before and after

before & after: apartment transformation

by Kate Pruitt

This one-bedroom apartment renovation from Claire Leger proves one thing: good paint colors can go a LONG way toward transforming the feel of a space. I’ve always been kind of terrible at choosing paint colors — no matter how many test swatches I try, I always make the wrong choice, which causes me to suffer a stomach pink or snot yellow room for about three days before buying all new paint and redoing it. Claire’s paint choices are perfection, in my opinion. I could sit in that bedroom and stare at that beautiful deep eggplant for hours. The colors she’s chosen bring a huge amount of warmth and character to the rooms, and they pair wonderfully with her simple, rustic furnishings. When it’s time for a room refresh, I want you to come pick my paint colors, Claire :) — Kate

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Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: 3 months

Cost: $3000

Basic Steps: Before moving in, we used panoramic photos of the rooms to sketch ideas and make floor plans for each one. Then we created inspiration boards for each of the rooms including colours, textures, and atmosphere that could incorporate my love of clean and functional with vintage and feminine. Once we got into the space, we painted all the rooms, and Nick began construction on the living room bookcase, the kitchen workstation, the dining table, and the side tables. We both love reclaimed wood, and Nick was able to incorporate wood rescued from architectural salvage yards, connecting the pieces back to their former lives as barn boards from rural Nova Scotia farms. Then we were able to fill in the space with little vintage pieces that made the apartment cozy, soft, and warm.

We spent a lot of time in the planning process, combing through blogs and magazines for inspiration, so by the time we started painting, each room just fell into place. As we discovered, deep colours can be super happy in small spaces. Nearly everything in the apartment is custom made (the perks of having a boyfriend who makes furniture!), but also the apartment is filled with vintage pieces collected mostly from rural Nova Scotia antique shops. Every time we go for a drive somewhere, we stop along the way to look for treasures. Don’t be afraid to pick up pieces you love because you will likely find the perfect home for them somewhere. Lighting is also key to making a space feel intimate. Under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen made it a dream to cook in the evening, and the bathroom chandelier took a tiny space and made it more glamorous. — Claire


Sofa: EQ3
Table lamp, chandelier & butcher block countertop: IKEA
Bookcase, dining table, coffee table, side table, console table: Rude Works
Paints: Benjamin Moore in “Desert Twilight” (kitchen), “White Wisp” (living room), and “Peerage” (bedroom)
Mirror: Homesense
Bed: custom made

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  • I am horrible at paint colors, too! My “gray” living room/dining room turned out to be easter egg blue (ick) but I just can’t bring myself to repaint. I might, however, endure another weekend behind a roller to get that kitchen color. What is it!?!

  • Oh, I just love this. I am envious of their beautiful handmade furniture and ability to get creative with their space. I also love the painting (print?) above the dining room table – was that an antique store find?

  • I have the same crap shoot luck with paint! I’m taking a break from repainting my bedroom for the third time right now(from green, to red, to a very pale orangey pink now). We tried a mustard yellow in the kitchen and it ended up looking like egg yolk… fortunately the color we repainted is perfect, and pretty much identical to Claire’s. There is hope yet!

  • You say the butchers block is from Ikea? Fantastic! How did you acheive the weathered, rustic color of the base?

  • Paint can utterly change the character of a room….and you just just change it a bit from room to room you can create a bit of a subtle segue so there’s a bit of a theme going on. Keep cans so you can easily retouch later!

  • I also would love to know more about the picture above the dining room table!

  • Hey Guys!

    This is Nick, the other half of this design project. Just wanted to reply to some of the questions that have come up here:

    The painting over the dining table is a painting from my archives. I finished a BFA in fine art painting and this was one of the ones left behind in my parents basement. So we rescued it and gave it a new home!

    Paint colours : there is no denying it. there is an art to it. It has to have enough life of its own, but no so much that it shuts out all your accent colours. We went through a few options, but we got there in the end. Word of advice to everyone here : Sample pots… sample pots… sample pots. We went through 8 of them on this one.

    As for where the custom pieces came from? Well, that would be my handiwork. Pretty much all the tables and benches and what not are part of my ongoing journey to make a living as a custom fabricator. You can find me on facebook as “Rude Works Halifax”.

    The weathered look of the table bases was simply old reclaimed wood with a healthy silvering, which was then white washed with 6 times diluted latex paint.

    And besides that, we are both THRILLED at the response to this project. Thanks so much for taking the time to feedback!

  • Love the transformation, Nick! So simple and fresh feeling. Sidenote: Painted doorknobs make me sad :( You can bring it back to life by using an old crock pot.

  • Awesome! Cool, and (emphasis on) liveable. I like everything about this home. Great work guys!

  • This comes at the perfect time! I’ve been wanting to paint my bedroom dark purple, but couldn’t decide if I should take the risk. That is that exact shade I’ve been looking for, and convinced me to take the plunge.

    Gorgeous apartment!

  • I know both of these cool cats IRL and I’m super impressed that they’ve managed to dress up the kinds of apartments I’ve seen in our city and make it this amazing and glam without it being artificial. Well done Nick and Claire!!!!

  • The wood furniture is the first thing that caught my eye. Have to admit, I’m totally envious of all of their beautiful tables! It’s a lovely space. Very inspiring!

  • Hello.

    ARe you going to build a radiator cover / window seat for that purpose built reading nook, I wonder? I’d love to curl up with a book in those bay windows…

  • @Carolina

    the painted knobs are sadness, its true. But we needed to stop somewhere! Though I am curious how a crock pot would be used here. Cause if I was to clean a knob, i would simply use some paint stripper goop.

  • @far away

    we had talked about a radiotor cover/window seat nook, but opted instead for the two chairs populating the nook. The bench would have simply ended up tightening up the room too much. It is a very small space to begin with, so we had to be extra cautious about every square foot.

  • Glad to find someone else who chose a deep purple for a bedroom! I did the same in ours using Behr’s Berry Charm.

  • Moving into a new place can be a real challenge sometimes. But i always find a new colorful piece of art work will do the trick. Kechara Tibetan Thangkas are great pieces of artwork that display an array of vibrant colors.

  • I love the built-in around the window! I have similar colors in the living room and kitchen, so now I know what to look for when decorating.

  • Beautiful bookshelves. Where did you get the comforter cover on the bed? I really love it.

  • Hey guys, this is Claire here! Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments!

    @ D Rodgers the duvet cover is Margaret Muir

    @Liondragoncustom the two doors in the bedroom with dresses hanging on the front are both closets! Just a quirk of old Halifax homes!

  • I discovered the Benjamin Moore color “Desert Twilight” (that Claire used in her kitchen) 3 houses ago and have painted at least one room that color in every house since. It works great in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and offices. I think that means it’s time to try it in a bathroom.

  • Great post, the “before” pictures look exactly like the apartments we are looking at…

  • wow!! I love the built in bookcase!!! It looks like the wall is extended out on the sides. Is that just the frame of the shelves? How did you do this ?

  • CHOOSING PAINT COLORS: this is the PERFECT time of year to start experimenting with paint colors…. get sample paints and paint a few POSTER BOARDs. DO NOT PAINT THE WALLS UNTIL YOU ARE HAPPY WITH THE COLORS!! Realize that the outside reflection/shadows of trees, the light in the room and day/night will change your colors. Use painter’s tape and tape the board on the walls. Move the poster board around to different heights in the room (the window, lamp and overhead lights will effect the color) Also, if you can go from a ‘leafy’ season to a not leafy season (6 months, if you can stand to wait, from summer into a winter’s snow) and you still like the color, you have made a great choice!

  • I absolutely LOVE the …workbench-turned-counter-space in the kitchen?! That’s ingenious! Totally gunna look into that idea.

  • Awesome makeover…. I just once would love to live in apartment that allows painting the walls anything other than an off-white. I’m looking for ideas on how to add the color to the wall without painting. Loved the additional counter space gained with the rustic work bench. Great idea!