before and afterDIY

Before & After: A Studio Apartment Is Brought To Life With Color

by Maxwell Tielman



Like many things in life, a studio apartment can be both awesome and horrible—it really all depends on your perspective. On one hand, studios are a relatively affordable route that provide numerous design options for the creatively-minded. On the other hand, they can be cramped, ill-equipped and awkward—all things that, at such a confined scale, can become glaringly obvious. There are steps that one can take to maximize charm and minimize awkwardness when living in a one-room apartment, though—things that designer Gala Magrina was keenly aware of when she moved into one of her own. Hellbent on making a home out of the limited space she had to work with, Gala decided to put her eclectic modern taste to good use—utilizing color, touches of whimsy and bold decorative elements to create charming, functional spaces within her singular space. The end result is one that any apartment-dweller would be envious of! Check out all of the photos plus Gala’s design notes after the jump! —Max

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“Like all chaotic things in life,” Gala writes, “you never realize they’re a blessing until you live through them. With this apartment, I had to move last minute because of a break-up and ended up taking over the lease from a friend. I wanted a fresh start, so I really didn’t bring much with me, which was both awesome and overwhelming at the same time. But as a designer and creative director of my own design agency, M Crown Productions, the idea of having a blank palette to start with (and the freedom to design as I pleased- no girlfriend and for once, not for a client) was thrilling. The space is an open floor plan and I knew from the current set-up that the space could be utilized better, so this was my starting point (and pretty much every New Yorker’s right?): How can I maximize the space to make sure everything I own fits and at the same time create an open, modern, airy space (which is what I love)?”

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“I had been obsessed with wall mounted shelving units for a while so it was the perfect time to give them a go. I did the entire living room wall with them and was so surprised at how open and light it looked. I imagine this is because nothing is touching the ground and there is space around the pieces. It was a wonderful learning experience and something I will bring to my clients for sure. My personal style is what I like to call ‘Eclectic Modernism.’ Clean, simple and modern but with pops of color mixed in with cool and random objects and plants. Very high-low, and so I chose a mixture of furniture and decor that reflects this. The white dressers (for storage) with clean, white lines and low so they section off the bedroom but also allow for sunlight to filter into the rest of the apartment, the simple, modern, grey couch and marble coffee table, all very angular and modern, contrasted with pops of colors, plants, art and the amazing Eames rocking chair which I had shipped from Modernica in LA.“It’s now home and I couldn’t be happier. This goes without saying and it’s why I do what I do every day for clients – It’s truly amazing what an incredible space can do for your mood and outlook on life. I feel blessed.”

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Materials & Furnishings

  • Couch: Ikea
  • Fuchsia Rug: Zara Home
  • Carrera marble coffee table: JC Penney
  • White dressers: Ikea
  • Free floating white shelves: Ikea
  • Free floating walnut console: Bo Concept
  • Mod secretary desk: CB2
  • Eames-style rocking chair: Modernica
  • Wood stump end table: West Elm
  • Totem pole: Local store in Lake George
  • ‘M’ pillow: Jonathan Adler
  • Duvet Cover: Jonathan Adler
  • Pendleton Blanket: Pendleton
  • Art: Collected from all over for over 10 years

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  • Wow!! So lovely the space!! Really love how the separate the spaces and the awesome natural light that goes throw their windows!! :)

    Is really inspirational for us because we are renewing our studio too!! We are also sharing the small projects we are doing for decorate it to help others!!

  • Absolutely stunning space! And I love that “Go Fuck Yourself” sign. It reminds me of “Catch Me if You Can”. haha!


  • very smart seperation! great idea, and a beautiful bed sheets :) thank you for sharing

  • such a fun happy spot! so bright and white, but still colorful. and really love that little cb2 desk…great find!

  • This is great! I love the use of space, and especially love your banana poster. ;)

  • I love colors and airiness, but I can’t see where the work area went… No computer time in renewed space? :)

  • Great use of space. Love the layout and colors and it shows Ikea can be used thoughtfully, i.e., affordable for so many.

  • Beautiful, what a transformation. White with dashes of colour is my style too. I especially like the low height of the chest of drawer units that separate the sleeping area, and how they are the same height as the off-the-floor TV unit, it’s all so thoughtfully done.

  • Such a transformation! It’s a great idea to hide the bed behind storage but still keeping the whole space open and airy. Love it!

  • So pretty in the makeover! Bravo to great taste. The whites bring out the light and it looks awesome!

  • Hey, did you paint the walls a different shade of white or is the lighting just different in the after photographs? Thanks! Looks beautiful.

  • the new space looks awesome – but am I mistaken or is there now no dining table? that would be a big big minus

  • This is beautiful. I love how you describe your interior stlyle — I feel like I’m in the same realm. Airy and modern but with touches of global, earthy objects. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Hi everyone, thanks so much for all your awesome comments. You are making my day!!! Some answers… yes, the space was repainted in white, the poster was a gift from a friend, while its a little hardcore, I actually put it up as place holder while I finish a custom walnut canvas piece that I’m working on, it does make me laugh though every time I look at it and lastly, there were no shots of the kitchen, but I opted for a 40″ industrial table in the middle of the kitchen with (4) white industrial stools and it works amazingly in the space. Happy Friday everyone!!! Keep making stuff look pretty!

  • I need Gala to come see my house! I live in 500 (so they say…) horribly laid out square feet, and no matter how many times I move my furniture around or add/subtract pieces I just can’t get it right. I’ve never had this problem in my life. Perhaps I will try the floating shelf ideas.

  • it is amazing what a well thought out change can make to a space. Not only well thought out in terms of space planning and flow, but the interesting elements of design that have been applied. Nice – really smart.

  • The space looks great now. I think it was really clever moving the bed to the other wall, and dividing the space with the malm dressers. I think I woudn’t have thought about that, thinking that then the bed is hidden a bit when you first enter the apartment. And of course gorgeous textiles on the bed!
    I even like the print – why not :)
    I would only suggest to maybe try moving the couch out a touch from the wall, so the arms aren’t up against the wall. It definitely looks like you have a bit of space to spare ;) and I think it would make the space feel even more airy.

  • Such a genius use of the space! It really feels like there are separate areas to be in and it seems so much lighter. Lovely update. I bet its a joy to live inx

  • I love how you put MORE stuff into a small space and made it look COZY instead of CLUTTERED! It was so sparse before but now it looks like a home! Very well done!
    I love using the shelves to create room dividers.

  • where did you get that adorable totem pole?? P.S loves the bed quilt before the makeover more. awesome work tho!

  • While very pretty, putting an injection of color into your apartment for rent or house for sale can be tricky! Not everybody can appreciate loud colors you know? We often find that when staging the house, that most people will tend to prefer muted tones and things that don’t stand out too much. That’s how they “foresee” what they themselves can do with the space.