Welcome to Amplified Apartments, a blog series about apartment hackers who’ve made strides against the mother of all renter dilemmas: square footage, featuring all-star bloggers with trained eyes and wise words. No questions asked.
Moving from a standalone home to an apartment presents its challenges—in space, editing, and repurposing, just to name a few. It also offers a blank canvas for a whole new visual experience, which is just what blogger and interior designer, Mary Ann Picket, crafted for herself in her most recent home. Mary Ann, who pens the blog, Classic Casual Home, recently moved from a beautiful cottage into a 1920s high-rise in San Francisco.
A vision of refined taste, the space is painted ivory and covered in classic furnishings, from the four-post bed to the elegant wooden tables. Meanwhile, its stark white walls frame the stunning views of the bay. No move is easy, but with 12 years of design experience under her belt, Mary Ann crafted herself a stately home in no time.
Read on for the seasoned veterans many tips, from idea conception to keeping the clutter, color palette wisdom and more.
If you could describe your home’s design concept using 5 words, what would they be?
Respect the Vintage 1920s Character with a Fresh Look.
What’s your process like when creating a design concept? Do you have an overarching design philosophy?
We moved from a beach cottage to a San Francisco 1920s high-rise, and most of our furniture still works in this setting. We still have some coastal references, but with a bit more urban feel. With my clients, I try to “brand the look that I think they want.” It could be something like: “Masculine and Modern Ranch” or “Colorful Bohemian” or “Classic with a Twist.” It helps to stay focused on the design.
You’re a big fan of white walls. Your home and cottage are clear examples of that. What draws you to its lack of color?
Before we moved in, the rooms were red, yellow and peach, and it felt chopped up and smaller. The rental market is such in San Francisco that we had to paint the unit ourselves, but it was worth it to have the neutral backdrop. Now the views of the bay really shine.
How do you decide on colors and textures you bring into your spaces? There are many lovely ones speckled throughout your home.
I’m using black and white and terra-cotta in the living room and black and cream and light blue in the bedrooms.
I keep things neutral so that I can change the accessories for a new look. (Tweet This)
The office is small but used to the brim beautifully. Why did you decide to go the route of completely filling the space with a huge desk, covering the walls with a massive inspiration board, etc.?
The office was already built in and it’s perfect for one person. I added lots of baskets for my fabric samples. I like the long counter space for designing mood boards. I just added the chair from Overstock.com. The memo boards are from Pottery Barn Teen.
Did you always have an eye for interior design or was it something you trained? If so, how?
I used to be in advertising, but about 12 years ago, an acquaintance asked for my decorating help. When her friends saw her home’s transformation, my business grew by word of mouth. I’ve trained myself to do digital floor plans and design boards. My blog, where I showcase projects, has also been a great referral service.
What’s the key to achieving polished and refined interiors, like your own?
Your home has to reflect your personality—your collections, your travels, your family heirlooms or hand-me-downs. Treat yourself to fresh flowers or house plants.
Shop flea markets and consignment stores, but edit, edit, edit to keep things fresh and uncluttered. (Tweet This)
How do you toe the line between clutter and decor?
It’s really hard living in a smaller space and keeping it uncluttered. I have baskets and trays all over the house to gather mail, magazines, DVDs, extra pillows, etc. Our closets are tightly packed to the ceiling. In fact, all our cabinets are organized, but full to the top.
How can ForRent.com readers develop their own interior design skills?
Discover your preferences on Pinterest or Houzz. Enlist the help of a decorator or friend whose taste you admire. I just helped my daughter with her apartment in Santa Monica. We grouped her collection of globes on an industrial table that also serves as a desk. She likes vintage frames, so we made a gallery wall with them. In her bedroom, she painted a Salvation Army end table robin’s egg blue and we bought turquoise velvet curtains at IKEA. It’s all an expression of her tastes, and it makes it uniquely her home. Anyone can do that. Start collecting what you love.
What are your go-to stores for home furnishings and decor?
On the lower price scale, I like Target, IKEA, World Market, West Elm and Pottery Barn. Anthropologie is fun, too. Our mantel mirror is from there and people think it’s vintage. With more of an investment, I like Restoration Hardware and Lee Industries and designer fabric stores like Schumacher, Kravet and Perennials.
What’s your number one tip for solving the small space problem?
Buy two apartment-sized sofas. They will fit in a variety of spaces when you move. We’ve had ours in four different homes facing each other or grouped at a right angle as they are now. Sectionals and oversized sofas may not work in your next place.
Who or where do you look to for your own design inspiration?
There are so many places where I find inspiration. Pinterest for sure is one, where I follow Home Bunch, Most Lovely Things, House and Home, and many more. I also check in regularly with “Fun Blogs” on my blog’s sidebar. I’m happy that Domino Magazine is back and I like Better Homes and Gardens, as they keep things real and attainable.
See more of Mary Ann’s work and wisdom on her blog, Classic Casual Home.