• Melissa Sanabria

FURNISHING A SMALL APARTMENT (PART 1)

It took me a while to pull this post together this week, as I have been *slightly* distracted…but here it is and just in time for those of you who might need a break from all the political posts in your news feed. It also happens to be Veteran’s Day, so I would like to extend my thanks to those of you who have served or have family members who have served; I am truly grateful for your service and your sacrifice. THANK YOU!


Now, on to some very pressing design matters…Back in September, which feels like a lifetime ago after this long and mentally draining week, I wrote a post about inspiration for our English basement apartment and was debating about making some updates while in between tenants. Update: we have a new tenant (yay!) but I’m still considering a few minor tweaks but haven’t actually done anything yet…I’ll post about them if I do.


Anyway, our new tenant, Kelsey, asked me for input about possible layouts for the living room and any ideas or suggestions regarding furniture for the space. Although the apartment is a decent size (about 750 square feet) the layout for the living room is tricky so I gave it some thought and put together a layout along with some furniture options for the living space. I don’t actually know Kelsey’s style so I really just picked what I liked and thought would work – hope that’s okay with you, Kelsey! Did you read the part about how I like being in control in my last basement post?


Besides the tricky layout, the other consideration is the very tight entry way that can limit what you can physically bring into the apartment. If any of you have “charming” English basement apartments in DC you know what I’m talking about. Here’s what our entrance to the basement looks like:



You can see in the top photo that the stairs that go up to our house don’t allow for much clearance for the basement. Adding to that challenge, the stairs down to the apartment curve slightly. So when I was selecting furniture options, I was keeping these limitations in mind and avoided bulky pieces that could not be disassembled and might not be able to make it down the steps.


Below is the layout of the living room (you can see a few photos of the place here if you’re curious). Just like our living room it has the bump out with south facing windows in the front.



And, yes, I am old school and I like to hand draw the layout on graph paper so this is not perfect and hopefully you can read my writing. But it is at least more or less to scale.


Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?


Because the apartment does not have an eat-in kitchen, I wanted to carve out a place for a dining table and chairs so that Kelsey can sit and eat a meal like a civilized human being even though, let’s face it, when you live alone “dinner” consists of sitting on your couch with a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats watching Million Dollar Listing. But let’s assume that Kelsey likes to actually cook food, sit and eat at a table, and maybe even enjoy the company of a fellow human while having dinner. I think the best place for this activity is probably in the bump out below the windows.


My favorite solution for small dining spaces or multipurpose rooms is the Span Gateleg table from Crate & Barrel. When folded, it’s only 9″ wide and looks like a console table. We used to have this table when we lived in our one-bedroom apartment in Dupont Circle and we could easily seat up to six people when we opened it up. When we moved to the Hill, we sold in on Craig’s List because we just didn’t really have a need for it, but it was tough to part with. This is not a sponsored post by the way – I just love this table very very much AND it happens to have the perfect dimensions to fit in the bump out beneath the window. I have seen tables with a similar concept but it’s tough to beat this one on quality and price at $299.



For seating, I would use a couple of accent chairs that do double duty as casual seating for guests as well as dining chairs. The bedroom in the apartment is a decent size, so I would buy four accent chairs and keep two in the living room and the other two in the bedroom where one could even be used as a desk chair. I rounded up some very cute and affordable options that don’t take up too much physical or visual space.


1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8


Of course, it goes without saying that my favorite is #5, which is the most expensive by a lot. But it’s so pretty and it comes in gold as well as copper and some more colorful options like turquoise. I also love #1 and #3 – which is a great price by the way.  Actually these are all very cute for VERY good prices. I was surprised as how many good accent chairs I was able to find that won’t look like dining chairs that you stuck in the living room. If you add a sheepskin or wool throw to soften these up, even better.


Let’s turn our attention to couch options. Because of the tight stairs and entryway, I searched for couches that were not too bulky, had legs that could be removed, and that required some basic assembly meaning that they can come apart for moving. And because the living room is small, I tried to stick to small couches (love seats, really) to get the scale right (small room = small furniture). Finally, price was definitely a factor when I was rounding up these couches. Most people buying a small love seat for their first apartment are not necessarily ready to buy an investment piece. So I tired to keep it below $500. The flip side is that when you’re not spending a lot on an investment piece you may be more willing to go with a bold, fun color choice.


1|2|3|4|5|6


I wish I had that fuchsia couch in my first apartment (which was a basement apartment, by the way). And now that I’m married the probability of my ever buying a fuchsia piece of furniture is .0001. Although these are all very good, I also really like #1 and #3. The first one also comes in a nice array of colors so if you’re not feeling this blue / green vibe you can go with something more neutral.


I hope you find this helpful, Kelsey! Stay tuned next week for my round up of coffee tables and entryway options for small spaces and some ideas on how to style this cozy little apartment. In the meantime, have a great weekend, everyone.

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