Daring and dramatic decor using a high-contrast palette
Artist and owner of Made By Girl, Jen Ramos shares design tips for adding dramatic interest to her small space.
Find helpful design tips from artist and owner of Made By Girl, Jen Ramos's stylish New York City abode.
Drama defines this apartment’s small entryway. Homeowner Jen Ramos painted swatches of high-gloss black on top of the matte black walls, which serve as a bold backdrop to a console accented in gold. An organic-shaped white mirror offers a fresh counterpoint.
"To take attention away from the odd indentation behind the sofa in the living room, we created faux panelling with black paint,” says Jen. The treatment also enhances the graphic artwork and lively mix of toss cushions.
Faux fur toss cushions add lushness to a sleek leather daybed, which hides an unsightly radiator. Placed beside a marble-topped coffee table, a pair of python-print stools creates a conversation area without taking up much square footage in the small living room.
Jen and her husband, Mat, customized an inexpensive sideboard, adding an ebony-stained reclaimed-wood top and finishing it with gold knobs to provide much-needed storage to the cramped living room. Jen keeps its surface relatively clear so that it won’t compete with the treasure-filled bookshelf.
Gold is Jen’s go-to metallic for adding instant shine and standout glamour. In the entryway, brass horse-head hooks offer intriguing function and organic form. Here, Jen loves to display her favourite Rebecca Minkoff bag – it’s ready to grab and go when she’s heading out the door.
Jen needed a large work table in her office/studio, so she and Mat merged two storage cabinets and affixed a countertop to the surface.
Normally a diehard fan of gold, Jen brought in silver for this high-impact installation of her graphic love print. She mounted 12 posters made of metallic foil on heavy card stock, alternating gold and silver to showcase the warm and cool tones.
When living in a small space, every inch has possibilities – even a ledge. “I like to use decorative and personal items that reflect light and shine in the sun,” says Jen.
Jen created a sophisticated vignette in the master bedroom by painting a ceramic lamp base glossy black and placing it on an ebony-stained nightstand, both of which disappear against the soft black wall.
In the master bedroom, Jen painted the wall behind the bed black, allowing the white bedding and leather headboard to provide relief. A gallery wall breaks up the darkness. “I used personal art and photos, while mixing up their frames; it makes things more interesting,” says Jen.
Tour this chic and stylish condo.
Downsizers trade their house in the sticks for the prettiest pared-down condo in the city – and they don’t miss their old digs one bit.
With their enviable nooks and crannies, most suburban houses can handle the extras. You know, the useless bits that gobble up space: the family china passed down through the ages or a dusty treadmill dying a slow death. Shove them into a corner and no one is the wiser. But in a condo, space is a coveted commodity. Every item must count and every design decision must be carefully executed, as it is in Janice and Colin Dreyer’s 1,600-square-foot abode. Located on the fourth floor of a new-build boutique high-rise in Vancouver, the unit is vastly different from their previous home, which was nearly double the size. The couple, a pair of empty nesters in their 60s, knows about “stuff” first-hand. For 30 years, they lived on the outskirts of the city – first in Cloverdale, where they raised three children, and then in their last house in South Surrey for 10 years – slowly accumulating a lifetime of belongings. And it’s been a relief to finally purge. “I got rid of almost all of it,” says Janice, who confidently announces: “Honestly, I don't miss a thing.”
The couple didn’t have to search far to find the right person to decorate the condo. Their daughter is designer Karla Dreyer, who heads up an eponymous firm in Vancouver. In addition to providing interior services, Karla offers beautifying help virtually with her e-decor program. But for her parents’ home, she worked in the flesh, fast and furiously passionate, over a three-month period. “They really wanted it done quickly because they were excited to start their third act in life,” says Karla. The bones of the space served as inspiration. “The windows – there are a ton of them – and the white-tiled floors really lent themselves to decorating in a light, airy way,” says Karla. The springtime palette of pretty pastels makes the condo sparkle with youthful freshness. “Pastels can come off as juvenile, so the trick is to incorporate them in a sophisticated fashion,” says the designer, who tempered them with glam gold accents and a bright white shell. “I love how the soft colours evoke a joyful vibe.”
Clearly they have also influenced the occupants, who are adjusting brilliantly to city life. Says Janice, “Living with less is great.” Should a bout of nostalgia hit, however, she can always visit a selection of precious pieces she salvaged from the suburbs. “I did take out a storage unit for small items I was unsure about,” says Janice. None of them have made it back into the condo.
When Janice and Colin Dreyer purchased their new condo, they knew exactly who to turn to for decorating help: their designer daughter Karla. In the living area, she decided to incorporate gold touches and coral accents for a decidedly youthful feel. “My parents are pretty stylish, so the decor represents them well,” says Karla, who believes design shouldn’t subscribe to ageism.
Janice loves birds, so Karla went with an avian theme, expressed here in one area of the condo via the wallpaper featuring hummingbirds in flight, the brass sculptures on the chest and the witty painting by local talent Zoë Pawlak.
"I’m used to having lots of wall space, so dealing with all the windows was tricky,” says Karla. But this spot was perfect for the dining area, allowing the couple to take in the sights over a meal. The Tulip-style table paired with mismatched chairs is fun.
Accommodating the 63-inch TV (a must for Dad) meant Karla had to get crafty because it dominated the room. “It’s a monster,” she says with a laugh. “The living area only has one wall, so I had to place the television there. I camouflaged its looming presence with some pretty wallpaper, which I think worked out well.”
Layered in champagne hues and captivating textures, such as the faux-fur throw and the cushy velvet headboard, the master bedroom is inviting and luxurious.
The home office, situated in the solarium just off the master bedroom, is simple yet perfectly functional.
Two-minute decorating tricks
2 Subtract, don't add
Edit your accessories so that each individual piece comes into sharper focus. Remember, the space around decor items is as important as the items themselves.
3 Style your bookshelves
Rearrange your bookshelves so that they create blocks by size or colour of the spines. Place some horizontally as well as vertically to create visual interest. Try varying the blocks with open spaces, adding a few eye-catching accessories such as a conch shell or a framed photograph. If you don't have much time, just tackle one shelf at a time.
4 Add natural colour
Fill a large glass vase or bowl to the brim with colourful fruit such as oranges or lemons, and place on a side table or near the window.
5 Change artwork up
Switch around your artwork. It's astonishing how much moving a painting you've looked at for years into another room makes you appreciate it all over again.
6 Switch up area rugs and pillows
While you're at it, change your area rugs, accessories and throw pillows around as well. (Moving an area rug has the added advantage of inspiring you to vacuum the floor underneath it, if you haven't done that for a while.)
7 Dress up the bathroom
Place a wicker tray on the bathroom counter, line it with a hand towel, and use it to organize and display attractively packaged toiletries and soaps.
8 Flowers, flowers, flowers
Buy an inexpensive bouquet of spring blooms at the corner store, cut down the stems and place in a Mason jar, small vase or pretty glass for your bedside table.
9 Consider new uses for things
If you have a pair of matching scarves use them to replace the tiebacks on curtains.
10 Create collections
Many everyday items become art when you look at them in a fresh way. Pinecones gathered on a walk in the park are beautiful in a wooden bowl or wicker tray. White china makes a statement if arranged with care on open kitchen shelves. And you'll enjoy your collection of family photographs every day if you group them on the high wall next to your stairs. Try arranging them first on the floor till you get a pleasing composition.