Make the most of a small balcony, patio or terrace

A neutral and bright living space
Apartment dwellers, townhome owners and condo renters, I’m talking to you on this one. Your homes are cozy and quaint and your yard space is either nonexistent or extremely small. But you want to be able to enjoy that outdoor area, right? Here are my tips for maximizing on that tiny alfresco square footage:
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Use odd angles to your advantage. This balcony came to a wide-angle trapezoid in this corner, and I wanted the furnishings to go all the way to the wall since the other side of this balcony is the workhorse, housing a closeted washer and dryer. So I created custom-ish banquet seating. When we purchased this dining table from Craigslist, it came with two benches, but bench seating didn’t complement the sophisticated dining environment. So I moved them outside, nestled them up in a modified L-formation, made bench cushions using weatherproof foam and all-weather fabric, then cozied it up with loads of indoor/outdoor throw pillows from Overstock.com (you can buy them in sets of two).

The benches create a comfy place to read, nap or dine with the addition of a 30-inch round bistro table (a piece the homeowner scored on Craigslist) and two modern outdoor wicker chairs.
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Add lighting. Shiny silver lanterns hang from sisal rope knotted around ceiling hooks and create instant atmosphere with lit candles inside.
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Plant things. Outdoor spaces beg for living things to soften all the hard surfaces and edges. And succulents boxwoods and ferns are super hardy and difficult for even the blackest thumbs to kill. To create uniformity, plant all of your flora and fauna selections in neutral pots of various sizes.
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Go vertical. The homeowner purchased this hanging plant rack on Etsy, and I turned a hardware store stepstool ladder into a plant stand painted Blue Ocean Breeze.

(Photos by Jennie J Sullins)

Make an impact with neutrals

Neutrals are not boring. Grays, browns and whites come in such a variety of shades (from light to saturated, matte to metallic), textures and patterns that they can add more visual interest to a room than a single bold color.
Michelle's before
Lots of espresso decor and not a ton of natural light made this space very dark, but the furnishings were still in great shape so there was no need to toss and start new. Instead I lightened things up with lots of light accents and surfaces with different finishes, like replacing one of the end tables (and repurposing it in another room) with a white pedestal marble table.
A neutral and bright living space
I started in the living room. I removed all of the oversized brown pillows and added new decorative cushions in gray tones made from materials like wool felt, silk and metallic cotton blends. I also added a white cable-knit throw to the mix.

To eat up a good chunk of the large wall behind the sofa, we commissioned one of the clients’ friends to take this fantastic black-and-white shot, then blew it up on a canvas at Costco. The smaller sketches came from a British artist on Etsy. I loved the touches of red each had because the room needed a little pop. I framed each print in a different black frame and created a small collection.
A neutral and bright living space
My clients didn’t have a dining room in their previous apartment so we went with a light wood farmhouse table (a Craigslist score) and repainted the chocolate stools the same light gray we used on the console table in the entryway.
Michelle stools before
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I hung a floating shelf to take up space in the dining room, then layered handmade artwork. You can read how to create my crackle paintings here. To make a few sophisticated chalkboards for the room, I purchased thrift-store frames in different sizes and spray-painted the glass with chalkboard paint. The clients use some of this art to let friends and family leave their mark when they visit.
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Outfitting the bar

Old bar
I sold this packed bamboo cabinet turned bar before we moved. I originally bought it for the bathroom but ended up buying a medical cabinet that fit the space better. I always thought this would be perfect storage in a kids’ room one day, but it wasn’t worth hanging on to while we’re away in Switzerland.

And now I’ve got the bar back on the brain. Why? Shiny objects. I am enamored with the vast selection of glassware, decanters and shakers available right now, and I’m dreaming up ways of using then in our home. Here’s what I am thinking.
Bar style
I know that anytime I need vertical storage for a project, I go to the Vittsjo bookshelf (seen here), but honestly, I have yet to find a better shelving unit for the price that can be customized in so many different ways. I love all things gold right now, so I would paint this piece with my new favorite metallic spray paint.

Scott and I registered for classically simple glassware and got all of it from our good friend (thanks, Kelly Dyer!), but I haven’t had a place to display the graceful martini and champagne glasses she generously gifted to us. I believe in a well-edited bar, so I wouldn’t put everything out. Instead, I would keep our everyday (yes, I said EVERYDAY!) wine glasses in the cabinet next to the wine fridge (another wedding gift from the Dallas gang; thanks, ladies!) and get six of these fabulous tortoise shell goblets to add a little print to the bar area. A must purchase? This sophisticated shaker to pair with four blue glasses from our wedding centerpieces–the perfect pop of color.

At this point, you probably know I like mixing metals, evidenced here, here and here. My bar is no exception. This modern ice bucket was a sweet gift from Ann and would look stunning with the shaker, this decanter, these votives and this tray, already part of my collection. So much shine begs for something organic. I would add this vintage dough bowl and fill it with lemons or limes.

To style this bar, I would add a few small black-and-white prints. I currently have a crush on cacti, and I think it would be fun to have Scott photograph some up close. Guess we need a trip to Arizona. I’m inspired by some of these images on Etsy.

In French, you toast by saying Sante! (health). I want to create a custom typography print displaying this sentiment–in black and white as well. To finish off my bar, I would stack a few black and white books and showcase only the prettiest bottles of booze.

Cheap chair makeover

Overall shot of chair back
I picked up this gem at a Salvation Army for $7.50. I naturally gravitate toward anything with caning, and although this chair had a rather large hole through the back, I figured I could fix it–or enlist an expert to do it.

But I do know my limits. There are some projects I won’t tackle, not many, but some. I decided to leave the recaning of this thrift-store find to the pros at Woodmasters Workshop, but I asked them not to stain the caning so I could paint it.

I removed the seat cushion and sanded the entire chair but didn’t touch the fragile caning. Then I primed it with Kilz interior oil primer and let it dry for 24 hours.

I moved the chair out of direct sun light, which can cause spray paint to bubble and sprayed four sweeping light coats of Krylon’s gloss spray paint in cherry red, allowing about 45 minutes of dry time between each coat and sanding any drip marks away gently with a 220-grit sandpaper block. I sealed the chair with Minwax’s water-based polycrylic protective gloss finish.
Chair complete
The original foam was extremely rigid and not comfortable at all. I bought new foam, used the old foam as a template and cut it out with that handy Japanese flush cut saw I used on our wall. An electric knife would work too, but I like the control this saw offers. I recovered the seat in three-quarters of a yard of Braemore Silsila Curry fabric.
Chair head on

Styling tips and tricks

Want your coffee or end table to look like the photos you see in magazines and on design blogs? Adopt these few secrets, and you’ll master photo-worthy styling that’s got purpose and isn’t just a surface of stuff.

1. Use odd numbers. Five is more interesting than four.
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2. Mix up the shapes. Think spheres, rectangles organic lines and unique geometry. Safe bets include books (with like spine colors or themes) trays, tabletop clocks, frames, candle holders and coasters. For this end table, I found a glass box that I filled with natural objects, a gold trophy and shells that I paired with a cylindrical candle and a couple of frames. Shop places like TJMaxx, Marshall’s, HomeGoods, Target and thrift stores.

3. Add fresh flowers. Nothing warms up a room faster than the introduction of posies. Stick to the room’s color scheme and bring in monochromatic blooms or introduce a color pop into a neutral space.
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4. Stick to two or three colors max. You can easily go crazy when it comes to shopping for decorative pieces for a room. The trick to reining yourself in is to set color boundaries for yourself. I honed in on silver, gold, and white objects for this space.
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5. Use what you have. This toy elephant was already part of my prop inventory, and I thought it would be the perfect thing to fill an odd, narrow space in the entertainment center, so I spray-painted it gold. This stack of books was already part of my client’s library. I just made pretty book covers from sheets of fancy paper to create a coordinated collection.
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6. Longing for more color? Now you can permit yourself to introduce punches of color. We stuck to soft metallics, shades of gray and pure white in this living room. To make it a bit more interesting, I added a collection of red books on the coffee table. (There is also a touch of red in the black-and-white sketches I hung on the wall.)

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