9 WAYS TO ADD PERSONALITY TO A COOKIE-CUTTER CONDO

There’s something to be said for condo living. It is often closer to downtown, is more affordable than a free-standing house, has no exterior maintenance requirements and offers better amenities than the average apartment. But most condos also tend to be painfully bland: white walls, angular corners, standard fixtures and zero style.

That’s where our roster of talented Canadian interior design gurus comes in. They have tips for adding character to your cookie-cutter space, even if it’s a rental or short-term purchase.  

 

1. MOVE FURNITURE AND ROTATE ACCESSORIES

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Photography: Maxime Desbiens | Story: An Artsy Montreal Apartment With French Girl Charm

Interior designer Sahra Samnani of h.t.be in Vancouver lives in a condo, so she feels the pain of many renters and condo owners. “It’s difficult to feel like your home is a representation of you and your style when you can’t change any fixed elements,” she says.

That’s why she moves around her furniture and décor instead. “I switch the blankets on my couch, move a side table, place new candles around the space, add or take away piles of books. I have fresh flowers or foliage always. Simply changing these pieces around helps me feel refreshed and more excited about the space.” She keeps a “décor library” in storage with items she’s collected that she can change out on a whim. That way, her home doesn’t become cluttered and she can still hang on to all of the accessories that she loves.    

 

2. INVEST IN UNIQUE LIGHT FIXTURES

“One design element that is often overlooked is lighting,” say Erin Coe and Carey Mudford of Coe Mudford Interior Design (CMID). “It’s a great investment because it’s beautiful, functional and you can take it with you when you move properties.

Just be sure to hold onto the fixtures you uninstall.” The Toronto-based duo also say that planning ahead is key. “Pay attention to existing finishes in the space. If you have chrome kitchen hardware and faucets, it’s a no-brainer that the decorative lighting should be chrome to match.” Mixing is definitely an option, but it’s best left to those with an experienced eye or strong sense of style.
 

3. DRESS YOUR WINDOWS

Though often short on space and charm, the average downtown condo tends to have large windows that let in light. That’s why drapery in a bold pattern or colour is so key for Trevor Ciona and Curtis Elmy of Saskatoon’s Atmosphere Interior Design. “It can draw attention to great windows with views and visually add height like nothing else,” they say.

“For a softer and more modern aesthetic, look to sheers with a geometric pattern or a textural sheer fabric. The layering of fabric can also soften rooms heavy in tile.”

 

4. AVOID FIXED SETS

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Photography: Tracey Ayton | Story: Two Sisters, Two Similar Condos, Two Different Styles

When it comes to furniture, it’s easy to think that buying a matching set will give your place a cohesive feel. The problem: Your home can start to feel like a showroom, not a lived-in space with personality. “Our biggest tip is to mix and match styles and brands of furniture,” says Jamie Banfield of Jamie Banfield Design in Port Moody, B.C. “Mix that Ikea chair with that CB2 couch. Layering textures is an easy way to make any space feel luxurious.”

 

5. TRY REMOVABLE WALLPAPER

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Photography: Kim Christie | Story: Condo Tour: Edgy Luxe Design

Artful wallpaper is more popular than ever for its ability to add drama and interest to a room, but it’s often expensive, time-consuming to install and may not be the best option in a rental or short-term living arrangement. Enter adhesive wallpaper. “There are amazing removable murals that can be applied and peeled off easily without any damages,” says Kirsten Marshall, principal designer at Toronto’s luxe Palmerston Design. Use peel-off wallpaper to create an accent wall in your bedroom or living room. 

 

6. COMMISSION CUSTOM STORAGE

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Photography: Stacey Brandford | Story: Condo Tour: Traditional-Meets-Contemporary Condo

If designer Alex Dampsey of Vancouver’s AD Design could give any condo owner a gift, it would be additional built-in storage that saves space. “It makes such a difference to have proper millwork because storage is usually an issue,” she says. “I love it because it adds an element of customization and allows you to introduce another colour or finish into a room.”

Many brands also offer buildable storage that looks custom-made if you’re not able or willing to splurge on made-to-order shelving or cabinets. 

 

7. SWAP OUT CABINET HARDWARE

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Story: Interior: Feminine Glam Home

While you may not be able to fully renovate your condo’s kitchen, you can add a personalized twist to the space with new cabinet pulls, drawer handles and faucets. “It’s an easy upgrade and you can match it to new light fixtures,” says Calgary-based Amanda Hamilton of Amanda Hamilton Design. “Right now I’m loving brass and matte black hardware and fixtures, as they’re so dramatic.”

 

8. ADD IN NATURAL ELEMENTS

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Photography: Ariana Tennyson | Story: A Contemporary Manitoba Home Awash With Light

“My number one priority when designing a space is to combine textures, materials and styles,” says Jaclyn Genovese of Spaces by Jacflash in Toronto. She loves contrasting lustre and luxury with raw, organic elements to create balance. “Brick wallpaper, a wood plank wall or a beamed ceiling instantaneously and effortlessly create a cozy, characterful home” by making a statement and adding warmth. 

 

9. LAYER, LAYER, LAYER

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Story: Pops of pink add quirky charm to a petite kitchen

Toronto designer Tiffany Pratt, who is known for her use of vibrant colour palettes, recommends adding a mix of patterns, colours and textures to liven up a plain space. “Art, drapes and a tight but bold colour scheme can make a cookie-cutter space feel personal,” she says. She suggests layering in more items than you think you need and playing with print and furniture scales before paring back. “Take your time,” she says. “Start in one corner and work your way out. Your dreams will come to life.” 

 

Source: Styleathome