500 Square Foot California Upcycled Apartment Tour
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Name: Mary Williamson and Holly, a 7.5 year old rescue pup
Location: Beverly Hills, California
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, renting
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Moving from New York to L.A., it was important to me to find a home that had the same historical charm of the pre-war buildings that are so prevalent in the city. When I found this one-bedroom in Beverly Hills, it felt like a dream come true—unique archways, coffered ceilings, and crown molding make it feel like a step back in time, and by New York standards, the space is HUGE.
My favorite element is the built-in desk area the owner added to the former “dressing room” outside the bedroom; it’s the perfect place to showcase my collection of colorful books, funky knick knacks (like a solar-powered waving queen and a fairy charm a friend bought me at a voodoo shop in New Orleans), and the chair I had to have because it was on sale but was always a little too small—and it finally found a happy home as a desk chair.
My style is heavily influenced by my mother (in fact, when I moved out here, I shipped many of these pieces from her home, including the Victorian love seat she put on layaway when she was my age, and 36 years later, has a new life in hot pink fabric I imported from Guatemala)! We used to drive her station wagon around the alleys in our Colorado neighborhood and “dumpster dive” for treasures being tossed out by people redoing their homes. My coffee table is the L.A. version of my own dumpster dive—when walking my dog in West Hollywood, I found it outside the historic building I was living in at the time and couldn’t leave it behind. The peeling paint, claw feet, and tray table are the perfect combination of everything I love.
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Eclectic vintage farmhouse
What is your favorite room and why? The bedroom feels like an incredible luxury by New York standards, and I worked to make it feel like a sanctuary by not putting too many things on the walls and sticking to textural design items like faux plants, an antique iron bed, and a vintage door scored on Etsy to display a piece of art my grandmother bought me when I was a little girl.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I found when I got all my furniture into the space that it was way larger than my previous studios (insert “duh” here). I had to add a few things to the living room to complete it, including an Opalhouse couch from Target in a rich jewel blue (no longer available), and a chair and a half from West Elm.
My boyfriend thought I was certifiable trying to add another chair to the space, but it’s so comfortable it’s now the only chair he sits on when he’s here! The other thing that came with a bigger space was bigger walls. The ceilings in this unit are so high that many of my larger art pieces felt dwarfed, especially in the living room. I found this charcoal drawing of a dilapidated barn on TheRealReal and had it on my wish list for months before I found this apartment, but as soon as I saw these walls I knew I needed it to finish the living room. Over the recovered couch of my mother’s it’s a striking focal point that you can see from every common area, and it reminds me of the beautiful old barns near my parent’s home in Colorado. My mom has already requested it if I move somewhere with smaller walls one day!
Any advice for creating a home you love? My rule is, if I like it, it will go. When I was first furnishing apartments post college I didn’t have the means to spend a lot, so I collected beautiful things from my parents (like these antique Turkish rugs), that might have scared people with their bold colors and patterns. I never worried about clashing patterns or eras in my space. My living room is a mish-mash of so many found objects from many decades, but I have always trusted if I love a piece I will love it in my home. It helps that I am especially drawn to things that are weather beaten or meant to look that way; the Pottery Barn console in my kitchen was designed as an outdoor potting bench, but the antique green and galvanized top called to my heart so much I used my first grown-up bonus to purchase it for my 250-square-foot, 5th-floor walk up in New York (nary a garden in sight!). That piece has followed me to every apartment and been many things, but now with the plants on top of it by the sunny kitchen window, it’s finally fulfilling its calling as a potting bench (while also being a handy place to store kitchen pots!).
Things don’t have to be expensive to have longevity, either. If something thrills your soul or “sparks joy,” to borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, don’t worry about whether it will “go” in your space. The only rule is there are no rules. The secret to creating a home you love is filling it with things you love—objects, people, pets, experiences… it’s as simple as that.
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length and clarity.
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