To steal a line from interior designer Jeremiah Brent, “Design is having a major moment.” And to that, I say finally. There once was a time when moving into your first "grownup" apartment meant spending hours hunched over a hex wrench trying to wrangle an impossible number of screws and mismatched slats of faux wood into some semblance of a futon. Somewhere during the process, there was probably wine involved, and then, when the burden of at-home furniture assembly became too much for one person to bear, there were probably tears involved. And then you found yourself foolishly longing for simpler days when all you needed to furnish your tiny space was a set of XL twin-size sheets and a white board to hang on your dorm room door so you could send passive aggressive messages to your roommate without ever having to actually speak to her. But I digress.
These days, the beautiful world of home design is taking a cue from the convenience and accessibility of fast fashion — and honestly, it's about time. With mega trendy and ultra affordable retailers like Zara and H&M launching home collections brimming with chic furniture options, cute accessories, and easy starter pieces, adding interesting design elements to your home is really as easy as picking out something you like. "The cool thing about design right now is that it’s not expensive,” Brent said while presenting Air Wick's new Life Scents collection at New York City's ABC Kitchen earlier this month. (As it turns out, fragrance plays a key role in making you feel more comfortable in your small space, but more on that in a minute.) “It’s having that moment fashion had 10 years ago, when girls were getting their entire outfits from Forever 21, and they looked amazing.”
If anyone knows a thing or two about stylish design, it's Brent. The dreamboat designer continues to impress the world with his creative chops, and boasts quite the roster of celebrity clients (if you recall, Rachel Zoe had him design her entire home on reality TV a few years ago). So when Brent wants to discuss design with you, you listen.
Which is exactly what I did. As someone who's constantly kidding-not-kidding about my impossibly box-like living arrangements, I turned to Brent for help brainstorming ways to give my studio apartment the grownup makeover it desperately needs. And his ideas, unsurprisingly, were spot on. So how do you make a small space seem bigger and better than it actually is? You follow Brent's five foolproof design tips, of course.
1. Get rid of the junk
When you live in a tiny space, clutter becomes your worst nightmare. One way to make it look like you have more room than you actually do? Get a jumpstart on your spring cleaning. “If it’s not absolutely beautiful or absolutely functional, get rid of it," Brent says. "Find items that are most important to you and tell your story.”
2. Find your signature scent
"Scent is the final layer to any space," Brent says. "It really has the power to transport you back. It’s low cost, high impact, and makes a space feel like a home immediately." So go ahead and set the mood with a few candles, room sprays, or scented oils. Jeremiah's favorite home fragrance? Mom's Baking from Air Wick's Life Scents collection. With notes of vanilla, pie crust, and baked pear, it instantly musters up a flurry of warm and fuzzy feelings that reminds you of all the coziness of home.
3. Stay away from trends
"Pick one object that really tells the story of who you are," he says. "So many times we buy things to make our space look like that room we saw in the West Elm catalog, but then you don’t actually connect to it or care about it." And then? Well then you just have a bunch of junk you don't need getting in your way. And that's plain annoying
4. Update your bedding
No seriously — update your bedding. Think about it. You probably spend more time in your bed than any other part of your living space. Why wouldn't you want to make that place as plush and comfortable and beautiful as possible? Plus, it's an incredibly easy (and affordable) transformation to make happen. "Especially for people who are in dorms and have really small spaces, bedding can really be a design moment. Start there," Brent says. All you have to do is find a pretty quilt or comforter to take your bed from a place where you sleep most nights to a fortress of bliss where life is beyond perfect and bad things don't exist. So I repeat: update your bedding.
5. Invest in one amazing piece of furniture
Because one really good piece is truly all you need. "For me, I was 19 and there was a bourbon leather armchair, and it was going to cost me like 30 paychecks, but it was really like, 'I want to be that guy who has that kind of furniture at his house,'" Brent says. "I bought it, and I still have it. It’s been in every home I’ve moved to...Design has that moment, that opportunity to show who you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be."