Transitioning to condo living can be a shock for some people—oftentimes, it involves downsizing and learning to compromise with limited space and furnishings. But you don’t have to sacrifice style—or empty your wallet—to create a functional, compact space.
As interior designer Amanda Forrest notes, DIYing your own furnishings and décor is one of the best ways to produce more condo-friendly pieces: it just takes a little more planning.
“Pieces that can be DIY’d, can fit in the elevator, and can also provide storage are kind of the key elements to having a successful DIY in a condo,” the Victoria-born designer explains to the Straight by phone.
A regular on the Marilyn Denis Show, Forrest has recently launched her own colour collection with New Westminster-based chalk-style paint maker The FAT Paint Company and is gearing up to take the B.C. Hydro Main Stage at the B.C. Home + Garden Show on Saturday (February 20).
Ahead, we’ve tapped the interiors pro for five fool-proof DIY ideas that are perfect for condo living.
Transform three dressers into a media console
“One of my favourite ideas is to take multiple pieces of furniture and putting them together to create one big thing,” says Forrest.
The designer suggests sourcing three smaller scale dressers—each the same size—and screwing them together to create a custom media cabinet. The three dressers can be painted for a more uniform feel or you can swap out the hardware to create a look that’s more your own.
“I find that items that are coming from box stores typically don’t have the glamour factor that we’re trying to achieve,” says Forrest, “so changing the hardware makes a big difference.”
If you have some change to spare, you can also have an expert measure and mount a slab of marble across the console’s top. It’s no different from installing a countertop, which means the piece will fit into your condo with ease.
Add storage to a standard coffee table
“Lots of the time, I find inexpensive coffee tables but they don’t necessarily have enough storage in them,” says Forrest.
She explains that a great storage-boosting hack for the living room essential involves adding a secondary shelf, which you can have cut at your local hardware store, free of charge. Simply measure the distances between the table’s four legs and take them in to have a sheet of wood cut.
You can also opt for an MDF material, but, as Forrest notes, natural wood is especially forgiving and easy to screw into, so you can install the shelf on your own with basic L-brackets.
Upgrade an inexpensive bookshelf
Bookshelves are a must-have in compact sizes as they expand your storage options vertically. But don’t limit yourself to the most obvious sites when shopping for shelving.
“Oftentimes, the departments that have to do with interior closets or garages tend to have less expensive metal shelving pieces,” Forrest says. “These can easily be primed and painted out any colour and they cost a fraction of the price of buying a wood shelf unit.”
For a bold look, the designer recommends using a smashing rose-pink—a colour that’s currently trending in the design world—or a versatile olive tone.
“You can create something that looks very boutique-style that doesn’t cost a lot of money,” she says, “so you’re getting both the storage and something that has a decorative element to it.”
Liven up an entryway bench
Here’s a project even the least handy of DIYers can tackle. Purchase a generic wood bench from your local hardware or big-box store (“Don’t worry about what the fabric upholstery or legs look like,” says Forrest) and paint the frame a bright, punchy colour.
This is made even easier if your bench comes unassembled, as you can lay the legs out on paper to paint. Forrest recommends opting for a vibrant orange or blue to liven up your entryway.
“It glamorizes the space a little bit and adds a feeling of luxury to what your guests are going to see when they first walk in the door,” she says.
You can then reupholster the seat with a material of your choosing. Think outside the box with an assortment of patterned fabrics, table cloths, oversized scarves, or even shower curtains. These can all be either hot-glue-gunned or stapled over the existing upholstery.
Repurpose a body pillow as décor
We know what you’re thinking: a body pillow? According to Forrest, however, the oversized cushions make a great wow-factor piece for the bedroom when jazzed up with a little paint.
She suggests covering a basic body pillow with a coat of chalk or fabric paint in a fresh colour or pattern. The result is an eye-catching—and rather comfy—addition to your bedding. For the bedroom, Forrest recommends using more subdued tones like a heritage-style grey or navy blue.
“You could do the same with a regular-sized pillow, but I think the body pillows are interesting because you’re gonna get a piece that creates a real statement just because of its size,” she says.