before & after: budget-friendly apartment redo

It’s been a while since I’ve lived in a space like this one, but it just takes one glimpse of this “before” image to remember all the decorating challenges that accompany a small city apartment. Niamh of Seek Design managed to inject this space with cheer and energy by adding the right colors and patterns and refreshing pieces that the client already owned. Wonderful work, Niamh! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump!

Time: 2 weeks

Cost: €9,000. This excluded a sofa and chair the client already had and wanted to reuse. It included repainting the entire apartment walls and doors, repainting some of the furniture, repainting the bathroom and kitchen wall tiles, new appliances, repainting the kitchen cupboards, new flooring in the living room and hall, new furniture, soft furnishings, new fitted storage, new bathroom suite, new blinds, new curtains and labour throughout.

Basic Steps: The brief for this artist’s city apartment was to design a clean, simple interior, which would allow the artist to display her art and inspiring collection of unique objects gathered over the years. When the client approached us, she was afraid her limited budget would mean she wouldn’t be able to do much. To keep costs to a minimum, we sourced vintage furniture pieces and repainted furniture sourced at flea markets and auctions.

The biggest investment in this design was good quality floor tiles and wooden flooring. To save costs, the existing bathroom and kitchen wall tiles were painted with Ronseal white tile paint. For the living room, we sourced a secondhand table and chairs at a flea market, which were then repainted. We considered getting a budget kitchen fitted at a cost of €3000, but we decided we’d paint the kitchen units and replace the handles instead. We fitted new open shelving to house additional dry food items, which means the small kitchen isn’t crowded with bulky kitchen units that can make a small kitchen look even smaller.

If you like the form and shape of a piece of furniture but you don’t like the color or finish on it, repaint it! Spray painting gives a better finish but make sure to do this work outdoors. Don’t under estimate the power of painting something. It can change it more than you ever imagined. Replacing handles on furniture also modernizes it.

If the space is small, choose neutral, light colors for the walls to make it appear brighter and larger. Use accessories you love and that inspire you, and keep an eye out for vintage furniture pieces you can use. Looking for vintage furniture is a long but enjoyable process, and it makes your interior unique.

Fitted shelves are a great and lasting way to utilize an unused space and mean the rest of the living area can remain clutter free. Shelves designed to fit a specific area also mean you are getting the best out of that space. Getting shelves and units made from MDF and fitted generally cost approximately €300–€500 more than buying shelves, but you will have them for life.

Lastly, managing your contractors well is key. Be very clear about how you want finished joinery or painted items to look. We put CAD line drawings together so the end result is set in stone and we don’t get any surprises. If you’re on a strict budget, get the basics right. Good quality flooring, tiling and a good finish on the walls are key; the rest will follow. — Niamh

  1. Amenity says:

    What a fantastic job. I love that you updated the kitchen without draining it of all charm. And that new stove/oven/countertop is ingenious for a small space!

  2. sage parker says:

    this is just amazing!!!
    love that fireplace with the striped carpet :)

  3. Annie H says:

    Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great apartement and is decorated beautifully. However, I don’t think the price tag 9000 Euro (approx $11,850) qualifies as “Budget-Friendly”.

  4. megan says:

    this is great. love the kitchen!

  5. Teresa says:

    Love this apartment makeover. My favourite item is the table in the living room.

  6. Michelle says:

    I have to know more about that stove! Details please!!

  7. marie says:

    this is exactly the kind of color balance i want to inject in my home. it’s playful and bright without looking like day-glo threw up. i LOVE it!!

  8. Love, love, love the kitchen!

  9. @Annie- at first I had the same reaction, but when I started reading what they did, and you consider she redid the entire apartment including walls and floors, that is pretty good–especially in Europe where labor costs can be quite high. Hence using the words “apartment redo” instead of “makeover” (in which case yes that would be an expensive makeover).

    @Michelle- I saw those types of stoves recently in the middle east and I thought they were genius! There’s so many space-saving things that haven’t trickled over to the USA yet; I guess because most people live in spacious suburbia here.

  10. Lovely Rentals says:

    The stove looks really great, but installing wooden shelves above it is dangerous.

  11. lina says:

    was there anything done to the fireplace? i don’t like how the before picture is always really crappy. i get how you want there to be a contrast but at least take a picture with a camera and with lighting and not a phone.

  12. Iva says:

    Cookbooks above the stove? Big no.

  13. Beautiful! I love the idea of a black and white living room with little pops of color thrown in like with the pillows and artwork.

  14. valeria says:

    i love your bedroom!!

  15. el says:

    the stove / countertop / microwave oven combo is indeed ingenious, but open shelves above the stove + complete lack of fume hood would never work for me (though I suppose I’ve struggled along with terrible NYC fume ‘hoods’ that don’t actually vent anywhere fine – I just never fry fish anymore!)

  16. Sarah says:

    Love this apartment makeover. Particularly like the smonochrome mat and fireplace, really adds impact to the room. Great inspiration for a small apartment owner!

  17. I love seeing small spaces with big style!

  18. Vanessa says:

    in the living room: the fireplace mantle really seems to stand out much more now. which i think is great, because its’ trad style definitely warms up the majority of midcetury mod pieces.

  19. Roisin Nic Conghaola says:

    What a funky apartment. Coming from Europe I am amazed at the budget……Was quoted €3,500 min for a bathroom suite last week so trust me this apartment redo was a bargain….. P.S. I want that tray in the kitchen. Off on a flea market hunt tomorrow.

  20. I am in total lust with this red0! I love their choice of clean lines, minimal but bright and graphic patterns and a neutral background. I wish I could purge my belongings down to look that good in a small space :)

  21. The aesthetic of that living room is exactly what I have in mind for our second bedroom that we’re redoing as a music room. Great inspiration to get moving on that project.

  22. Love this before and after!!!

  23. Fabulous transformation, especially the kitchen! and I love the lounge furniture too…

  24. hyzen says:

    Oh my gosh, I love it–especially the kitchen and the floors throughout. Love all the space saving things in the kitchen–I agree, the US really needs to catch up with this. I also want that tray. And I don’t see what’s so dangerous about the stove set-up–people put wood cabinets over stoves all the time. The cookbooks are a distance from the stove and protected by two shelves below, and if you don’t do a lot of greasy cooking, I don’t see them getting too gross.

  25. Thanks everyone for the kind comments. If anyone has any questions about the redo please pop us an email! We’re hoping to feature more on our blog soon.

  26. Wow! What a great re-design. I want that rug!

  27. What a great job! I love it…

  28. bev. randolph says:

    PLEASE tell us best stores for the products use. And paint brand. Also more small kitchen make overs! !!

  29. Carola says:

    It IS budget friendly! I loved it!! the only thing I ould have done differently is having the cookbooks above the stove, heat and steam will do them no good. But it looks SOO MUCH BETTER, congrats!

  30. Jenny says:

    WHERE did you find that rug?! It is exactly what I’ve been looking for!!

  31. nanny says:

    For the stove naysayers. If you look you’ll see that there IS a downdraft at the back of the stove.

  32. anna says:

    I would NOT have painted the wood floors, but everything else looks great!

  33. Erin says:

    It’s an IKEA rug.

  34. Kathy says:

    LOVE the new flooring in the kitchen.

  35. sharon says:

    you did a great job LOVE IT.. the kitchen is my favorite!

  36. Phil Clark says:

    Loved the décor of the house. And thanks for the tips that you mentioned regarding how to make the best use of a small space to make it look larger and brighter.

  37. Jane says:

    Hurricane Sandy just wiped out 8 rooms and two bathrooms at the Jersey Shore. Ant suggestions for replacement floors that are flood resistance


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