Your apartment’s best friend

Deborah Needleman

For those of us still mourning the loss of Domino magazine — or, sure, snuggling up to prized old copies, desperate for decorating ideas and inspiration — there’s good news. Deborah Needleman, the brains behind our favorite shelter mag and current editor-in-chief of WSJ Magazine, has a new design bible for us to pore over. And, unlike the … let’s just say “aspirational” pages of Domino, “The Perfectly Imperfect Home” is packed with creative and affordable ways to make your abode chic, comfy and happy. Here, Needleman shares tips renters can do to make home feel like, well, home. 

Paint!
“Bite the bullet and paint your apartment. Even if your landlord is not going to pay for it, it’s really worth it. A nice color is so much better than that awful [standard] yellowy white.”

Happy touches

“[One] thing that I talk about in the book is ‘Jollifiers.’ When you are starting out you don’t have great stuff, you don’t have a lot of stuff, so it really helps to have a few things around that are sentimental and make you happy to look at — like a picture that you love and you just blow up really big, or my friend Rita Konig had this big poster that said the word ‘love’ on it. There’s just something about when you look at the word ‘love’ or ‘yes!’ you just feel better and that is supercool.”

Ditch the overhead lights

“The main thing is lighting. In a rental [lighting] is pretty awful because it’s usually one powerful overhead light. If the light is harsh it’s kind of a style crusher. So it’s worth either ignoring that light and getting lamps, or spending a little bit of money and changing that fixture out to something more flattering. I have in my apartment a giant rice paper globe [shade] — probably the cheapest solution there is. I think they are so pretty and they are, like, $10.”

Create a foyer

“It’s important, especially in small apartments where things get messy very quickly, to have some place where you can deal with your mail. You can either have a skinny shelf or a narrow console where you put books, your bag, a bowl to toss your mail into it. If you don’t have any kind of entrance, you can use a nice dresser to put your scarves, dog leash and pens in the drawers and then have baskets on it for your mail, keys, lipstick and whatever.”

Ottomans rule

“I’m a huge fan of the ottoman. It’s just a good, versatile piece of furniture that serves as both a chair when you have friends over and a coffee table when you need it to be.”

Out-of-the-box storage

“Storage is always a huge issue in small apartments. I think covering a table with a piece of fabric is really pretty and lets you bring in a bit of color, and there’s storage underneath.

I also don’t think those giant plastic containers are acceptable. I feel too many people have those out and it’s this idea that ‘I need storage.’ Well, too bad — it’s too ugly. I say baskets, baskets, baskets — for papers, for linens, for offseason clothes that you’re going to stick under your bed, for sticking in the shelves and putting your scarves in. They look great.”


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