Bold, Colorful Apartment Makeover

San Francisco-based lifestyle journalist Julia Walsh transforms an uninspiring apartment into a creative show place with bold hues and curated pieces.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Before: Hodgepodge College Pad

In its existing state, San Francisco-based lifestyle journalist Julia Walsh's writing lounge had the look and feel of a college dorm room. A desk and an old sofa had been shoved into the bay window area and completely detracted from the beautiful bay windows. The plain walls offered Julia a great backdrop to experiment with many of the colors she has written about for trend-forecasting articles.

Floor Plan Remix

To use the room to the best of its ability, Julia created a space plan which allowed ample seating for herself and guests thanks to a long sofa, a wingback chair, and a small dining area in the bay window nook including two armchairs. In order to incorporate a TV without distracting from her well-curated collection, a niche was cut into the wall to house it. Julia's landlord added a built-in bookshelf tucked into the corner of the room which is nestled behind her wingback chair

Inviting Entryway

Upon entering her apartment, Julia is greeted by her favorite color, featured on a faux bamboo dresser picked up at a thrift store for $60. "Persimmon is my favorite color," Julia comments. "On any given day, my ensemble usually incorporates some element of the coral cousin. It's no coincidence that when I decided to update my vintage dresser, I went straight for the favorite."

Natural Lighting

Bold colors read well throughout Julia's entire home, thanks to a skylight just off the entryway in the center of her apartment.

Creative Pass

After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in media arts, Julia moved west to San Francisco to launch CasaSugar, a shelter-based website that has become a staple online destination for design bloggers. Since first setting foot in the city, she's channeled her daily commute on San Francisco's MUNI bus system into art. She taped her monthly bus passes side by side on card stock, then framed them to create an original art piece.

Colorful Memento

After writing a story on FLIPP Home, a hip boutique in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, Julia paid a visit as a patron. She picked up a pair of framed serigraphs, a medium of graphic art similar to a screen print, made by Sister Corita Kent, a contemporary of Andy Warhol. Something to keep in mind when hanging pairs of art is the amount of wall space between pieces: Too much space can create a disconnect, and too little space may seem cluttered. A range between 2.5 and 4 inches seems to work best.

Pop of Bright Pink

Julia covered a story on ArtCrank SF, a traveling poster show focused on bike-themed works by local graphic artists. While checking out the event in person, Julia fell in love with a hot-pink and black piece that worked well with the high-energy hues intended for her apartment's decor. "What I find interesting about screen prints is how they're made," she says. "Applying the ink through a super-fine screen, you can create a picture or a pattern that’s clean and precise like a painting, yet can be printed again."

Bringing Back the Wingback

After writing stories on great home-related stuff for guys, Julia fell in love with the line and shape of classic wingback chairs. A local San Francisco boutique called Past Perfect was her source for a worn-in black leather wingback chair adorned with dulled brass nail-head detail. "I love the black leather," says Julia. "I had so much fun reconditioning the chair. I wrote an article on how to restore leather and wood pieces like it. To repair the leather, I used Lexol Leather Conditioner, which you apply with a clean white rag and buff off after 20 minutes. To conceal scuffmarks on wood, you can use Old English Scratch Cover, which you dab on with a rag."

In Living Color

Julia's lounge is made up of pieces both new and old in a combination of different price points. The rolled-arm sofa was bought as part of a pair for $175 on Craigslist. Since Julia only needed one, she sold the second at a profit, then used the money to tackle other elements of her apartment's design. Red street art above the sofa was given to Julia as a gift from Hugh Leeman, a local artist she interviewed while serving as editor at PopSugar San Francisco. To dress up the basic sofa, Julia splurged on custom violet throw pillows made from a pricey Manuel Canovas fabric. The clear glass and chrome coffee table is from CB2 and cost less than $200.

By the Bay Window

In its previous state, an old sofa and a student desk blocked Julia's bay window. To give the area purpose, and to take advantage of the view of Lombard Street just outside, she created a small dining area from high-end chairs bestowed to her from her mother. The space is ideal for reading up on new trends, books and decorating ideas over breakfast.

Art Reinvented

Julia picked up an iron piece from the Alameda Flea Market that became a work of art, despite its origin as a purely functional object. "The sheet of metal is what industrial signage or house letters are cut from," Julia explains. "I think the negative space is really interesting, and since I installed it sideways, most people can't tell what it is at first glance."

TV Niche

Since flat-panel TVs and media components can easily eat up valuable space, not to mention stick out like eyesores, Julia's landlord created a custom niche in one wall of her writing lounge. In order to do this, the drywall was cut, the framework was reconfigured and an electrical outlet was installed just below the niche.

Built-In Bookshelf

For a slight built-in effect, a 5-inch-deep shelf was added to the wall just behind Julia's wingback chair. "I have more coffee table books than my chrome table can hold, so I love that the small shelf allows to me to display extras at arm's reach from the sofa," Julia notes. "Since the shelf is so shallow, I place the books cover-side forward, which keeps the shelf from looking too cluttered."

Bold Hues

Eager to experiment with colors she covered in trend-forecasting articles, Julia decided to paint her bathroom with a citrus tone similar to Mimosa, Pantone's 2009 Color of the Year. She opted for a hue slightly more green called Wales Green by Benjamin Moore. "Bold colors can definitely be risky," she says. "I've found that rich jewel tones are the perfect remedy for run-of-the-mill renter's walls. Nothing infuses personality more than a chorus of striking hues."

Bedroom Retreat

As a writer and an avid reader, Julia's books can be found almost everywhere in her apartment. To keep them contained in her bedroom, she found an old industrial metal chest on casters, made from an antique milk crate, which keeps the less decorative books concealed inside. Her favorite color, persimmon, is the main accent color found in pillows and artwork.

DIY Headboard

Having worked on many do-it-yourself articles, Julia decided to put her own skills to the test by creating a custom headboard from scratch. In order to do this, she had a piece of plywood cut to size, then stapled foam and batting to it, wrapped it with velvet, then stapled the fabric to the back, and adorned the edges with brass nail heads attached with a rubber mallet.

Black and White, Just Right

A New York-based artist named Samantha West was once a subject of an article written by Julia. Soon after writing about her work, Julia decided to buy a piece herself. "Adding different mediums of art to each room is important to a well-curated space," Julia says. "I think it's important to have a balance of fine-art photography with abstract, pop and traditional oil paintings. This combination creates a juxtaposition that's timeless and classic." Black-and-white photography is often considered a better investment since it can work with virtually any color scheme, whereas color photography may limit the number of color schemes for the room in which it’s on display.

Shop Related Products

Next Up

Common Types of Mold in Homes

Mold comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Learn how to identify the type of mold in your home and develop a plan of attack for treating it.

5 Apartment-Sized Sofas That Are Lifesavers

Make the most of your small space with these apartment-sized sofas and expert tips.

Room of the Week: Add Some Panache to Apartment Living

Snag our product picks and turn that tiny or temporary space into the posh pad of your dreams.

Streamlined Kitchen Cabinet Makeover

With a few simple steps and basic materials, you can take the look of your kitchen cabinets from humdrum to high-end.