I’m not what you would call a “crafty” person. Up until recently, the last thing I DIYed was my sandwich for lunch one day and I still managed to mess that up. I have a collection of wine corks I’m “going to craft” someday that’s been steadily growing for 3 years with no final project in sight, and my Pinterest is littered with “easy DIYs!” that I pin on a board and promptly forget about. So understandably, I received more than one skeptical look when I announced my plans in December to redecorate my one-bedroom apartment “all by myself.”
When I first moved into this apartment, it was never supposed to be more than a one-year commitment. My ex and I were planning on finding a place together once my lease was up, so I didn’t see the point in really decorating the apartment, since I knew from Day 1 it was a temporary living situation. I lived for 8 months with a too-small rug in the living room, mismatched furniture everywhere and wall art haphazardly distributed between the four rooms. Nothing matched, nothing fit together, but I loved my little apartment, with it’s huge kitchen, 2 closets and bathroom that sometimes rained dirt from the ceiling. Once the plan to move out fell apart with the relationship, I looked around at the apartment that was now mine indefinitely, and hatched a plan.
It all started with the living room. I wanted to make a statement when people walked into my apartment, distinguishing it from the myriad white-walled rentals across the city. After almost zero deliberation, I set my heart on a deep but bright blue, a bold color to contrast the mass amounts of natural light in the room. Everyone (I mean that literally) I discussed this with tried to talk me out of it: “It’s going to make the room look smaller!” “Why don’t you try an accent wall first?” “I thought you meant like a pastel blue!” But I had my heart set on a dark blue and I wasn’t going to let that go. A few paint samples and a difficult decision later, I walked out of a hardware store with a gallon of the exact color I’d envisioned.
Despite covering my entire body in blue streaks during two days of coffee-fueled painting by myself, I made it through the first part of the Great Redecoration unscathed. No paint on the floor, no paint on my cat, and a beautiful deep blue, surrounding me like a wave of calm energy as I turned to admire the work. It was just paint on the walls, but decorating in such a large way cemented that this apartment was my home for an indefinite period of time. My apartment started looking like it belonged to me for as long as I wanted, rather than a place that I was renting for just a few months.
After laying down the new carpet, a generous Christmas gift from my parents, the next step was covering my old Ikea dark-wood dresser in wallpaper. My lovely friend M, resident HGTV superfan and person of Great Ideas, inspired this DIY project and helped me pick a beautiful yellow pattern. The problem? Wallpapering anything sucks. We spent a Sunday covered in mod podge and shellac, fruitlessly trying to smooth bubbles that appeared out of nowhere, as though the Ikea dresser refused to distinguish itself from the rest of the place. M stepped in mod podge, I hurt myself with the Exacto knife, and after steadily drinking throughout the afternoon, we finally called it a day, bubbles and all. Fortunately, once we stepped back and took a look, it was a pretty beautiful new dresser.
I have a million more ideas, from changing the light fixture in the living room to getting a new bedframe and upgrading to a queen-sized bed by summer. This decoration project, what started as a simple painting the living room idea, has blossomed into a way for me to make this apartment feel like home. I never thought I’d be in this apartment for what may be the rest of my 20s, but as I sit on my soon-to-be-reupholstered couch and soak in the changes around me, I also can’t imagine living anywhere else.