before and afterDIY

Before & After: An Omaha Apartment Gets a Boost of Personality

by Maxwell Tielman

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Trying to make a tiny city apartment feel big can often seem like a Sisyphean task. Living in a nutshell can have its perks (Low rent! Less to paint!), but managing to fit all of the trappings of Western life into one and making it feel homey can oftentimes seem nearly impossible. Still—it can be done. Jessica McKay, the proprietor of Birdhouse Interior Design, certainly knows it. When faced with a downtown condo that was sorely lacking in space and personality, Jessica took to the space with wisdom and aplomb: areas were subdivided and conquered, architectural elements were highlighted, and each room was made to reflect the clients’ needs and aesthetic tastes. With some choice furnishings and ingenious tricks of the trade, Jessica was able to transform this once awkward space into a fully functioning home in the city! Check out all of the photos, plus Jessica’s design notes and sources, after the jump! —Max

All photos by: Amanda Kohler Photography

“I own Birdhouse Interior Design in Omaha, NE,” Jessica writes. “Our business focuses on helping our clients to show off the best version of themselves within their spaces. We really want their personalities to shine throughout the places where they live and work – after all, that’s what makes a space inviting and interesting. Luckily, we get to work with amazing people, and the owners of this condo were no exception. They let us push them and added valuable feedback throughout the process.”

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Image above: “In order to maximize the light in the small space and also draw attention to the large windows, the walls were painted a crisp white and the window trim became a semi-gloss black. We created a couple of seating areas with some vintage chairs our clients already owned and a multi-purpose sectional, which can be used for lounging or seat several people around the coffee table for an informal dinner gathering.”

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Images above: “Since the condo is on the small side, we really needed to use the space efficiently and find storage where possible. So, we commissioned a local furniture designer to install custom floating wall shelves. The furniture designer – Measure Cut Cut Studio – also built the coffee table. Our client is a wedding photographer (lucky us, because she also took all of these photos!) who often works from home. She wanted a space to hide her laptop and other papers. And the extra shelf is a perfect spot to stash stuff and instantly makes the room feel tidier.”

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Images above: “The goals in the bedroom were to make it feel less cluttered and to add color and more lighting. We kept the bed to save on the budget, but found new bedding with a lot more personality. The sconces above the vintage vanity were actually a happy accident. We originally wanted to use them in the kitchen, but they weren’t the right scale. Since everyone really loved them we wanted to figure out a way to keep them in the design. Luckily, we stumbled on this fantastic idea thanks in part to our creative clients. And it’s my favorite part of the condo!”



Living Room Sources:

  • Couch: All Modern
  • Coffee table: Custom built by Measure Cut Cut Studio
  • Floating wall shelves: Custom by Measure Cut Cut Studio
  • Rug: Overstock
  • Arc lamp: Lampsplus
  • Gold table lamp: Target
  • Kitchen pendants: Etsy
  • Purple stool: Overstock
  • Side table: Vintage (Secondhand store)
  • Green chairs: Vintage (clients owned already)
  • Black floor lamp: Vintage via Hutch
  • Bar with hairpin legs: Vintage via Hutch

Bedroom Sources:

  • Vanity: Vintage Desk via Hutch
  • Red chair: Vintage (secondhand store)
  • Hanging mirror: Ballard Designs
  • Sconces: Etsy
  • Pendant light: Etsy
  • Duvet cover: Serena and Lily
  • Pillows: Serena and Lily
  • Throw blanket: Lulu and Georgia

Suggested For You


  • I love the dark trim, very striking! Will have to consider that one day when we own a home again. At the last house I experimented with painting the cheap interior doors a dark chocolate color and really loved how much that helped them out.

  • Katie, we went with a semi-gloss black (Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black). I try to look for a black that doesn’t have purple undertones and this one fit the bill well.

    Jennifer, the counter stools are from AllModern.

    Samantha, it’s a fun way to add contrast!

  • A little busy and unresolved for my tastes, but I do love the indoor plants. What is the tall one?

  • It’s so nice to see what’s going on in Omaha. I like result quite a bit. Jessica was able to make it look balanced and pretty. I struggle with the weight of things sometimes and like that she put two shelves above the TV. They feel right.

  • Great transformation! In the bedroom I think I can see a roller shade at the top of the window. Is that so with all the windows? I love the look of those windows, but I don’t think I could live with them uncovered at night (especially when I can see how close the neighboring buildings are).

  • Debbie and Aidel.K, the windows do have roller shades (basically hidden) for privacy at night. I don’t think I could feel comfortable without them either!

    Erin, the painting was a gift to the condo owners painted by one of their friends. It represents all of the places they’ve been and where they want to go!

  • what a great job and wonderful inspiration! just moved back to nyc from la and am starting to get excited about a new place…thanks so much!!

  • I like the dark trim and love the large windows. I am not thrilled with the rest although the furniture and all is nice. But, there is nothing to bring the eye up and out the windows. The furniture is all so low it brings your eye to floor instead of the windows.