Before & After: How I Added Space to My Teeny Tiny Master Bedroom
Some might consider our 100-something-square-foot master bedroom more of a midsize walk-in-closet. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that number includes our small closet.) And with two kinda-messy people living in the tight space, my husband and I knew we had to make some smart moves to add a lot of functionality. At the same time, I wanted it to feel like a master bedroom—not a storage locker. Here’s what we did to make our bedroom as useful and cozy as possible.
1. We played around with the bed orientation
At first, we thought there was only one way to position the bed (which we brought from our other apartment) given the dimensions of the room. But one look, and Grace Beuley Hunt—former PureWow home editor, now at LUXE magazine—was adamant we switch it: We could get more square footage out of the space if we moved the bed 90 degrees.
She was right. With the bed against the longest wall, it actually opened up the space to make room for a crucial six-drawer dresser. If we had kept the bed, we would have technically had room for the dresser, but it would’ve been placed right next to the narrow bedroom door opening, which would have closed the space off and caused many a stubbed toe in the middle of the night.
Now, we have a little carved-out zone for said dresser (which holds our thousands of T-shirts and pajamas) and a hand-woven laundry basket I scored off of a terrifying human on Craigslist (worth it), in addition to the two nightstands large enough to hold all of our underwear and socks on each side of our bed. Always sleep next to underwear; it gives you better dreams.
2. We painted to add depth
We initially thought that stark white was the way to go—fresh, clean and bright. But the room is east-facing and gets a ton of blind-your-eyes-out light in the first part of the day. So, we actually decided to absorb some of those rays while adding depth to the walls using a lime wash paint from Portola. I’ve been obsessed with the plaster-finished effect ever since we wrote about them and how they add dimension with a weathered, patinated look. Portola sent me a few samples to test out, and I went with the ultra-subtle Wings.
Now, I may dabble in crafts here and there, but ever since my parents mistakenly let me paint their bathroom a frighteningly bright coral back in 2000—ample gloppy paint drops included—I rightly refuse to hold a brush to any wall. So, we used Paintzen, a company that sends over pros to do the job for you. Since the lime wash is a specialty paint, they actually hired literal muralists to apply the paint (it’s not that complicated, but different strokes of the paint have various effects, and again, I didn’t trust myself). The result was a feather-light gray that changes with the light and makes the room more of a sanctuary than an oversized midsized walk-in closet.
3. We overhauled the closet
We had one regular ol’ closet with a clothes bar, and we knew we had to make the absolute most of it. With the help of the spatial geniuses at New York’s Transform, we ripped out that bar and replaced it with shelves galore and more hanging space that took advantage of the high ceiling space (see: the Cramer step stool that lives there now).
This was not cheap, but it’s something I do not regret doing at all. For one, the people we worked with are passionate AF about making the most out of close quarters—they’re like the Willy Wonkas of closets—so I knew I was in the right hands. They created two versions for us, and ultimately, we picked the model we thought best suited our needs. The cool thing is that if anything changes—like, I start wearing long evening gowns all the time—we can move things around to make space for them. The second reason doing your closets isn’t a waste of money is because you can write it off as a capital improvement. I’m not quite sure what that means, but my accountant was pretty happy about it.
4. We shopped and shopped and shopped around for window treatments
If you spoke to me anytime between January 2019 and May 2019, I was probably mid-rant about window treatments. The journey was all-consuming and not easy, but I lived to tell you about it, so here goes.
We knew we wanted automatic roller shades because they’re minimalist, take up less space and are easy to use. I’d heard that Ikea was releasing an affordable model, but not for a while, and like I said, the sun was blinding my eyes out and I was tired of crawling on the floor from the bedroom to the bathroom so neighbors wouldn’t see me in my underwear.
With the Ikea option off the table, I started researching vendors and began with the premium option I’d heard most about. I got a quote…which made me faint—something like $28,000 for the whole house. On another tip, I went to big-box store that sells shades for a discount, and it was…an…experience. Ultimately, my contact at the store told me my “situation” was so complicated she would have to forge together a custom contraption that would work in my home and cost about $1 million. My “situation” was simply “having windows.”
Wasn’t there a millennial, easy-to-use, direct-to-consumer window treatment company? I Googled “Warby Parker for window shades” and found exactly that: Mesken. It was like I dreamed it into life. Mesken creates custom shades that don’t cost $28,000 for your whole house because they cut out the middleman and do it all online. You can send in for samples and take your own measurements (they tell you how, in detail). For the bedroom, we got blackout shades, which really work wonders when they’re down. And when they’re up? It’s like they’re not even there. Perfect for a tiny space.
5. We let it take a whole year (plus some)
What a lot of before-and-after posts don’t tell you is that this stuff is expensive. And when you have unexpected water damage and your blinds fall from the ceiling, you just want to give up and spend the rest of your money on hot dogs because that’s all you want to do for the rest of your life: Eat hot dogs.
And when you do finally come back to yourself, you realize, “Wait a second…I don’t have the money for a six-drawer dresser, hand-woven hamper, area rug, nightstands that fit ALL THE UNDERWEAR, a mirror that I’m obsessing over, picture frames, custom closets and automatic window shades!!!”
So, despite dreaming of the “perfect” bedroom, we went at the pace that we could afford. And while it’s no fun waiting around, it did mean we caught some sales. Our six-drawer dresser that I won’t shut up about? We got 20 percent off. Our area rug? Same thing. That mirror over the dresser I obsessed over? 20 percent off. Come to think of it…every purchase we made after the closets and blinds was something we found on sale. OK, and the hamper I found off a guy in Bed-Stuy who wasn’t moving but was emptying out his entire apartment to…murder people? I don’t know. I love my $50 hamper, and it was a deal (those things are expensive!).
The point is, patience is not only a virtue but will probably save you money.
Bed: Drommen Acacia Wood Bed from CB2
Linens: Percale Duvet Cover set in white from Parachute
Dresser: Modern 6-Drawer Dresser from West Elm
Mirror: Rounded Rectangle Yaquina Mirror in aged brass from Rejuvenation
Nightstands: Grass Cloth Nightstands from CB2 (no longer in stock)
Sconces: Bino Brass Sconce Lamp from Article
Area rug: Colca Wool Rug from West Elm
Closet design: Designed and constructed by Transform
Window shades: Custom automatic roller shades from Mesken
Paint: Wings Lime Wash from Portola