A Project with Kyle, Marina Del Rey, CA

Kyle's Studio Refresh

The challenge:

I live in a small studio apartment and I also use the space as my home office when I’m working on a shoot. My biggest problem was clutter. I had amassed a large collection of “stuff” in my years in LA, all of which I thought I needed. The reason that the project was so important was the fact that it was difficult to come home to a cluttered and overwhelming space.
— Kyle


Declutter the studio apartment and give it a cohesive personal style with DIY and minimal purchases.

The Process:

This project with Kyle is one of my favorite ones to date because it is the essence of what I love to do: help crazy-busy people take control of their space and simply reveal the potential that was there all along. From a lifestyle element, she likes to exercise from home, entertain and she also has an adorable cat, Hermione, who needs her own personal space in the apartment. Furthermore, there was a period of time early in her career when Kyle didn't even know if she was staying in LA, so she never really invested in any major furniture or decor that would make the apartment feel permanent. Needless to say, I was glad Kyle gave me a call because it was about time she deserved to finally get a space that did everything she needed to do and made her feel good. So here's what we did:

Kyle Before Pic 2
Kyle's Before Pic 1

Function Goal #1: Clear the clutter

Kyle has a super-demanding industry job that takes her traveling often all over the world. She's also a sentimental person and loves to surround herself with memorabilia from her favorite movies, sports teams, her Disneyland adventures and her home in New England. But as you can see, all these joyful memories have gone awry amidst her sentiment and crazy schedule. We first needed to declutter the studio to create space for the things that were functionally necessary and the mementos that deserved a spotlight. 

Function Goal #2: Make space around the bed

Besides needing some decluttering and general visual breathing room, we needed to get the space at the foot of the bed clear for two reasons: 1) she couldn't get into her dresser without first pulling out her treadmill and 2) she basically had to do Level 3 yoga to make her bed properly. You have to be flexible with studio living and sometimes that means pushing your bed against a wall, but if that's the case, you need to keep the foot of the bed clear so you can still reach the other side. 

Thankfully, by accomplishing goal #1, we were able to make goal #2 happen without too much additional space planning. You see, when Kyle paired down her wardrobe, she was able to find so much room that she donated an entire dresser that was taking space on the opposite wall. How crazy-awesome is that? We were easily able to move the trapped dresser away from the bed to where the former one was.  Furthermore, after a realistic conversation about how often she used the treadmill and if it was worth the space it took up in her small studio, she was able to let it go and sell it, making her money that contributed to other purchases down the line. 

Kyle Desk Before Photos

Function Goal #3: Take control of the desk.

If you work from home, you know the joys and also challenges that come with it. If you work from home and your home is a studio apartment, you know there can be more challenges than joys. It is so, so crucial that a workplace within a studio feels peaceful and inspiring. Any negative energy can easily spill over into other areas of the home and really affect the quality of life. Kyle needs a lot of supplies to do her job, but the reality was, she didn't need everything she was keeping and there were other storage solutions we could uncover. Besides, the kitty had taken to parts of the desk as her own personal scratching pole, so the goal here was to pair down to the essentials and replace the desk with something that took less visual attention in the space.

The Concept:

Once we had decluttered the entire room and reclaimed space within the apartment, we were ready to start styling. Kyle had a ton of stuff to work with, so aside from a few cute HomeGoods purchases, the goal was to work with what she had and only purchase a new desk and a new bookcase (which she was able to do for nearly free after selling her treadmill and her other pieces of furniture). It's rare that I find a client who can put a name to his or her personal style, but Kyle knew exactly what she wanted: Country Beach. 

Whimsical Country Beach Inspiration

She loves the sea glass greens and blues traditionally found in beach houses and already had a lot of decor to work with there, but she also had cowboy hats and horse shoes and bright pink and green colors in a more country living vibe. Once I got to know Kyle's personality and tastes, it was easy to see what she gravitated toward and it was a fun challenge to mix and match her existing pieces to make it all work together. The missing element of her concept was just to give a nod to some of her favorite movies and books, which made the space so uniquely Kyle. So ultimately, I think the best way to describe the whole concept is a Whimsical Country Beach style (say that five times fast.)

The Result:

Here's the real fun stuff, friends:

Kyle's Whimsical Country Beach Studio
Kyle After 3.jpg

First, we painted the room white to give a bright base to the whole room (Dear Apartment Building Owners of LA: why must you make everything beige?) By pairing down everything that was in the bed shelving, we were able to focus on a few fun pieces and colors that focused on the style we were going for - plus a photo and memento of an old family friend, because we're not styling for a magazine. Every real home has elements like these and it's important after decluttering the remaining mementos get the light they deserve.

As you can see here (and in the first image in this case study) all the clutter on the opposite wall is long gone. Kyle was a rock star at letting things go. There are open surfaces, the plastic storage shelves are replaced with matching bookshelves, filled with books that are arranged by category and in a way that looks organized and appealing. (My biggest joy in life besides wallpaper -- and you know, the things that are actually my biggest joys in like my family and dog -- is arranging books on a bookshelf. You could probably convince me to come over and do your bookshelf for free... as long as I can wallpaper something as well.)

Also, remember that dresser that was stuck between the bed and the treadmill? After he moved over, he got a little makeover with the leftover wall paint and these cool metallic driftwood knobs from Anthropologie. I mean, gold driftwood? Could that have fit our theme any better? I think not. Such a cheap and easy DIY that makes that area of the studio feel much brighter and happier. Plus, it makes the dresser look much more expensive than it really is. Never a bad thing.

And of course, there's the desk area...

So much better, right? Kyle deserves a the gold decluttering star of the year. By blessing Goodwill with all the unneeded materials and using her storage closet in the building for all the excess reams of paper and products from her work, we were able to get her to the basics so she could replace her former towering desk with something simple and clean. And yes, her storage closet was also pretty crammed but after that was decluttered, we had the room to transfer the office overflow items in; it's amazing how much storage you can uncover when you're willing to let go of the unused things in your home. 

I was so happy with the transformation, but of course, ultimately it doesn't matter what I think. So here's Kyle's feedback on the process:

Working with Tess was an absolute dream. My schedule is busy and unpredictable. Tess never batted an eye, and was super flexible and understanding. Tess helped me make smart purging choices, and gave me multiple organization tools to help keep everything in its place. Clearing out a lot of physical possessions has literally lifted a large weight that I didn’t realize was there.

Tess had wonderful ideas about furniture placement, paint color and design. She listened to all of my ideas about colors, styles and patterns, and took my needs to heart. My space feels so much more livable now. I am able to entertain much more effectively in my apartment and get so much more done. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her! (Hermione is extremely grateful too!) Thank you, Tess!

Helping awesome people like Kyle live a freer and more peaceful life makes all the hard work worth it. Thanks, Kyle, for a great project! 

If you find yourself busy and running out of space, let's talk about how we can declutter and decorate 'til your mind is at ease once again.