welcome to my home: before and after on a budget

hello! it's been almost a year since we moved into our current apartment...
if you remember reading my blog back then, you'll remember i struggled with this move.
my previous new york apartment was brand new and full of amenities...washer and dryer in my studio and we were the first ever tenants! however, we were over paying and didn't love the neighborhood so we found another studio apartment in a great location with a much better price. the only negative was this apartment was much older (like 90 years older). there was carpet throughout the apartment and the bathroom and kitchen hadn't been updated in decades...

i got super lucky with our landlord. i talked her into letting me renovate the apartment. the deal was we wouldn't pay our first month's rent and use the money to fix the place up! we made the money go far!!! we re-stained the wood floors, added all new lighting and ceiling fans, gut renovated the kitchen and we even had money left over to add more storage to the bathroom. it took us one month to do all the renovations and my super and i spent a lot of time working on the place. he even taught me how to tile, which was useful to learn. thanks to our friends with cars, we were able to make trips to ikea, home depot and lowes to put our place together!

one thing i actually like about moving is i get to design a new space.

below are some pictures of my home and some tips on cheap tricks!
enjoy :)

notice how nasty the floors in the "before" picture are! (there were layers and layers of old vinyl flooring). the cabinets were falling apart and the wood was flaking off! so gross right?? 
i spent under $900 fixing the entire kitchen!! all new white sleek cabinets came from ikea. the old kitchen had no backsplash (not ok) so my super taught me how to tile the backsplash myself!! cheap trick: i used white subway tiles (which i love) and they were only $27 for a box of 100 and that's all i needed! i love the dark wood counter top and tiled floors. seriously, this kitchen has made the biggest difference...the entire apartment now feels new, clean and functional! i was so lucky to have a landlord who trusted me (she's never met me) to fix her place up!

look how clean the white ikea cabinets look with the white subway tiles! doesn't look 90 years old right?

i found the metal frame on the left in one of my building's recycling bins, spray painted it yellow and added a left over piece of neon yellow poster-board. i also used left over orange paint to create an abstract look. i created this art piece in my kitchen for free!!

in this picture you can see all the carpet in the space, such a nightmare! who wants carpet in their ny apartment? carpets = vacuums and who has space for a vacuum in a small studio??
as soon as we got the "ok" we ripped the carpet out. it was actually a lot of work.
the worst part about ripping the carpet out was discovering the floors were in terrible condition. i started to cry when we finished. i kept asking my husband "what have we done!?!" we just spent all this time taking the carpet out only to find the floors were in terrible shape. we got lucky again, because our amazing super had everything we needed to fix the floors ups!! it only took a few hours to get the floors looking beautiful again!

remember how i was working on a budget?? this is how the space went down.
the fabulous knoll planter side table next to my bed - found it in the trash (best find ever!!)
the bed and bedding came from ikea. i like to keep the bedding plain so i can get funky with the details! ...then there's my decorative headboard.

while i was making trips back and forth to home depot, i found myself in the pegboard section.
i had no idea what i was going to do with pegboard, i just knew i loved it and that it was cheap!
so i walked around the store until i figured it out. i found hot pink mason string (also really cheap)
and gold spray paint (i looove spray paint, i could spray paint everything).

i love this shot of my headboard and $8 paper lantern. when you're renting you can't install new lighting fixtures easily so i like to plug lights in and hang them from the ceiling.

before and after pics of my living room/bedroom/office - i like to call it our master suite, even though it's pretty much our entire space! i found our itty bitty sofa at urban outfitters on sale, it folds out into a bed so it's perfect for visiting friends and family! i also love having a bike in the space, no nyc apartment is complete without one. 

one of my favorite pieces in our space is the mule deer antlers i found online for $15. i spray painted them gold and added some hot pink tape to add a splash of color. our gallery wall is full of pictures from all our trips, i even used wallpaper samples and postcards for a cheap art solution - but the best trick for adding a pop to an art wall is using a bright colored poster board! cheap trick: i found this hot pink poster board for $1 at rite aid and framed it! the simple large colored piece does wonders for a busy wall!

how adorable is that doug and gene meyer pillow??
i love the gold pouf on top of our cow hide, such a fun mix!!

the red ju-ju hat was a sweet gift from my mother-in-law she got in africa. another cheap trick of mine is using old soup cans for pencil storage. i used a large, old (cleaned out) aluminum can to store my pencils, markers and scissors!

i wanted to keep the walls white in this apartment and bring in pops of color. one of my favorite pops is the orange stripe next to my desk! i also like to tape up colorful images. i created a nyc/color moodboard on the wall above my mirror. i can't forget to mention my favorite free find of all time...the saarinen knoll chair i found in the trash! i had it reupholstered with raspberry colored kvadrat fabric i got for free!!

new lighting in the entryway made a big difference! my place needed more color so i painted the doors in the entry way orange! another cheap trick use faux fur for rug runners. i bought two yards of orange fur fabric in the garment district for $7/yard and used it as a runner in front of my wardrobe closet. it's super easy to keep clean, you just shake it and sweep!

 this section is next to my wardrobe. i love the
 doug and gene meyer wall clock and my hot pink sticks! cheap trick: cover bamboo sticks
with colored duct tape.

found the rug for $2.50 at a bodega on my street...great find!
walking out the door always makes me happy!

remember to always "think outside the box" when you're
working with a tight budget, search for items in unexpected places like rite aid and...the trash!

one of my favorite quotes from robert novogratz is:
"good taste and good design doesn't always come with money"!


  1. Wow! Absoultely innovative idea to use your first months rent to fix up the place! I think you may have one of the most exceptional landlords ever! Beautiful job on your space too!

  2. Fabulous! How did I know that you would have a bright colored entry door?! ;) Also, expected all of the fab wall decor! Loving the bedroom look...gorgeous!


  3. You did a great job with the diy!

  4. You are absolutely amazing!! Love it all! I wish we lived closer so we can do diy projects all the time together. :)

  5. Thanks ladies! You all are so sweet...
    Myrna-my landlord is awesome and thank you :)!!
    Cathy- bright colored entry door is the way to go! Xx
    Amourette- thanks I really appreciate it!
    Laura- I wish we lived closer too!! Dying to come visit your city!!!

  6. Oh my gosh! so cute, I love it all!

  7. Morgan, this is so rad! Such an awesome space and you are so creative!!

  8. O wow! This needs to be on Apartment Therapy. Great finds! Your public dumpster must be A-mazing. Unbelieveable. So awesome to see the treasures you found.
    I want a red juju hat like I need oxygen. Maybe your MIL can talk to my MIL!
    Really great job. Really. I love ALL the details.

  9. Thank Nicole!! I wish you guy could have come over while you were in town.
    Mary--so glad you like it doll.
    Thanks Erin, I always love reading your comments. You are the sweetest!

  10. I am impressed with your design skills and ingenuity! I can not wait to see your future endeavors!

  11. Wicked. And that's really all I can say.

  12. Morgan I love it!! Your home looks uh-mazing. Especially impressed with your kitchen renovation and floor reburbish makeover - awesome design work all around. xo!

  13. Morgan, this is great!! You are a very talented designer.
    I love that red flower, the floors turned out super and the kitchen is so cute, it doesn't even look like the same room. The orange door is so you too, so pretty.

  14. Love all the color! Morgan you are one talented woman!It looks very chanel, chanel! ")

  15. Morgs! Stop it. This is the cutest thing I've ever seen. You're so inspirational. I'm determined to try to make my new home this cute. Getting married in 9 days :) Love you. Miss you.

  16. good job baby girl! I love those orange doors! you are such a talent. XOXO

  17. SO many AMAZING ideas here! I seriously lost count!! SO FAB. Not to be a super creep, but I can't wait to come and pick your brain for home decor ideas when I'm out in NYC next! :-)

    xx. Margaret

  18. Bah!! AHmazing. I want to move in!


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