Yvonne Jacobs
Design at Altitude
Hidden storage in benches can be a life saver in a small apartment.
Special to the Daily |

As most everyone who first moves to Vail (“just for one season!”) can attest, rental units aren’t always an instant home-away from home. Small spaces, shared kitchens and funky layouts abound. Just because it’s not your forever home, doesn’t mean you can’t make it feel homey and welcoming. Here are a few tips we’ve all used.

• Instead of worrying about the wall color, and usually the fact that you can’t paint it, change what you can. Find funky artwork at a thrift store in bold colors and with antique-chic frames. If you’re artistic, or have an artistic roommate, create a masterpiece yourself. Best of all? You can take it with you.

• While you’re at the thrift store, look for a funky old mirror. It will do double duty — mirrors obviously lighten a space while making it look bigger. If it’s in a retro-cool frame, the mirror will become a piece of art too.

• If you’re lucky enough to be in a condo of your own, it is probably small. Every nook and cranny will be used for storage. Create even more of this with hidden storage in seats or benches. Don’t be afraid of open shelves. Many units were built in the ’70s without a lot of thought into kitchen cabinets. Fear not, the open-industrial shelf look is not only cool, but provides three or four extra shelves for pantry items. Likewise, use floating shelves to store jars, glasses, mugs and plates.


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• In a really small space, less really is more. Pare your belongings. You might love Aunt Edna’s Fiestaware in theory but it’s really not your style. Instead of lugging it from point A to point B, send it home to mom to store until you can use it. If you know that you will never really love it, donate it to a friend, Habitat for Humanity or the Thrifty Shoppe. They’ll sell it and use the proceeds to fund a nonprofit.

• Long drapes that flow from the ceiling to the floor make a room look larger. Get fabric in bright colors to add pop to the room. As a bonus in the winter, they will keep the cold drafts out and your heat in. Try a pair of airy white linen curtains to feel like you’re at the beach. I try to change the drapery twice a year, it really transforms the feel of the room.

• Odds are the flooring is not your pick in the rental. Cover that lovely brown shag carpet with throw rugs. This is another place you can add your personality to the space with a minimal investment. Or buy a throw that you love that costs a little more, knowing you can take it with you.

• Your dining space may be small — or repurposed for other uses. But few things are more fun than hosting a dinner party. If you’re lucky enough to have a dining room, score some acrylic chairs. They don’t take up any visual space and they are super hot right now.

• Last but not least … if you’re itching to paint, paint your furniture bright colors with funky patterns. It’s a great way to make an old dresser new again and to reduce, reuse and recycle while making the apartment into a sweet retreat.

Yvonne Jacobs is the president of Slifer Designs and has been with the company for 17 years, and remembers making a small rental feel like a home. For more design inspiration, check out

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