Put Your DIY Skills to Test to Spruce Up Your Apartment

Wherever you live, for as long as you plan to stay there, you want to make your home your refuge, your space. Apartment living has its limitations when it comes to home do-it-yourself projects, of course, because you can’t permanently alter your apartment. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of projects that you can accomplish to customize your apartment and make it all your own. Websites abound with simple DIY projects that are perfectly suited for apartments as well as DIY skill levels from novice to experienced. Whether you are a devoted IKEA fan or swap-meet bargain hunter, keep an eye out for a chest that you can transform with a little hardware, paint and wallpaper. And now that you live in Arizona, you don’t need to hold on to those wool sweaters—how about transforming them into coasters to put under your margarita glass? Are you a fan of the craft cocktail movement? If you are, you don’t have to wait until you find your dream home to bring a little of the speakeasy ambiance to your home and you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for a dry bar, either! You can make your own industrial bar cart to stow away when it’s not needed and wheel out when it’s happy hour, although it’s so stylish it can dress up a room all the time! Display and declutter Leaning a ladder against a wall to hang blankets or hats is so 1998. Step up your game with free-standing ladders that can display your china, knickknacks, books, whatever! With minimal carpentry skills, you can create a minimalist display unit suited to your needs, whether you need two ladder shelves or 10, depending on what you want to display and where you intend to put it. And you can take it with you when you move! So many home projects are intended to help us declutter, right? Well, we’re not going to tell you that you need to get rid of all your books, but we can direct you to where you can go to display them other than plain old bookshelves. This is especially important when it comes to children’s books because you want them to read, but you don’t want them to leave the books scattered around the apartment. How about a hanging book holder, which keeps the books handy for the little ones and makes it a bit of fun to slide them back when they’re done (and you can make a fancier one for your own magazines or books). It hangs from just one hook on the wall, perfect for apartments. Or why not create a book bin? While it’s also great to contain children’s books, again, you can make it more stylish to hold the books you still want to brag about or keep handy in the living room. It’s made from MDF, which is very affordable, and has three large compartments to organize books of different subjects or sizes. You can paint it or use shelf paper or wallpaper for a different look. Families especially can make use of a command center, where everyone can keep track of everything that’s going on. If you plan it right, you can make it creative and stylish, so you don’t have to hide it away. Make use of that awkward corner or small wall and give it purpose. Putting it in an open, high-traffic place may help you keep it organized, but remember to make it appealing to not only yourselves, but your guests. If you do want to hide it or don’t have the wallspace, consider mounting it with removable strips to the back of a cabinet or pantry door. Apply some technology Hey, we could watch HGTV all day long and swear that we could lay tile like the experts, but most of us need a lot more help than that. As the saying goes, there’s an app (many!) for that. Apps have taken the headache out of measuring spaces and furniture. Here are a few good ones:
  • Photo Measures: Just take a photo of a space and this app will allow you to measure everything from a construction site to sofa.
  • MagicPlan: Want a floor plan for your apartment? Take a photo and this app converts it into a floor plan that can be exported in PDF, JPG and DXF formats so you can show a contractor, designer or real-estate agent.
  • Measured: Thank Lowe’s for this app, which lets you measure a space or object by taking a photo so you only have to cart your iPhone to the furniture or home improvement store.
While apartment life means you don’t have to worry about fixing that leaky faucet or sealing the windows, there are still many things that do-it-yourselfers can keep track of to not only improve the apartment, but keep it in order. These apps help:
  • BrightNest: You can use this app to keep track of reminders, from changing the batteries in your smoke detector or other household chores such as cleaning, organizing, design and maintenance.
  • Housepad: This app allows you to store notes and visual instructions needed for maintenance, which you can easily share with family members, guests, babysitters and such.
  •  iHandy Carpenter: For those of us who aren’t master carpenters, this app comes in handy by giving us some of the most useful carpentry tools such as a surface level, plumb bob and steel ruler. Take that, Ty Pennington!
And apps are also useful with decorating projects:
  • Mark on Call: Famed interior designer Mark Lewison helps us amateurs create floor plans on a grid to arrange furniture and décor to scale. Take photos of patterns and finishes and it adds them to your plan.
  • iHandy Level: Hanging picture frames can be such a pain. Here’s a free app that makes your smartphone a level. If you slip up, by the smallest degree, it will tell you faster than your OCD friend Vernda. 
  • Sun Seeker: OK, this app is just so cool we had to include it. Track the sun’s path within a room and it will tell you, hour by hour, where the light lands. It’s used to tell where not to place fabrics that get bleached by the sun and such, but if you have a pet that loves to sunbathe, you can also use it to make them a nice place to catch the rays.

Reducing Waste Becomes a Priority

If you’re old enough, you might remember a cute cartoon owl imploring you to “Give a hoot — don’t pollute.” Or perhaps you’ve seen a tear roll down the cheek of a Native American man lamenting air pollution. Those moments are in our collective memory of the beginnings of the recycling movement born out of the environmentalism that arose in the latter half of the last century. While Depression Era America was prone to skimp and save out of necessity so as not to throw out anything of remote value, post-World War II America created a disposable culture and the rise of single-use products. By the 1970s, the effects of that disposable culture were visible in our air—smog and acid rain—and in our soil—the first U.S. landfill, Fresh Kills on Staten Island, becoming a symbol of our national waste, holding so much waste that it has become one of the largest man-made structures in the history of the world. Rampant pollution gave way to the recycling movement, including a corporate coalition called Keep America Beautiful, which was responsible for the “Crying Indian” ads. As part of a nationwide competition to draw attention to products that could be recycled, Container Corporation of American chose a design by a college student, Gary Anderson, as the winner. Now, Anderson’s three-arrow recycling symbol is ubiquitous on package containers. Gradually, states came on board, with Oregon leading the way by passing a beverage container deposit law to curb glass litter. Today, about one-third of the U.S. waste is recycled or composted. Greater awareness now Consumers today are much more aware of single-use products, such as the recent controversy over plastic straws and trends to get reusable metal straws instead or drinking without straws. As the Environmental Protection Agency says, “The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place.” Reducing waste and reusing materials prevents pollution by reducing harvesting of raw materials, saves energy and money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions that create global climate change, sustains the environment, reduces landfill and recycling waste and allows products to be used to their fullest extent. Consumers can reduce waste and reuse materials by:
  • Buying used goods, from clothes to building materials
  • Choosing products that use minimal packaging
  • Choosing reusable products rather than disposable, single-use items. For instance, bring your own silverware, plate and cup to work.
  • Maintaining and repairing products as needed so they don’t need to be replaced
  • Borrowing, renting or sharing items that you don’t use as often such as party decorations, tools or furniture
  • Donating unwanted items to a secondhand store and letting someone else use them
When you recycle, not only are you helping the environment, but the economy as well by creating jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States, according to the EPA. According to the 2016 national Recycling Economic Information Study, in one year, recycling and reusing activities brought 757,000 jobs and created $36.6 billion in wages and $6.7 billion in tax revenues. Cleaner apartment communities Of course, most people measure recycling in more personal ways. It’s especially helpful to those living in apartments because every inch of space is valuable and if it’s taken up by clutter that could be recycled, you’ve got a problem. Recycling and reusing also can help your apartment community, as well. The Arizona Department of Environment Quality encourages residents to recycle to:
  • Keep the community cleaner and healthier
  • Bring residents together for the common good
  • Teach children waste reduction habits and respect for the environment
  • Divert waste from landfills
  • Save money
Recycling programs vary by city and community. Follow these links for tips on recycling

How to Set a Great Holiday Table (Even on Your Budget!)

It seems like the winter holiday decorations have been in stores since the Fourth of July, doesn’t it? It won’t be long before the holidays actually are here. Now that you’ve settled into your apartment home, you might be facing the daunting task of being the one to host the traditional holiday dinner. Don’t be intimidated! If it’s your first turn hosting or just the first in a different space, you’ll be able to put together a festive table setting, no matter what your budget is. Take it from the experts:(opens in a new tab) You can’t go wrong when your table decor features greenery or other natural elements. Whether that means taking a few sprigs from your living Christmas tree, snatching a few branches at the corner tree stand, snatching a few pinecones from your trip to the mountains or even incorporating cactus, let the great outdoors inside for texture and color on your holiday table. Here are some other tips from the pros:
  • Don’t be afraid to be irreverent in your mix. Find things around your home to mix into your tablescape. Keep to a certain category or color and you’ll be fine.
  • Create take-home place-card holders as parting gifts. Use a little potted plant or a small wrapped scented candle in a box with a bow.
  • Choose flameless candles that won’t die down, have no fire risk and whose scent won’t ruin the delicious flavors of your holiday meal.
Take it to a new level Notice when the experts decorate a table, elements are on different levels. You can even use books to prop up a centerpiece or platter (old books look great or you can cover with cloth napkins for a more elegant display). Different heights add interest and drama to a holiday table. Of course, the more planning(opens in a new tab) you put into your table setting, the better it will come out. After all, this is where your guests will spend most of their time, so you want to set the right tone and feeling for the dinner you want to present to them as your holiday gift. Even if it’s a casual gathering, there are many things you can do that will put your guests at ease and make the meal fun. Black and gold are never out of style for color themes. You can buy inexpensive gold plate chargers at discount stores. Don’t be afraid to use sterling silver just because you’ve got gold on the table, too. Do you need a centerpiece? No, but if you do, remember it doesn’t have to be in the center and it also doesn’t have to be one piece. Scatter points of interest around the table to give your guests something to talk about as they dine. Consider using subdued setting themes in soft grays and browns with touches of metallic to bring an elegant sparkle to your table, but help keep your guests as the entertaining focus. Or instead of the expected red-and-green decorations, use jewel tones and burnished golds to add texture and a quiet elegance. ‘Less is more’ One of the cardinal rules of accessorizing is “less is more.” Don’t clutter the table. For instance, if you use candles, make sure you don’t set the whole table on fire. The folks at Williams-Sonoma(opens in a new tab) know luxury when they see it and we can take a few cues from the experts there, too:
  • Be playful with color. Remember that your food will add holiday hues to the table, so even red currants used as garnishes on cakes can add interest to your table.
  • Think outside the platter. Find an antique chopping board to serve your roast on. Mix and match rustic and patterned bowls to add interest.
  • Create your own cocktail. The craft cocktail movement can come to your dinner party, too! So you don’t have matching cocktail glasses—mix them up for a fun flourish (and your guests won’t get their drinks mixed up, too.)
You don’t have to spend a lot on your table settings, though. Here are some suggestions that don’t cost too much:(opens in a new tab)
  • Get white flat bed sheets or fabric from thrift stores to use as tablecloths
  • Buy a roll of burlap (look in the florist aisle at the discount department store) to use as a table runner or to cut into rustic placemats
  • Thrift stores are chock full of various candle holders and votives you can mix and match
  • Shop at a dollar store for candles of the same size and color
Wrap it up Paper or plastic? These days, especially if you’re expecting a lot of people, it’s OK to use either. It’s all in how you present them to your guests. Did some wrapping paper(opens in a new tab) catch your eye? Who says you have to use a traditional tablecloth. Wrap your tabletop and you won’t have to wash it afterward, either. Paper napkins that have the feel of cloth are perfectly acceptable, too. Want to create your own snazzy napkin rings? Use toilet paper or paper towel tubes and glue wrapping paper that matches your tabletop or scraps of fabric to them. Let food decorate(opens in a new tab) your table. Present a bowl of simple fruits, a variety of cheeses on a board, nuts in small bowls and small loaves of fresh bread. Placemats easily add color and texture to a holiday table(opens in a new tab) and, as we mentioned before, they don’t have to be expensive or fancy. If there’s something you might want to consider investing in because you’re planning to have many dinner parties at your apartment home, it’s classic white dishes. They don’t have to be expensive, but they’re the best for making your food the star of the dinner. Vintage china is always great, too. Here’s a hint from a pro: Check out the antique shops for heirloom china. Millennials aren’t interested in family hand-me-downs, so you can find full sets of china, silverware and crystal for half of what they were sold for a few years ago. Simple, sturdy, large stemmed wine glasses can serve red, white or sparkling wines to your guests and could also be used as water goblets, too. (Speaking of which, don’t forget to include water glasses for your guests.) Whatever you do to make holiday dinner in your apartment home a festive event, remember to make some fun for yourself. Don’t get so caught up in the details that you can’t enjoy the great company and meal that you present. Happy holidays!

What 2020 Home Decor Trends Are Right for You?

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to make your apartment home a trendier place to live? After all, it is your sanctuary and you should surround yourself with things that please you and turn your luxury apartment home into your oasis. And sometimes, we want to impress our friends and family, too, right? First, let’s review some of the overused home decorating trends(opens in a new tab) that are oh, so 2018 and not in style now:
  • The modern farmhouseExpensive furniture updates
  • Millennial pink
  • Plants, plants everywhere
  • Word art
  • Bold graphic wallpaper
  • Gray walls
  • Macramé art
  • Extreme minimalism
  • Copper everything
  • Accent walls
  • Mid-century overload
Instead of accent walls, home decorators are predicting that all the walls should match with focal points coming from decorative accessories. Don’t give up entirely on mid-century modern (and don’t just give pieces away!). Design experts say we should be mixing different types of furniture, including mid-century modern, instead of having all the furniture match in one genre. The idea is to mix mid-century modern with something more traditional. Color it beautiful What colors are hot for 2020? Actually, the trend seems to lean toward cooler tones. Of course, everyone pays attention to what Pantone(opens in a new tab) says are the trendy colors for the new year. The word seems to be “blue,” with oceanic tones. Browns are also 2020 colors—think dried seaweed and driftwood for inspiration. Sand-tinted hues are also in the palette, along with deep blacks and oxygenated tones of green. The thought is to combine colors through texturing and layering, which will add dimension to your decor. Nothing should be flat! The team at Coloro(opens in a new tab), which includes experts in color, textile, fashion and the creative industries, has come up with five colors it believes will define 2020 decor:
  • Mellow Yellow: Yellow will reach mass appeal after making cameo appearances in palettes ove\r the past three years. This is a deeper, more grounded tone that draws inspiration from baked, earthy colors.
  • Cantaloupe: Forget about the peachy tones of the ’80s, this is a milkier, more subdued version of the oranges seen more recently that plays into typically feminine colors that cross over into other designs.
  • Cassis: Recent seasons have seen tones of pink and purple and now, we have gender-neutral cassis to fuse them.
  • Purist Blue: Again, blue is a trendy color for 2020. This is a softer yet sunnier version of once-trendy cobalt with a coolness that makes it crisp and contemporary.
  • Neo-Mint: Far from tired, industrial mint, Neo-Mint has evolved from formerly popular soft pastels into a forward-thinking hue that embodies an almost utopian optimism.
TV decorating trends Of course, the folks at HGTV(opens in a new tab) have a lot to say about design trends and we all follow the network’s shows for inspiration, don’t we? Here are some 2020 decorating trends suggested by the network:
  • Coastal colors: This is an easy way to bring colors into your current decor, especially those blues.
  • Vertical gardens: Here’s a great way to bring the outdoors in and introduce bursts of green with different textures.
  • Art deco and geometric lighting: The right fixture can transform an ordinary space into elegance and modern chic.
  • Textured wall decor: Think woven wall hangings to give a space a tougher, earthier vibe.
  • Tropical flourishes: They’re not just for bathrooms anymore!
Creating a trendy apartment home decor is more than just picking out the right colors and furniture, right? We should also keep in mind some living trends(opens in a new tab) that are transforming our living spaces as well:
  • Cool and comfy: Forget about living rooms that nobody is supposed to live in. Comfort is the key word here, with the trendiest rooms appealing to our instinct to sit down and enjoy good company in cozy spaces. Furniture should be plush, in rich jewel tones of green and blue, with plenty of faux-fur pillows and blankets and surfaces such as coffee tables made out of natural materials such as wood, stone or marble.
  • Eclectic boho-chic: Yes, your furnishings should complement each other, but don’t think that means matchy-matchy. Give your guests lots of eye candy to look at with a boho-chic attitude that includes plenty of different textiles and cohesive colors.
  • Minimal, but personal: The decluttering trend is still happening (for good reason!). But having clean lines and neutral colors can be complemented by thoughtfully curated items that can create an intimate feeling while making personal statements.
Flexible living areas We all multitask, right? We couldn’t get through our busy lives without a bunch of multitasking each day. So our homes also can multitask(opens in a new tab), according to the folks at Mercana, one of North America’s leading home furnishings wholesalers. Mercana’s interior design and retail partners around the world see these living trends:
  • Multifunctional furniture: Many of us are downsizing from larger homes into size-appropriate apartment homes. Multifunctional furniture includes beds with drawer spaces and desks with shelves above. It’s another way to help contribute toward sustainable living, with each inch of space contributing to minimalism and mindfulness. Look for pieces that are not only functional, but visually interesting.
  • Mindfulness in design: The rise in mindfulness is a direct result of rapid urbanization that has made our lives faster than ever, but psychologically damaging in many ways. No wonder designers are striving to restore mindfulness in our homes. When you’re decorating your Arizona apartment home, consider creating spaces where you can relax and do yoga, meditate or otherwise take your mind off the outside world and surround yourself with a mindful interior that cultivates your creative side, too.
  • Home offices: This is a trend that continues to dominate as many of us telecommute or take on extra jobs outside the “day job.” Carry the functionality and mindfulness of the rest of your apartment into the space that works, too.
  • Evolution of storage: There’s a good reason there are stores devoted to providing storage units. Whereas we used to have shelves for books, CDs and DVDs, our contemporary needs have changed along with our need to stow them with some sense of style. Look for evolving storage options that will serve the right purpose without being an eyesore.
Remember, it’s your apartment home. You don’t need to have a dining room if you don’t want one and you don’t need to have a sofa-TV-coffee table area like a traditional living room. The idea is to make your apartment home space fit your comfort and your needs. It doesn’t matter what it says on the floor plan.

Hung Up on Hanging Pictures?

Quit staring at that blank wall or the same row of pictures you’ve always hung up the same way in every place you’ve lived. There are many things that you can do to arrange pictures, paintings and prints in your luxury apartment home to brighten it up or add drama. We’re not going to talk about the mechanics of hanging pictures on walls. You can look up myriad videos on that subject on YouTube(opens in a new tab)  and we’ve all seen that hack of using a fork to easily hang a picture, right? OK, here you go(opens in a new tab).  First, we’ll go on the record as saying we’re big fans of using damage-free adhesives(opens in a new tab) to hang pictures as well as hooks for hanging purses or keys and even decorating your windows. Plus, this way, you can change your mind and relocate or straighten a picture without worrying about excessive nail holes in the wall (and risk losing some of your deposit!).  There are two cautionary pieces of advice when using adhesive strips. First, if you don’t follow directions and mind the weight limits of whatever it is you’re trying to hang, you could risk having it fall (and possibly damaging the wall). Second, adhesive strips are more expensive than grabbing a few picture nails at the hardware store. Then again, you save time and money not patching up holes to save your deposit. Go to the expert Who better to ask how to arrange pictures on a wall than Martha Stewart(opens in a new tab)? Before we go crazy and offer some off-the-wall (sorry, couldn’t help it) ideas for hanging things up, let’s go over a few basics. It’s good to know the rules before you break them (for a reason).  Think of your wall as a blank canvas ready for a great design. Set out the pictures you want to hang by propping them up against the wall or laying them out on the floor. If you’ve got help, enlist them to hold the objects up where you’d like them.  The standard height to hang something up is eye level, positioned at its center 57 to 60 inches from the floor. Here’s the formula: Divide the frame’s height by two, then subtract the distance from the frame’s top to the hanging hardware, adding that number to your 57- to 60-inch distance from the floor. The result is where you should put the hangers in the wall.  Or just wing it and use your instincts. The fun begins You might notice that the 57- to 60-inch rule is complicated by things such as furniture or high ceilings(opens in a new tab). If a sofa or bed is against the wall, the rule of thumb is to make sure the bottom of the frame is 6 to 12 inches above the object. For higher walls, feel free to go above 57 or 60 inches, so you don’t have too much empty wall space in the upper half.  And, hey, remember when we said you could break the rules? How about NOT hanging something up, but LEANING a piece against the wall or on a shelf? Speaking of shelves, they’re great for those of us who are constantly wanting to rearrange our wall art. Much easier to shuffle frames on a shelf than re-hang them.  Different ideas If you’re going for a more formal look, consider using a picture rail, which is a sliver of molding installed at the edge of the ceiling, from which you hang art from hooks and strings.  Here are a few more rule-breaking ideas on creative displays(opens in a new tab)  from Architectural Digest:
  • Large art goes on large walls: You don’t need to think that you need a huge painting to cover that big, blank wall. Think of the statement you can make with a carefully chosen object surrounded by a generous amount of wall space!
  • Sculptures need pedestals: Who says? Look for sculptures that you can hang on the wall to give your wall collection another dimension.
  • Everything must line up: Give your OCD side a coffee break and think of how fun it would be to hang things off-center or deliberately hung at an angle, just enough to make it look deliberate.
Keep it at eye level: Yes, that’s the traditional rule, but think how fun it will be to have something interesting tacked up above that doorway or where someone seated in the right place can get a good view. Keeping it interesting is more like it.

Make the Most of Your Apartment Floor Plan

Whether you’re moving into your new apartment home or have been settled in for a while but looking to make some changes, space considerations are always important to keep in mind. Sometimes, it may be a matter of figuring out how to downsize from a stand-alone home, expanding your family and figuring out how everyone fits into the apartment or just making sure every inch of your luxury apartment floor plan is utilized and stylish. Here are some space-saving tips for making the most of your apartment. First, there are some lifestyle changes(opens in a new tab) that can help. You know what we’re talking about. Yes, decluttering. The fewer things you have sitting out, the larger your apartment will look. So, get inspired watching some old episodes of “Hoarders,” feel better because your clutter isn’t that bad, then donate things that don’t bring you joy, discard things that never will get fixed and don’t bring anything in without getting rid of something else. Whatever it takes. It doesn’t hurt to examine your organizing skills(opens in a new tab), too, from learning what’s causing the clutter to finding the right plan to help you declutter to maintaining a clutter-free apartment once you’ve got everything in its right place. Minimal is more Consider adopting a minimalist design(opens in a new tab), which gives your apartment an open and modern feel. Also, keep as much floor space open as possible by arranging furniture against walls and looking for semi-open furniture and other pieces that are partially open to allow for as much natural light and movement as possible. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces also help create the illusion of a more expansive apartment.  Let the natural light in as much as possible and select neutral colors for your overall design. But also make a statement, meaning look for a few statement pieces that stand out from the rest of your apartment. By that, we mean a bright bedspread, retro furniture, potted plants or an unusual light feature that perks up your home without overwhelming it. Don’t waste space. Wherever possible, get furniture with storage space, from ottomans that open to chests to place at the end of your bed, it’s a classic way to store everything you need and still be stylish.  Create some storage Speaking of storage, many apartment homes have built-in storage(opens in a new tab), but sometimes, you have to create your own. Consider getting some magnet strips, especially for the kitchen, where you can free up counter space and display that great chef’s knife set you got for Christmas.  You can easily create more storage space in the bedroom by getting some bed risers and raising the level, which also creates interest by creating layers of design. There are lots of stylish storage containers that will look good as they store those off-season clothes or other sundries. Or, you may choose a loft bed with a desk(opens in a new tab) or other storage space beneath it.  Space-saving hacks Here are some quick tips for making a small space more livable(opens in a new tab):
  • Use a bookshelf instead of a desk for your laptop or tablet
  • Put your bed against a wall and use big pillows, so it can double as a couch
  • Hey, sofa beds have been around for a long time for a reason
  • If your apartment isn’t big enough for a full-sized sofa, get a chaise longue (two pushed together can comfortably serve as a bed)
  • No space or money for a sofa? Get some giant pillows, throw them on the floor for guests and then put them easily away when you need floor space.
As we said above, sofa beds may not sound sexy, but they sure come in handy and are great space-savers. There are other classic furniture pieces(opens in a new tab) that should be considered, such as an expandable kitchen table that can either look classic or high-tech. They can fold down when you have guests over and yet store flat when not in use.  Stackable chairs are another space-saving idea for apartments and their modern design fits with a minimalist design. Store them in a corner or a closet when you don’t need them. For families, a multi-purpose crib that combines a changing table, dresser and bed saves space and bunk beds not only are great for tucking the kiddos in, but save precious play space. What are your favorite apartment space-saving hacks? Tell us in the comments below and check out our luxury apartment floor plans

Create good energy in your apartment home

Whether you believe that the particular arrangement of furniture and decorations in your apartment home draws in or repels good energy or you’re just looking for great tips on keeping order and making your apartment stylish, we’ve got advice from the experts. You’ve probably heard of feng shui, the Asian system that is taken into account when buildings are designed so that the qi, or flow of energy, is optimized. We’re not pretending to be feng shui experts—and there are numerous videos on YouTube(opens in a new tab)  that can show you what it is—but we’re glad to pass along some general tips about how to make your apartment feng shui(opens in a new tab) Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that everything’s good from the first time you step into your apartment or a guest comes over. Your entry should be clear from clutter, swept or vacuumed the door mats are tidy. Is it dark? Find ways to brighten it, so it feels welcoming coming inside. Clear the way Once inside, make sure the paths within your apartment are clear. Walk from room to room, or from your bed to your bathroom or whatever your habit is when you wake up, etc. Pay attention to any obstacles in your way, not only objects on the floor or furniture in the way, but doors that are hard to open or close or areas that you avoid because they’re hard to navigate.  Just as in life, try being aware of the obstacles in front of you and adjust them, with gentleness and kindness, as feng shui advises. We’re not going to go in depth about clutter here, because we all know that we need to declutter, right? Feng shui is no different. But feng shui also has space clearing or space blessing, meaning the energetic space can be cleared along with the physical space. That can be done either through visualization, imagining a bright, white ray on sunlight cleansing your apartment, “smudging” with smoke or diffusing with essential oils.  Take a deep breath If you’re not familiar with smudging(opens in a new tab), most times, it’s done with sage and if you’re setting off the fire alarms, you’re doing it wrong. This ancient ritual, which comes from many cultures, is believed to be purifying because many types of sage have antimicrobial properties to keep infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi away. Some, such as white prairie sage and white sage, are thought to repel insects, too! Smudging is also believed to be able to dispel negative energy away from your apartment home, everything from past trauma or bad experiences to those given off by other people. It’s also been known to be conducive to creating a positive environment for meditation. Some people use it when they bring new things into a house, especially if those objects belonged to someone else. But, hey, some people think it makes your home just smell good, too. Nothing wrong with that! There are other guidelines that designers use when arranging decor. Many times, they reflect the feng shui rules of minding the natural flow of the rooms, etc. If you feel drawn into a particular room, try to figure out why, especially if it’s in someone else’s home and you want to give your apartment the same, cozy feel. The opposite holds true, too. What to do, what not to do Here are some general guidelines in helping you to decorate your apartment (opens in a new tab) home: Three’s a charm: You might have heard everyone from landscape designers to interior decorators talk about grouping objects in threes. We don’t know why, but it works. If not three, then think about another odd number, otherwise, your objects might look too symmetrical. The key is keeping everything balanced. Other grouping techniques include:
  • Rhythm, meaning the differences in height, shape, color, size and design to create a rhythm.
  • Design composition and color consistency that creates continuity in different elements of your decor.
  • Design repetition is good if you have a symbol of interest, such as a Kokopelli symbol or hummingbird, and repeat it in various ways, textures and objects throughout your room.
  • Mind the texture: It’s good to have a variety of textures throughout a room, but be careful that you don’t have too much. Again, balance is key.
We would be remiss if we didn’t throw in a few “what not to do (opens in a new tab)” tips:
  • Size matters: Be careful to watch scale when you’re decorating. Just as you shouldn’t overwhelm a small room with too large objects, you shouldn’t have accessories that are too small, either. 
  • One-stop shopping: Don’t. Resist the urge to buy everything in one place and recreate the showroom space in your apartment. Shop around and mix up pieces from different places. Create some interest.
  • Let go of college: Those bricks and boards that formed your bookcase in college won’t fly now. Sure, if there’s one object that has sentimental value (and maybe lava lamps will come back in vogue someday!), OK. But don’t recreate your dorm room in your luxury apartment home. 
Be green Most people find plants pleasing to have in a home. Plants embody life energy in feng shui. Plants make us feel vibrant and alive. But if you don’t have a green thumb, well, that’s what they make fake plants for. Lastly, one more ancient ritual that we think is good to adopt (and it can’t hurt!). Show your home some gratitude (opens in a new tab) Be thankful you have a roof over your head and, hopefully, you’ve been able to fill your apartment with beloved treasures and beautiful new things. Feel the positive energy you’ve created around your home and emit that energy.

Plants decorate our apartments and make us healthier

When you live in an apartment complex, it’s someone else’s job to tend to the yard, water the plants and prune the trees. But many of us like to bring nature indoors. Millennials, especially, it seems. The idea of being a “plant parent” appeals to so many millennials that houseplant sales in the U.S. have risen 50% up to $1.7 billion. That’s a lot of ferns! Oh, wait, that’s for baby boomers, right?  Houseplants are good for more than decoration, though. They can actually make us feel better and be healthier! Here are some health benefits of houseplants:
  • Bless you: Studies show that rooms with plants have less dust and mold than those without plants. Apparently, plants can act as natural filters that trap allergens and other airborne particles that make us sneeze. Chinese evergreen and the peace lily are good for this and can tolerate low-light situations. Violets and other plants that have textured leaves trap even more allergens. 
  • Feel good: Plants are good pick-me-ups. Studies show that offices with plants have employees who feel better about their jobs, worry less and take fewer sick days. So it’s got to make us happier in our apartment home, right? Flowers are especially good at promoting happiness.
  • It’s a dry air: Given our dry winters, not to mention our “dry heat” in Arizona, it’s worth noting that houseplants add moisture to the air. One study showed that a spider plant collection raised the relative humidity in a bedroom from 20% to 30%.
  • Clean air: As you might expect, plants help clean the air by soaking up what’s called volatile organic compounds in carpets, paint, cleaners, etc. Look for English ivy, asparagus fern and dragon tree to best remove air pollution.
  • Rest easy: Because plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, which is how they turn sunlight into food during photosynthesis, having them in your bedroom can promote good sleep. Gerbera daisies keep giving off oxygen at night.
  • Chill: Studies have shown that being around plants has a calming effect by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. 
  • Keep focused: For families, plants can help children raise their test levels at school. Really! Studies of students in classrooms with three potted plants show they scored better on math, spelling, reading and science than their peers in foliage-free rooms. Keep a golden pathos or bamboo palm by your child’s desk.
How many plants do you need for good health? To improve your health and reduce fatigue and stress, keep one large plant (in an 8-inch diameter pot or larger) every 129 square feet (we’re not making up numbers; that’s what we’re told). To purify the air, get one large plant (or two smaller plants) for every 100 square feet of space.  Decorating with plants Besides their health benefits, it’s just pleasing to many to have plants in your apartment home. There’s nothing wrong with setting a potted plant on the windowsill or coffee table, but here are some plant-decorating ideas to consider:
  • Plant platform: Use a cart or bench to arrange a collection of plants, a great safe-saving idea for decorating an apartment with plants.
  • Clean and simple: If you like to keep your apartment modern or minimalist, choose a variety of eclectic white pots or geometric-shaped pots to scatter around your home.
  • Leave ‘em hanging: Sometimes, you can’t beat the tried-and-true macramé hanger to display your draping plant.
Bring the desert indoors We’re in Arizona, so why not bring some of our best native plants indoors? Cactus plants are especially suited for those of use who want low-maintenance houseplants.Cacti appreciate our dry air and infrequent watering. Some do just fine on three hours of light a day or with the help of a plant light. Here are some cactus suggestions:
  • African milk tree, Euphorbia trigona, also known as the cathedral plant. It’s a great cactus for an apartment home becauses it probably won’t grow more than four feet. It’s a commitment, though; it can live for decades.
  • Bishop’s cap cactus, Astrophytum ornatum, looks striking with a decorative gravel mulch in a substantial ceramic pot. It likes lots of sun, but infrequent watering.
  • Rat tail cactus, Aporocactus flagelliformis, is best suited hanging in front of a sunny window. Native to Mexico, it’s easy to grow, has magenta blooms and thick stems that can trail down three feet or so.
If your heart is set on a more traditional kind of houseplant and you’re not sure you have a green thumb, here are some plants that are easy to care for:
  • Aloe, which doesn’t need a lot of watering, but likes a warm space with plenty of light
  • Lavender, a beautiful, hardy plant that likes lots of sun and little watering
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue/snake plant, stylish and robust, it thrives in low light and dry air
  • Heart leaf Philodendron, which thrives in any space, though low or indirect bright light is best
  • Pothos, which comes in a variety of colors and thrives in low light, perfect for darker rooms.
You’ll need to consider whether you have a pet that can tolerate plants (or will maul them), which is a whole other blog.  If all else fails, get a fake plant!

Pets can make apartment life—and our lives—better

Pets are people, too. Well, millions of Americans tend to think of our pets as people. We talk to them as if they are human. What’s certain is that pets are important to us. According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 67% of U.S. households, which equals about 85 million families, live with a pet. That’s a 56% increase from the first survey taken in 1988. Not only that, but we love our pets so much, we spent more than $75 million on them in 2019, according to another study. The association’s survey broke the number of households into different kinds of pets. No surprise, dogs (63.4 million homes) and cats (42.7 million) were the most popular. Other pets included freshwater fish (11.5 million), birds (5.7 million) other small animals (5.4 million), reptiles (4.5 million), saltwater fish (1.6 million) and horses (1.6 million). Assistive Animals lend a paw Let’s not forget that millions of Americans rely on assistive animals. The California State Guide Dog Board estimates that there are 10,000 guide dogs in the country. Millions of people also have emotional support animals. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, emotional support animals “provide comfort just by being with a person,” which is different from service animals that are trained to perform a specific job or task and are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Why are Assistive Animals important? They give us companionship, reduce our stress levels and sense of loneliness, help us increase our social activities and also can lift a child’s self-esteem and positive emotional development.  Dogs are especially helpful because of their keen sense of smell and because they can be easily trained. In addition to being family pets, they can protect property, serve as rescue animals and alert others when their human is in medical distress.  Health benefits of pets Any pet, though, can have a positive impact on our health, according to Dr. Dana Casciotti and Dr. Diana Zuckerman of the National Center for Health Research. One study measured changes in heart rate and blood pressure among people who had a dog or cat, compared to those who didn’t, and found lower resting heart rates and blood pressure among the animal lovers. When performing a math task, the animal lovers were also less likely to have spikes in their heart rates and blood pressure and made fewer errors when the pet was present.  The doctors reported that another study found that having a participant’s dog in the room lowered blood pressure better than a popular blood pressure medication (ACE inhibitor). Just stroking a pet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, according to another study. Senior adults who have animal companions not only can get help for certain physical activities including climbing stairs, bending, taking medicine, preparing meals, bathing and dressing, but having a pet contributes to their emotional well-being and gives them a sense of responsibility and purpose. Even unfamiliar (yet friendly, of course) animals can help ease anxiety, the doctors reported. One study found that when healthy children aged 3 to 6 visited a doctor for a routine physical, just having a dog unrelated to the child in the room lowered their blood pressure and heart rate and the child experienced less stress. Research also has shown that for children without siblings, having a pet leads to the development of greater empathy, higher self-esteem and an increased participation in social and physical activities.  Best pets for apartments What are the best pets for apartments? Even though more U.S. homes may have dogs, people have more cats! The American Pet Products Association estimates there are more than 94 million cats living in the United States, compared to nearly 90 million dogs. Cats are great pets for apartments as long as they are giving the opportunity to play and exercise. The most popular cat breeds for apartments are Maine coon, ragdoll and exotic shorthair. While many apartment communities have restrictions on dog breeds, which includes size and temperament, there are many breeds that are suitable for apartments. Many apartment complexes include dog parks for their residents. The most popular dog breeds for apartments are pug, French bulldog and poodle. You can’t pet a fish, but many people like to have fish for pets. In numbers, Americans have more fish (158 million fresh and saltwater) than dogs or cats. Watching fish swim in an aquarium has been shown to lower blood pressure and stress, studies show, as well as helping ease hyperactivity disorders in children. Alzheimer’s patients with access to aquariums had improved appetites, needed less medication and had fewer violent outbursts. Popular freshwater fish for apartments include neon tetra, goldfish and angelfish. Popular saltwater fish for apartments include clownfish (thanks to “Finding Nemo”), Klein’s butterfly fish and hawkfish.  Of course, there are many other pets, from rodents to rabbits, ferrets to furry spiders. And then, there are those of us who want the lowest-maintenance apartment pet: A pet rock. You can leave them for really long periods of time, you don’t have to feed them, they don’t annoy the neighbors, you don’t have to take them to the vet and, best of all, you don’t have to pay a pet deposit or fee!

Take Advantage of your apartment balcony or patio

Many of our apartment homes feature patios and balconies. If you’ve never had one before, now’s your chance to extend your living space beyond the patio doors. If you think about it as a bonus living space, chances are you’ll come up with ideas that will make you want to spend as much time as you want to outside your apartment. There are a few rules to follow, since we’re talking about a limited space and you’ll want to maximize each inch.  First, remember that less is generally more. You don’t have to fill each inch with stuff. Start by selecting one eye-catching piece, whether it’s seating or thoughtful accent pillows. This is where yard sales and thrift stores can come in handy, to seek affordable yet quirky furniture pieces or decorations that will set your patio or balcony apart from your neighbors’. Second, depending on the size, all you need to create a comfy space is a comfortable chair or two, a few plush pillows and a small table.  Third, keep an eye to detail. Want to give your balcony or patio the touch of a luxury resort? Drape a crisp, white towel on a chaise longue and coordinate flower boxes to either add a pop of color or carry over the luxury theme with white blooms. Fourth, if you’re lucky enough to have a great view from your patio or balcony, be sure not to block it! Consider the view from inside your apartment home, drawing inspiration from your inside decor to draw the eye to the fabulous scenery.  Fifth, have fun! Infuse your patio or balcony with your distinctive personality. Keep in mind you need to consider weather-resistant (and, especially in Arizona, sun-resistant) materials and you don’t want to have everything swept away in a summer rainstorm. Just be sure to check with apartment management for what you can and can’t do. Here are some other ideas for decorating balconies and patios:
  • In the fold: There are many folding chairs and tables that you can get to add style and function to your patio or balcony. When they’re not in use, of course, you can easily store them to free up space.
  • Green thumb: Do you like to garden? Create your own garden, whether it’s flowers, cactus, herbs or small shrubs. 
  • Budget shopping: Maybe you don’t have the cash to buy the outdoor furniture you want, so for now, get some comfortable and colorful floor pillows to relax on.
  • Floor your guests: Consider buying an outdoor rug in a complimentary pattern or color.
  • Don’t forget walls: You may be able to hang weather-proofed artwork to class up your balcony or patio and make it feel like it really is an extension of your apartment.
  • Be enlightened: Use string lights or outdoor lanterns to set the mood at night.
  • Private or public: You may be the kind of person who wants to sit on your balcony or patio and chat with your neighbors. But if you’re looking for more of a private sanctuary where you want to shut out the world, there are many options, from using tall potted plants to privacy curtains, that you can use to create a more exclusive space.