Crammed into a teeny apartment, I can tell you firsthand that decorating a small home is a lot of work. Less space can feel overwhelming when your style isn’t exactly minimal, and it can be hard to unite form and functionality without everything becoming cluttered.

Blogger and Emmy Award–winning manufacturer Janet Lee faced the same Issue. Minimalism doesn’t exist in her language — Lee adopts colour, pattern and all of her cherished belongings. After residing in tiny New York apartments for years, she started compiling her hints to other small-space dwellers on her blog, Living in summary. Now her ingenious ideas are available in a book released March 27, 2012.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

Living in a Nutshell, by Janet Lee – $25

What prompted your decision to write this book?
I was a sequential small-space nester for over a decade, fine-tuning storage and fashion solutions on the way. But when my Brooklyn apartment had two supplies and marketed in less than an afternoon in the midst of one of the toughest real estate markets in history, it confirmed that I had a style and point of view that others react to and like.

My apartment’d green living room walls, a chocolate-striped bathroom plus a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard wall in the kitchen. The specific same unit, still pristine in contractor-white paint, on another floor in the building was on the market for six months without an offer. I needed to get a rental quickly and find out a way to design it with items that would not damage the walls or windows or flooring. I wanted to record it and discuss the process, so the Living in a Nutshell site was born.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY wall socket coating hooks: Industrial C-clamps are a quick way to upgrade a simple wall shelf into a coat and purse rack. Opt for some in fun colors (or spray paint them) for extra style. This is a great solution for tenants, because it doesn’t require any possibly damaging nails or glue.

Where do you go for inspiration?
Fortunately, walking down the streets of New York City offers you inspiration around every corner. I walk everywhere and soda into stores of every ilk. I like taking a look at displays more than the merchandise itself, and hardware stores constantly challenge my imagination. I am always thinking of how I could repurpose a thing or hook or nail in a stylish way.

There are lots of international magazine stores in the city, and the staff doesn’t mind if you sit down with a massive pile. I love what they are performing in Australia and the U.K. that I love their fearless use of color and their mixture of high and low, new and old.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY pet-corner chalkboard label: Pet-food places have a tendency to take over a small space when they are forced out into the open. Keep items in check by labeling this area using a fun splash of chalkboard paint. A unique colour will brighten up the space and define your pet zone inside a larger space.

What is the smallest space you’ve ever lived in? How large is your home now?
The tiniest apartment was about 500 square feet, but a number of the tiny quarters I’ve lived in were shared spaces, so divide that square footage from half. My challenge has always been that I am none of those small-space dwellers using a minimal design perspective. I can not live within an all-white box with a single photograph and a vase. I adore my things round me, and I really like design and colour. I presently live in 720 square feet and only threw a party for 28 comfortably. So it’s an area that works, springs and moves with my needs and lifestyle.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY balloon colors: Make classic balloon colors in a jiffy with patterned twin extra-large fitted sheets. Leave the lower half of each sheet elastic edge on to make the balloon effect. Remove the upper edge adjustable, fold the sheet over a curtain rod and fuse the cloth together with iron-on webbing.

Hang the rod up and finish off the look with ribbon pinned to the top of the colour. Tying the ribbon ends together at different heights enables this sheet to function just like a real colour.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY built in wine rack: Take the fresh and contemporary appearance of open shelves and provide them a quirky spin by installing them in a zigzag pattern for wine storage. The end result is a fresh and distinctive built-in storage bit that frees up cabinet and shelving space from the kitchen.

What do you believe is the most important thing for a small-space owner or renter to keep in mind?
Do not take a size-ist attitude towards your distance. You do not have to decorate with small junior-sized furniture and accessories. You can go bold with colour and design. A small space includes a list of flaws, but if you discover a way to emphasize them as quirky design attributes, then guests will be so dazzled, they’ll forget you live in a box.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY pillows: Decorative pillows could make or break a living space or bedroom, but buying nice ones could get pricey. Instead of scouring the web for cheap pillows, try making a few of your own. Lee proposes looking for a set of linen placemats from a home collection you adore. Placemat dimensions are about the same as a decorative pillow, so no cutting or measuring is necessary. Look for placemats using a cloth backing, give two of them a quick whir together under your sewing machine and then fill with a pillow insert.

Before Photo

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY secret: brightly colored stripes. How to receive your stripes right, with no bleeding color:

1. Paint the lighter colour for a base coating. Allow to dry completely, then use painter’s tape to mark off the stripes to the darker colour.

2. Before handling the stripes, do yet another layer of the lighter colour along the seams of the tape. This fills the gaps so the darker color will not bleed.

3. Wait for this coating to dry completely, then paint your stripes. Let dry again before pulling the tape off.

Harper Design from HarperCollins Publishers

DIY secret: Hide that eyesore. No matter how perfect your apartment seems, there is always the inevitable unsightly attribute — it’s just like a law of nature. Instead of awkwardly sidestepping guests round your sink or refrigerator, produce a clever method to conceal it.

This apartment needed a refrigerator in the foyer. A collection of cute magnets and a graphic curtain immediately transformed it into an eye-pleasing addition to the apartment.

Living in a Nutshell: Posh and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces, by Janet Lee. Photography by Aimée Herring. Harper Design, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. Hardcover: $25.

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The Happy Home Project
Salvage Secrets

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