late in your planning but… if this was my place and it was at all possible to fit the bed in the area marked “wallpaper” I would do that (headboard on the left wall, hopefully there is room enough to squeeze past the foot end and get to the balcony) and then put a large open shelf divider (think KALLAX) to separate it from the kitchen. Then you would have a more private bedroom nook and the large beautiful window would be enjoyed even more from the sofa… I would cover the whole wall with the sliding door with a cool fabric (maybe something with a palm leaf or trellis pattern to keep with the vibe you’re after) or make a simple graphic artwork on fabric, so the closet would be out of sight and not feel like an awkward part of the living space.

Margot

Make sure you check out their Shelter Island home too! Great inspo https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/jonathan-adler-simon-doonan-shelter-island-home-article

Rusty

How exciting to do a MOTO for your girst ‘real adult’ space!
I strongly suggest sticking with the Queen bed for now. You don’t know what or when your next bedroom might be and k8ngs need a huge space (or you may as well forget walking around it and just jump in from the base). Live there a while first and, therefore, don’t do a built in headboard.

I recommend Justina Blakeney’s wallpaper (from “Jungalow”). There are so many luxe and boho-luxe colour variations that match your vibe and moodboards. Really individual style and something you guys can choose, together! You could reach out to Justina for from extra promo for her via EHD’s website and maybe get some gifted?

You must have some large leaved plants in all those rooms with the lovely natural light!

I’m excited for you. How great that you’re doing this MOTO!!! ?

Rusty

Oh, and put the wallpaper on the head of the bed wall.

If your also planning to revamp your apartment and looking for some very nice antique and vintage furniture & decorative items i request you all to visit https://www.antiqueace.com/antique-stores/ to find a perfect antique store or mall nearby.

I totally agree with Mallory’s perspective on making our space look more spacious. Cheers!!

Roberta Davis

Here’s another dumb question. Do you own this apartment or rent it? If rent, are you allowed to put up wallpaper or paint other than white? Your kitchen and bath are already nicer than 99.9995% of kitchens and baths in this world. Just need a bit of great styling! Based on your inspirational images, do you think you might want a bit more color than your current mood board is showing? I share your love of Palm Springs! Those Kelly Wearstler images (from the hotel) are really amazing, too! And I love the idea of paneling, although a bit of colorful wallpaper might be great in your space.

milo

This style looks so fun. Good luck creating the space!

Julie

Mallory, can I just say that you and Chase seem like such FUN people?! Your style is so happy and whimsical and cool, and I’m super excited to see it come to life. And, your questions are not dumb at all! I think they’re quite universal and I loved reading Julie’s answers to them. Thank you for sharing your MOTO with us! 🙂

From one Julie to another, thank you! 🙂 And I can confirm that they are VERY fun people!!!

Erin

Love the plan! Where oh where is that couch from in your mood board?

n finn

Love the mood board. Where is the buffet from? So simple but interesting.

Heidi Keller

MOTO! My favorite! Thanks for hanging in there and providing us with such great content every day. You are my go to blog. Love you. Mean it.

Jamie

I’m really excited for this series. I have had SO many of the same questions. Thank you for sharing your apartment and life with us.

Kelly M

Mallory, your space is going to be great! Your questions were good ones and Julie’s answers were really smart. I’m also a huge JA fan. I hope you have all of his books. They are so great. Non-stop inspiration!

KC

The bedroom/living/dining space is giving me major Carrie Bradshaw apartment vibes. Now it’s all I see 🙂

AzureSong

Yay! I’m excited to have more colorful glam, less minimalist Scandi! Can you please tell me where you got your awesome snakeskin boots from the Instastory? ?.

Susan

Thank you for sharing your space. You are very brave! How about a floor plan to help us understand the space better?

As for what goes over your bed – nothing that can fall on you during an earthquake! Go with a tall headboard, or a folding screen, or wallpaper instead.

Susan

Clarification: A floor plan with measurements, please

Look at Murphy beds. There are Murphy beds with tables that can be dropped down when the bed is in the wall. You can put the bed on the wall adjacent to the kitchen (take the table thing out, but save it for your move out), then use the drop down table for dining, work, etc. That leaves the bigger area (where your mattress is now) for your living area.

Michele Ray

Could you please tell me where I can find those Black/ Natural rattan cafe chairs in the restaurant photo in this blog? Thank you

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