Small Apartment, Smaller Budget: How To Transform A Hovel Into A Haven

A pair of twenty-somethings with no furnishings aside from a Hello Kitty toaster move into a 600-sq. ft. hovel in the heart of Los Angeles. My roommate and I are those twenty-somethings, and that hovel is our home, complete with a kitchenette, a bathroom so small that your knees bump the bathtub when you sit on the toilet, and a single bedroom into which we have managed to squeeze two twin-size beds. The truth is: life is expensive. To make our little space lovely, we had to get creative. Here are 5 ways that make our home seem more cozy than claustrophobic.

It’s the Little Things: Sometimes, it’s the smallest details that make the biggest difference. For example, if you have boring cabinetry, switch out the knobs and handles with decorative ones. Our favorite finds are from Anthropologie and World Market. Also, let’s not sugar coat: in a small space, smells matter. When my roommate steams broccoli for lunch, we can still smell it by bedtime. To counteract the stench, we’ve equipped each room with candles. (The ones with the wooden wicks are like a crackling mini-fireplace.) And lastly, there’s nothing lovelier than a room with fresh flowers. Trader Joe’s has bouquets for only $3.99.

Cute and Contained: Extra clutter never helps a calming space, so we only house what we need and love. For us, that love is clothes. If this is true for you, invest in a dressing rack where you hang your nicest things. Your guests will think you’re stylish, and you’ll have your favorite pieces at easy access. For other necessities, get creative! Go to Goodwill or Ikea to find interesting jars to house cotton swabs or flour and sugar.

Homemade: I don’t know about you, but there is something homey about food that you’ve made yourself. Opening the fridge to see Tupperware holding homemade soup, quinoa, or green bean salad is infinitely better than a greasy box of takeout. Plus, it’s cheaper. If your bananas go brown, make some banana bread! Home movie night? Pop some dollar store kernels on the stove and enjoy an economical treat.

A Clean Kitchen is a Clean Mind: In a small apartment, one day off dish-duty is a recipe for disgusting. Trust me. So I take a cue from my father who, in his fifty-two years, has never gone to bed with a dirty kitchen. Still, cleaning sucks. That’s why my roommate and I splurge (just a little) on our cleaning products so we get excited to keep tidy. We like Mrs. Meyer’s. They have tons of scents, and they’re environmentally friendly! Our favorites are basil and radish.

Splurge: Lastly, if you must splurge on one thing, splurge on a nice couch. Even if your beds are squished together like Tetris-pieces, you will always have a civilized place to sit. Plus, you’ll have a place for guests to stay.

And by splurge, we mean Craigslist.