It started with a kind—But Firm—“NO.” A friend of the New York–based designer Shari Francis had recently purchased a multifamily townhouse across the Hudson River in Jersey City, and he asked for her help in getting the furnished units ready for renting. A few inexpensive upgrades and fresh coats of paint would suffice, he thought. He was wrong. “I told him, ‘You purchased a nice place, so I need money and we’re going to make this fun,’ ” Francis recalls.
Refusing to settle is something of an MO for Francis and her design firm, the fittingly named Dadapt. Her ability to change course was the key to success for this 446-square-foot one-bedroom apartment. From integrating a once-hidden fireplace to going outside the box in search of durable furnishings, Francis’s clever solutions allowed her to satisfy her client while staying true to herself.
Nods to classic cinema, like a spotlight lamp from Wayfair and black-and-white photos found on Etsy, balance the industrial feel of a New Jersey apartment designed by Shari Francis. Sofa: West Elm. Wood table: Target. Sliding doors: ChanyHomeDecor through Etsy. Accent tables: Wayfair (center), Overstock (right). Rug: CB2.
1. Go outside your comfort zone.
Francis’s background in Scandinavian design doesn’t usually attract her to saturated colors, but her client wanted a bold accent wall. They settled on Roycroft Bottle Green by Sherwin-Williams—and loved it so much that they ended up carrying it throughout the apartment.
2. Source creatively.
In the search for sliding barn doors, Francis turned to an unconventional outlet: Etsy. “I love that so many of the vendors are willing to customize their products,” she says. Just make sure to ask plenty of questions beforehand to ensure the finished item is a fit.
Bright white walls (Pure White by Sherwin-Williams) and contrasting decor play up the natural light. Bed: CB2. Bedding, tables, planter, and Roman shades: Wayfair. Thin bricks: OldMill Brick. Rug: Overstock. Sconce: Urban Outfitters.
3. Invest in key pieces.
The owner didn’t have much of his budget to dedicate to furnishing the rental, but Francis knew from experience that spending a bit more on frequently used items like a bed, sofa, and dining table would mean better quality and longevity—which saves money in the long run.
4. Extend the narrative.
After unearthing an old brick fireplace in the kitchen, the client decided he wanted brick in the bedroom too. Francis embraced the idea of tying the spaces together, but getting the new thin brick wall to match the old one was tricky. “It looked too perfect, so we used plaster to age it,” she says.
The addition of a lumbar pillow and drinks table makes a moment of an accent chair in the bedroom. Chair: lKEA. Table: Wayfair. Pillow and hanging planter: Amazon.
5. Be smart with art.
Most of the pieces Francis used were found on Etsy, including these prints—an acknowledgement to nearby New York City—from The Printables Co. Her advice for navigating the endless options: “Be as specific as possible when searching for size, color, style, theme, and construction: i.e., a print or sculpture.”
6. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
Francis replaced dark floors with lighter faux wood vinyl that’s sure to be long-lasting (not to mention wallet friendly). “I was nervous—vinyl flooring isn’t something I’m used to,” she says. “But comparing samples in person made us happy with how it turned out.”
An error in cutting the countertop actually worked in Francis’s favor—the client’s surprisingly massive fridge ended up fitting perfectly in the too-big space. Countertop: Floor & Decor. Tile: Roca. Faucet: All Modern. Appliances: Client’s own. Table: West Elm. Chairs: Target. Table runner: Amazon. Pendant: Etsy. Wall clock: Aspire Home Accents. Wall art: pbs.org.
7. Embrace the unexpected.
While the team was removing a wall between the kitchen and the living room, they found a surprise underneath: a brick fireplace. “My client decided he wanted to keep it, and I was like, ‘Great, but it doesn’t go with the green statement wall!’ ” Francis says. “I decided it could work if we whitewashed it to add contrast and give it a vintage feel that would counter the industrial elements.”
8. Use outdoor furniture indoors.
After the dining chairs Francis originally suggested were deemed too pricey, she had an epiphany: “My client wanted furniture that was going to last longer than a year, and I told him, ‘There’s no way on this budget, so we’re going to try outdoor furniture to give you that durability instead.’ ” She ended up using patio chairs around the dining table, and it was a huge success. “The clients were very happy with it,” she says.
9. Keep spending in check.
Because the tenant doesn’t do much cooking, a fully tricked-out kitchen wasn’t a priority. Francis opted for budget-smart IKEA cabinets and Floor & Decor countertops, then used the money she saved to make improvements elsewhere in the apartment.
Brass features add “a hint of luxury and a nod to older styles,” Francis says. Tile: Roca. Vanity and sink: Wayfair. Faucet: Amazon. Mirror: CB2.
10. Focus on one statement per room.
In a small space, be thoughtful about where to make your mark. “This bathroom was just supposed to be a cosmetic upgrade, so I installed a tile accent wall that’s a little bit sophisticated and a little bit funky,” Francis says. The result: “It doesn’t feel like a generic bathroom.”
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