When Kyle Schuneman moved into half of a Victorian duplex in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood, he didn't know how long he would live there. What he did know, however, is that he felt duty-bound to make his mark on the apartment. "Even in a rental, it's about making a space that works for you," he says. With these big-impact, low-commitment decorating ideas, he proves that living well isn't just for homeowners.
Play up good bones
Schuneman made the most of the apartment's best asset--its molding and wainscoting--by painting it glossy white. He painted the walls blue as a modern counterpoint.
Redecorating with paint
It can move when Schuneman does
Customize on a dime
Using plumbing parts and lumber from the Home Depot, Schuneman built an industrial-style bookcase for the narrow space behind the living room sofa. Since the piece is on casters, it can easily move out whenever Schuneman does.
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Vertical lines make the space taller
Create the illusion of space
Hanging long drapes high "lifts" the ceilings. "The blue vertical lines make the space feel taller," he says.
Wallpaper upgrades cabinets
Temporary peel-and-stick wallpaper upgrades kitchen cabinets. Gio silver, $85/double roll; tempaperdesigns.com.
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Large, affordable pieces function as artwork
Make big statements
Schuneman hits the flea market for large, affordable pieces that can function as artwork, including this San Francisco bus signage that he scored for $25. "I liked these because they had a local angle, but old maps or educational posters work too," he says.
Pay attention to every corner
Work your smallest spaces
Paying attention to every corner makes a home feel lived in. Here, a pottery collection and a cheeky cardboard deer mount draw the eye down the hall. From $13; cardboardsafari.com.
Mine your pictures for a masterpiece
Schuneman covered a dated built-in mirror above the mantel with an Airstream photo he had blown up and printed on canvas. Mine your pictures for a masterpiece. "Landscapes work great because they can feel like paintings," he says. $523 as shown; canvasondemand.com.
More DIY projects
Stripes help anchor the room
Add a graphic element
With the help of painter's tape, Schuneman created a diagonal striped pattern on either side of the mantel. "The stripes help anchor the room and highlight the fireplace as a focal point," he says.
A slim desk and cork shelves
Set up a temp workspace
To create an office within his bedroom, Schuneman added a slim desk and put up metal and cork shelves (after putting down strips of painter's tape and then industrial Velcro to protect the walls). $15/4 cork tiles; officedepot.com.
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Cool Design for Small Spaces
Shop Schuneman's top spots
"Lots of ideas for the apartment came from researching my book," Schuneman says. Info: The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces (Clarkson Potter, 2012; $25).
Here are Kyle Schuneman's go-to home decorating shops.
- West Elm for drapery, pillows, and bedding. Their classic pieces can mix with other items to create a rich look. westelm.com.
- Dash & Albert Rug Company for big indoor and outdoor rugs that are really affordable. dashandalbert.com.
- Big Daddy's Antiques in Los Angeles and San Francisco for wild antiques that are always conversation starters. bdantiques.com.
- Croft House in L.A. for reclaimed furniture. "I love supporting small businesses, and these guys make great custom pieces," he says. crofthouse.com.
- cb2 for dishware. Use white dishes for entertaining, because they go with everything and show off whatever you're serving. cb2.com.