Small Space, Big Style: Take a Cue From the Instagram-Worthy Home of Visual Designer Adrianne Hawthorne
(Photography by Gillian Walsworth)

Small Space, Big Style: Take a Cue From the Instagram-Worthy Home of Visual Designer Adrianne Hawthorne


Visual and graphic designer Adrianne Hawthorne currently works at Google but, among other stints in the industry, previously ran her own studio and worked at the nonprofit Organizing for Action, which designed Barack Obama's website."I've been a creative person all my life," Hawthorne says. "Before I earned a degree, I primarily sketched with pencil and ink and painted with watercolor."

Her creative decisions have always been based in color, which is evident in the interior design choices of her boho-chic apartment in Lower Pac Heights, which is chock full of vibrant hues and quirky little details.

"Typically I start any project with a mood board, whether it's for a client's website, decorating my personal home, or creating decorations for a baby shower," Hawthorne says. "Mood boards ground my thoughts and act as a blueprint for the project, allowing me to create a visual playground of color, imagery and texture."

Hawthorne chose her 400-square-foot dwelling for its unique vintage charm (an original in-wall ironing board, for instance), profusion of natural light, and atypical studio layout with actual divided spaces, which makes the home "feel larger."

"I came from a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago, so on move-in day, my studio was filled with furniture I no longer needed. I spent the first few months downsizing and planning for life in a small space."

For instance, her wood-framed midcentury couch was sold and replaced with a more comfortable option that she could sleep on if guests came to visit. A four-person dining set was swapped out for two bar stools that are placed at the pass-through window. Her red dresser, which was previously an accent piece in the hallway of her Chicago apartment, is now filled with her clothes and is a dominant feature in the main room.

"My studio has turned into a personal sanctuary. I've downsized Marie Kondo–style, to the point where I've only kept things that mean something to me. Therefore, coming home is a joy. It's comforting to know that you are in your own small slice of the world and that you have everything that you need."

Hawthorne's tips for small-space decor:

  1. Downsize. You'd be surprised how much you don't actually need.
  2. Start with large pieces that you must have (a bed and a couch, for instance), and place them with the intention of not re-arranging for awhile. Then decide your color scheme or create a mood board.
  3. Corners are your friends! Put a small shelf or side table in a corner you'd typically ignore. Any ounce of space is valuable in a studio.
  4. Use area rugs to visually anchor your furniture to the floor.
  5. Look for hidden storage options such as under-bed boxes or coffee tables with drawers.
  6. Display only what makes you happy or is useful in your daily life.

Tips for putting together a truly personal home:

  1. Choose one or two personal items to shine on a shelf or in a nook. Accentuate these with other, more ordinary household items such as plants or books.
  2. Unifying color is especially important in small spaces. Choose a color theme that you can apply throughout your space. This was new for me, as I came from a much larger apartment with multiple rooms and each room had its own color scheme. Unifying the color palette has kept my decor cohesive and orderly.
  3. Since space is limited, everything seems center stage. Spend time choosing decor that you truly love. Take lighting, for instance. In all my previous apartments, I never bothered to change the standard light fixtures, but I changed two of them here and the result is maximized because of the small space.
// Adrianne Hawthorne,
Related Articles
Now Playing at SF Symphony
View this profile on Instagram

7x7 (@7x7bayarea) • Instagram photos and videos

From Our Partners