How to Adult Your Tiny San Francisco Apartment
(Photography by Ana Kamin for Lonny; styling by Leah Harmatz)

How to Adult Your Tiny San Francisco Apartment


Adulting is really hard. Between working, paying bills, scheduling appointments, caring about your health, and also trying to have a social life, home decor can often be an afterthought. But, not when you're an editor at a site like Lonny.

Let's just say my bedroom design was just okay half a year ago. I live with two roommates in a San Francisco apartment with a total lack of shared space apart from our kitchen, bathroom, and hallway. Technically, I think it's a one-bedroom, but with SF rent, that's totally impossible to pull off as a recent graduate. My space was probably meant to be a formal dining area, so I have glass doors from the hallway and from my roommate's room. That means curtains are the key to actually have privacy in my own home.

The author, Shelby Wax.(Photographed by Ana Kamin for Lonny; styled by Leah Harmatz)

Apart from the negatives, I do love my apartment. My room has incredible bay windows that bring in an enormous amount of light and give me views into our building's shared garden below. I'm a block away from some of the best restaurants in the city, but my street is still always quiet at night. Plus, while we don't really have a common place to all kick back apart from our kitchen, my roommates and I are totally comfortable keeping open our doors open and hanging out in the evenings. However this lack of a living room is what really makes my bedroom an all-encompassing space for me.

Most of the furniture in my room had been inherited. A double bed from the previous occupant of my last apartment, a dresser from the woman who lived in my space before me, and a huge vintage storage piece that every single unit in my building has. The only other items I had purchased were a vanity, a side table, and a metal rolling rack from Ikea. I also had a crazy shoe situation where they were organized in rows against my wall, but honestly it looked like a mess 90 percent of the time. Some art on my walls and a Persian rug I scouted at the Alameda Flea Market helped the decor situation, but it definitely wasn't up to par with what I really wanted and needed.

(Photographed by Ana Kamin for Lonny; styled by Leah Harmatz)

Looking at beautiful spaces every single day gave me a constant longing to update my room. I often felt like a hypocrite having this meh home while I was giving advice to our readers how to improve theirs. So I set out on giving my bedroom an update to make it worthy of a shelter-mag editor.

Before really approaching an overhaul, I brainstormed what vibe I wanted to curate in my space. I definitely am not a minimalist, but I do love placing accents into a crisp backdrop. Natural materials, textures, and greenery were really important elements I wanted to incorporate. I also needed to curate a palette that felt cohesive. All the art I own had a blue beachy vibe to it, so I felt like embracing that modern Cali-cool look would be the route that felt most organic to my personal style.

The first step on my adulting journey was getting rid of my double bed. One of the benefits of working in design is while you might make not as much as the tech founders in the city, you can collaborate with some cool brands that send you perks along the way. So thanks to the amazing folks at Floyd and Tuft and Needle, I finally got a queen-sized bed (with a headboard!). Not only does the modular platform bed make it easy to assemble and give me a little bit of extra storage space underneath, but the updated mattress has totally improved my sleeping habits.

(Photographed by Ana Kamin for Lonny; styled by Leah Harmatz)

I also made sure to give my bedding some extra oomph. My printed Ikea duvet and pillows were swapped out with Snowe's Softtexture line in a crisp white hue. Since I needed a new sheet, I searched Target and found one for $18.99 that I'm low-key obsessed with and continue to recommend to everyone I meet. For some color, I added a gorgeous blue tasseled throw from Aussie brand Kip & Co.

One of my favorite additions in my space is the cool ceiling pendant from Urban Outfitters. Almost every single home I've written about had some modern fixture I was totally obsessed with. Why should I be stuck with the boring light that came with my apartment?

My next project was getting rid of the vanity blocking my windows to make the most my natural light. After making some bank selling it on Craiglist, I found a super cool and reasonable rattan coffee table from Ikea to be the centerpiece in front of my windows. This side of my space was definitely in need of some green, so I swung by my local nursery to pick up some new plants that I work hard every day not to kill. A cute pot from my friend who runs Pop Up Greens and a woven basket from Côte d'Ivoire I found at an Ojai farmer's market were palette perfect planters.

(Photographed by Ana Kamin for Lonny; styled by Leah Harmatz)

To fix that whole small-space storage situation, I went with the hide-in-plain-sight option. A woven basket holds half of my bags (I have a lot, okay?), while I stacked my books beneath the bench. Keeping them mostly color-coordinated was key to making it look more styled than a jumbled mess.

Since every room needs a chair (that honestly has more clothes chilling out on it than people), I took this rattan seat from Lonny's Senior Designer when she was clearing out her space. The only problem? It was originally black and did not fit with my aesthetic at all. A can of white spray paint fixed that situation.

Speaking of paint, my walls used to be that ugly renter's beige color that you find in a lot of apartments, while the trim remained pure white. I have only painted a room once before as a kid with my mom (see here for a taste of that design disaster), but I was determined to redo my space in a weekend all by myself. Since only one furniture piece fell, threatened my life, slightly damaged a wall, and required me to call a neighbor and a friend down the street to help lift it, I would consider the project a success. While the color change was subtle, I can not overemphasize how much better my art and furniture look with that clean backdrop.

(Photographed by Ana Kamin for Lonny; styled by Leah Harmatz)

The other mess I needed to deal with was my wardrobe. My metal IKEA rolling rack was fine, but I really wanted a piece that had some more character to it. Plus, my shoes really needed a more organized place to go. You don't really want them to be a topic of conversation every time someone walks in your space.

Since I already had most my furniture in natural wood, I scouted out a clothing rack from Urban Outfitters that got the job done and had even a shelf to house all my boots. Plus it did a great job of covering up a heater in my corner that was a total eyesore.

The item that has totally transformed my life? A $50 bamboo shoe rack I found on Amazon. When I finished assembling it, I made all my roommates come in to bask in its glory. Once it was in place, I pulled back out a fur rug I used on a previous shoot to make my dressing area into a nice little corner. Rubbing my bare feet on it is one of my life's simple pleasures while getting ready in the morning.

The rest of my styling involved working with a lot of details. I got a huge Leah Reena Goren print above my bed featuring some cool female surfers, re-arranged the placement of all my art, added in some new small sources of light, and pared down the decor on my shelves. I even switched out the knobs on my vintage furniture piece to give it a much-needed update.

Sure, transforming my bedroom into a more "adult" space required work, but I don't regret it at all. Most of the projects took less than an afternoon and I was able to save money where I could. The main priority was curating a space that made me happy. My bedroom is now somewhere I feel comfortable welcoming friends from out of town to crash in or also just hole up with Netflix for an entire evening.

While writing for Lonny has taught me to appreciate and understand design, redecorating my room helped me understand why it is so important. Your space should be a reflection of you and once it finally feels complete, your apartment truly feels like a home.

This article was written by Shelby Wax and originally published on Lonny. See the full slideshow of Shelby's apartment here.

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