DIY / Living / Shopping Smart / Style & Decor

The 6 Pieces That Allowed Me To Create An Adult Apartment For $79

By Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Before-After-Apartment-DIY-Nightstand-Painting-NYC

In what now seems like a lifetime ago, my bedroom functioned primarily as a drop site for both my exhausted self and a steady rotation of tote bags that I’d “grab-and-go,” as I dashed between various outdoor obligations. Books filled the window sills and command-stripped postcards cluttered my wall above storage containers moonlighting as furniture. 

Now forced to look at my walls much more than I ever intended to, I knew I needed to transition to a less overwhelming space that provided ample room for exercising, meditating and at-home work, all while still staying true to my maximalist style. Since I wasn’t overflowing with extra cash, I turned to Facebook Marketplace, stoop sales, and craft stores to transcend my home decor from a simple “makeshift space” to “my own place.”

Check out how I did it:

Shelf: $20 (+ $11 for upgrades)

Before and after shelf

Already a step up from the purple plastic tub that previously acted as storage and a small side table, this Facebook Marketplace shelf was originally a charcoal gray color which I didn’t hate, but given the eclectic nature of shapes I knew I’d place on it, I wanted to keep the color scheme as simple as possible, as well create a more “open feel” with the white wall behind it. $11 worth of white spray paint did the trick to achieve this.

If you plan on disassembling and spray painting a sizable piece like this, make sure to check the weather, as humidity can affect the drying process. Also, get a second can of whatever color you plan on using. I did this project in August, knowing I only had a brief window between days of heavy rains, I got a little overzealous with the amount that I used, so when I ran out, I had to scramble to find a second can of the same brand and finish before the high humidity came back. For reassembling the dried shelf, I learned you can’t fully screw in all the parts, or they won’t all fit. I’d suggest going 3/4 the length of the screw and then once it’s all together, you can tighten to your heart’s content! 

TV: $25

Photo of tv on dresser

These days, it feels like I practically live on my laptop, so the relaxation that once came from opening a new tab for Netflix just wasn’t hitting anymore. There really is something special about being able to close my computer, grab the remote and unwind while looking at a different screen than the one I’ve been working on all day. This $25 purchase from Facebook Marketplace has totally elevated my quality of living.

Dresser: $4 (for upgrades)

This dresser, which now houses the TV, came with the room I rent but despite not being able to do any major changes, I knew something had to be done to break up the block of stark, solid black staring back at me. So  I added a strip of white and gold Washi tape that I already had along the top trim and used three large beads (the fourth is on the nightstand) as faux knobs (attached with command tape) for easy removal when I eventually move out. 

Nightstand: $10 (+ $1 for level tool)

Night stand before and after

*Full disclosure: Initially I thought it best to measure the wall to my bed (a total of 18 inches) instead of the from the floor to the bed (which is 17.2 inches due to the baseboard), so the nightstand photoed above ended up being just a little too wide to fit snugly next to my headboard. It now sits slightly in front of it with the gap hidden by a snake plant (thank you Trader Joe’s) and some seasonal decor from the dollar store, but you can totally avoid my mistake. 

After touching up some paint chips that came with my second-hand nightstand, I used the old “painting over masking tape” trick for the drawer (seen below), which I also got off of Facebook Marketplace. While I love loud patterns, I also wanted a more polished look; since this graphic pattern is the same colors as my furniture, it resulted in a bold look, but blended, look. A level tool purchased from Dollar Tree was key for creating consistent angles with the tape. 

Photo of painted nightstand
Close-up of nightstand re-design (from L-R): 1. nightstand with blue masking tape 2. design with masking tape removed 3. design edges filled in with Black sharpie

Afterward, I put the taped-out drawer back for a few days to ensure I was completely happy living with the redesign, and then I got to painting. 

This part definitely took a few coats to get right. Upon the first removal of the tape, some paint peeled off, and some bled through. In the end, with some patience and the back of a small paintbrush, I was able to apply pressure to scrape off the excess, dried paint. I also committed a potentially cardinal sin in home decor by filling in some of the gaps with a black Sharpie; truthfully, it was much easier to paint over and achieve a finished, clean line look. The final bead from the dresser was added with a painted gold accent along the top corner to continue that modern aesthetic. I also borrowed my boyfriend’s power drill to add a small hole on the side so I could feed a power cord through it, and eradicate all the extra wires sticking out below.  

Rug: $Free.99

Photo of bed on rug

Seriously, if you’re not following @stoopingnyc on Instagram, you’re missing out. I saw this free rug in on their Instastory after I’d just finished painting the nightstand; so I think it was meant to be!

Frame: Also Free (+ $8 for flat wrap)

Photo of painting in frame

I found this gorgeous frame on the side of the road while doing a grocery run and knew it was too good to pass up, though it was a struggle juggling several bags — and now a new frame — up my stairwell. After thorough disinfecting, I got a good arm workout pulling out the original artwork (which was stapled-in securely) and then painted over the faded, run-of-the-mill landscape image, with a dark blue hue, to match the piece of flat wrap that I bought from Paper Source. 

Large posters and prints can get expensive pretty quickly, whereas a single piece of wrapping paper can accomplish the same effect for a fraction of the cost. Since there’s no glass to keep the poster in place, I had to measure and hot glue the bottom portion of the portrait to the back of the board, before ModPodging it flat and repeating the gluing process at the top. I then stapled the board back into the frame and placed it on my heater. I really like the height that it sits at there and I’ve found that displaying art at different levels draws the eyes up and around the room. 

Grand Total: $79 

More important than any aesthetics or functionality, these little tweaks and changes reminded me of the power I have in affecting my space. Where more abundant funds may have had me thoughtlessly “Add to Cart”-ing every West Elm piece that caught my fancy, my tighter budget allowed me to focused me more towards what I actually cared about. Your day-to-day needs and uses should be calling the shots and where your budget doesn’t quite get you, creativity can take you the rest of the way. The only thing your home really needs is your desire to make it one.

Emily is an actress, writer, artist and pastry chef. Whether it be a play doubling as a workout class, a blog from the most and least self-aware woman you know, or a Venus de Milo cake existing solely for visual ingestion, she indulges her sweet tooth for humor while maintaining a steady diet of musings on gender, commodification, and capitalism.

Images writer’s own

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