Fresh and Contemporary Themes for an Apartment Setting Fresh and Contemporary Themes for an Apartment Setting

Q: I'm a student getting ready to move into a small apartment. The carpets are blue in all three rooms. In the front room I have a stove that is yellow and a fridge which is white. Any advice on color coordination here? I would like more of a fresh and contemporary look.

A: First, look on the bright side: the apartment is so small that you don't have room for much anxiety here.

Ordinarily, those in the decorating field emphasize the importance of flooring, something which is often overlooked - literally and figuratively - by amateurs doing their own room design. But giving the floor short shrift is often a mistake, as a good floor really can make or break a room, as anyone knows who has ripped out old carpet and put in new hardwood floors.

Unfortunately, as a tenant you're not in a position to do that. If you're on good terms with the new landlord, you can certainly suggest new flooring, but if the carpet's in good condition, there isn't much chance that you'll be able to get it replaced with something more to your liking.

But all is not lost: there is a great tradition of tenants covering carpets with their own rugs, and you're welcome to try this. This usually works best if you're going for a more layered, old-world look: you can find fairly inexpensive throw rugs in colors and patterns that will match each other, and lay them over each other in a mosaic-like pattern, which will give you an almost Moroccan, desert-tent look.

But you want a fresh, contemporary look.

I'd start with the kitchen. You can find durable sisal rugs, often in a brick pattern, for not too much money, and you can often have them cut to size. Lay this on top of the blue carpet in the "front room." You don't say whether this room is a kitchen or a combination kitchen-living room. If it's a combination, you can use the sisal rug to demarcate the kitchen area from the rest of the room, placing your dining table on the sisal, so you feel as if you have a bit of a separate room.

Luckily, the blue, yellow, and white elements can be easily pulled together, and are themselves contemporary colors you can work with. You don't say what color the kitchen cabinets are, but if you can paint these, consider painting them yellow with white trim, and bring in some blue kitchen accessories, such as dish towels, placemats, and maybe a bright blue tea kettle.

Before you decide on a color scheme for the whole apartment, try to think a little more specifically about what kind of "contemporary" look you want. With these colors, you're heading for a look that's bright and cheerful, but you can push this in a particular direction.

  • Tip: One option is a sea-side theme. For this, work with the blue carpet by bringing in white and just a bit of red or yellow, and choose furnishings that are easy to care for and casual. A sofa in white or denim canvas, yellow and blue striped curtains, a few nautical pieces of art or sculpture, and you've got a whole look. You can play up the look even more with decorative nautical signal flags or a seashell collection on a shelf.

Another look you might like would be a Spanish one. For this, bring in the colors of the Mediterranean, bright yellow, bright blue, a mango-orange, and bright white. Again, the sisal rug will work well with this. Look for some painted tiles, and use them as coasters, or paper the end table with them. If you have good light, invest in a couple of big green plants, and put them in terra cotta planters.

With a little planning, a little money put into accessories, and a willingness to use color, you'll have that apartment looking like home in no time.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Design

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