How to transform your plain white box of an apartment into a cozy retreat

How to transform your plain white box of an apartment into a cozy retreat

Mimi headsht
By Mimi OConnor  |
February 28, 2019 - 4:30PM

Solutions whether you want to spend a little or a lot. 


There are advantages to moving into a brand-new, modern apartment or postwar building, like elevators, central air, and floors that haven’t taken a beating for literally decades. But newer apartments typically feature a lot of harsh angles and plain white walls that can feel a little...cold. If sleek and austere isn’t your thing but you got a great deal on an apartment lacking in hygge, you don’t have to despair.

Brick Underground investigated ways to make a plain white box of an apartment positively comfy and spoke to interior designer Sara Klar, of Brooklyn’s Sara Klar Ltd. for tips. She recommends a mix of color, light, and texture to create a comfortable environment.


“I would paint the walls and ceiling in deep complimentary shades, such as the Historical Colors in the Benjamin Moore paint line,” Klar says. The brand’s collection has 191 hues.

Floor Pillow


The use of texture can counteract sterile surroundings. Examples include warm wood, pieces with distressed finishes, and rich fabrics such as chenille and velvet. Klar suggest bringing in large-scale pattern in fabrics on the furnishings, and scattering small oriental or kilim type carpets (currently very on trend) throughout the space. If boho is not your thing, large, deep-pile rugs is another way to make things cozy underfoot.

Another way to inject some dramatic texture and pattern? Consider wallpaper, which is having (another) moment.

And don't forget floor pillows, also all the rage, available in various shapes, sizes, fabrics and price points. 


One of the most important factors in any space, light can have a huge impact on how cozy your apartment feels. Klar recommends making sure any LED bulbs in the apartment are 2700K. “[It’s] a a color that makes a space feel warm and inviting,” she says, adding, “I would change all installed light fixtures to dimmers and add additional floor and table lamps to cast glows in specific areas.”

Macrame Planter


Another easy way to soften the edges of any space is plants. Double a plant's cozy quotient by giving it a home in a trendy macrame hanger, or let a trailing plant spill over a bookcase shelf or floating ledge. Black thumb or low light? Faux plants (and trees) can help with that. 

Architectural and cosmetic tweaks

The extent to which you’d want to make these types of changes likely depends on if you rent or own. If it’s your own place, adding architectural details like molding or millwork might be a consideration. (Klar recommends them for ceilings nine feet or higher, and suggests echoing the woodwork of the apartment’s kitchen cabinetry for a cohesive look.)

“The molding would function as a picture rail to hang paintings with color that would like the walls, which, against the deep wall color, would have great impact,” she says.

In the kitchen, consider enhancing the backsplash. For owners, Klar suggests tiling on top of the existing one; for renters, she likes removable adhesive tiles that can be put on and taken off.

Mimi headsht

Mimi OConnor

Contributing Writer

Mimi O’Connor has written about New York City real estate for publications that include Brick Underground, Refinery29, and Thrillist. She is the recipient of two awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors for interior design and service journalism. Her writing on New York City, parenting, events, and culture has also appeared in Parents, Red Tricycle, BizBash, and Time Out New York.

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