The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
There’s a romanticism to small-scale living. With the right combination of warm neutral tones, aptly-placed decor, and greenery (real for the ambitious, and faux for the rest of us), even the smallest of spaces can feel luxurious (on a budget!).
But it can be hard to find that budget-friendly luxury at a quality that’ll last.
When it came time to decorate my first apartment, I needed direction. I needed to watch someone else’s process of turning a house into a home; I needed an expert, and so I turned to Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines: the design mogul famous for creating bright spaces that have both modern and rustic (repurposed) elements. Hers was the design aesthetic I hoped to actualize in my little apartment in Missouri.
Admittedly, I hadn’t always been among the HGTV-obsessed. Try as I might (and I did try –– my family ascribes a certain religious significance to the channel) I just couldn’t get into it; I couldn’t justify watching an entire hour-long episode for a two-minute final reveal.
But I’m a proud to call myself an HGTV convert, my allegiance solidified by my discovery of Hearth and Hand Magnolia, Target’s exclusive home and lifestyle brand designed in partnership with Gaines, that allows Target shoppers an entry point into Joanna’s world –– that is, her modern farmhouse aesthetic.
Sourcing products from her line, I was able to create a space that feels both whimsical and very adult, but most importantly, entirely my own.
That’s the beauty of Hearth and Hand: you can personalize any space with the relatively inexpensive (but expensive-looking) pieces the line offers — starting with the ones below, which you can pick up on your next spontaneous Target run!
Functional decor brings a room together
On her show, Gaines is able to manipulate the structural integrity of a space, knocking out a wall here or adding additional storage space there. In dorm-style or apartment living, one doesn’t have that luxury. You have to take what you’re given and attempt to elevate it without being too obtrusive (or else you risk losing your security deposit!).
“When it comes to cozy and intimate [small] spaces, many focus on comfort,” says Rochester-based designer and owner of Warehouse127 Home, Kelli Berg. “Comfort does not mean messy or unkempt. It is about incorporating your aesthetic in a way that allows you to have the brain space to relax and decompress. If [the space is] messy, then you become distracted.”
Luckily, Hearth and Hand has a number of functional and aesthetic pieces to add to your collection.
Nothing shrinks a space like clutter — whether it be charging cables, rogue pieces of clothing or your abounding bullet journal supplies. When square footage is limited to begin with, cute storage containers such as this one can help declutter your space, and in effect, create the illusion of more room. It’s a win-win!
Vanity Storage Tray ($10)
Declutter your table tops with storage trays! Perhaps you put this on your bed-side table and drop your jewelry on it at the end of the day; or maybe you arrange a candle, a bundle of sage, and a bottle of essential oils for a little “meditation station.”
Whatever the purpose might be, ascribing a “home” to your table-top items will stave off the state of disarray that bed-side tables and the like tend to slip into.
This canister can be used for storage purposes — epsom salts for the bathroom, brown rice for the kitchen — or simply for its aesthetic merit. Luckily, this one comes in three different sizes, so at least one (or all three) will fit whatever you want to fill it with.
Place one on a bookshelf for a variance in height and visual intrigue, or, arrange it in a group of three. Berg describes three as a magic number for designers, preferably with objects of differing heights and weights. For example, try pairing this canister with a shorter candle and another, taller element of your choosing.
At around $10, this canister won’t break the bank, and if it doesn’t work in one space, you can certainly find room for it in another!
Recycled Glass Decor Cylinder Vase ($15–$20)
For those of us who weren’t blessed with a green thumb, a vase like this one (made of recycled glass) is the perfect vesicle for dried flowers or eucalyptus. If you’re so inclined, you can purchase faux eucalyptus from the Hearth and Hand collection, too. Otherwise, you can buy a bundle of fresh eucalyptus (I get mine at Trader Joes!) and dry it yourself.
Greenery of any kind adds a natural quality to the room, eucalyptus in particular. Not only does the real stuff smell like a spa vacation, but it looks luxurious (especially when put in this jar).
It’s all about the ambiance
It’s best to not force something unnatural on a space. If your apartment is small, honor it! Adorn it to your liking, but be wary that you cannot alter its structural integrity. You are bound by what you’re given, but you’re also freed by it — within that space you can let inspiration take you where it may.
Berg stresses the importance of paying homage to the uniqueness of a space. “I tend to seek out the special nooks, the odd corner or alcove near the window that’s not necessarily used within the layout,” she says. She describes this unconventional spot as a prime location for an upholstered chair or floor pillows –– anything that makes the space unique and purposeful.
Envision how you might use the space. Is it a reading nook? A place for you to unwind with a cup of tea and your collection of vinyl? Whatever the vibe is, consider the smaller elements that will contribute to its allure.
Candles (ceiling height and lease stipulations permitting) can ramp up the coziness factor of a space. When lit, they offer a bit of warmth and a soothing glow. When unlit, scented candles are still subtly fragrant and visually appealing — especially those from Hearth and Hand.
This two-wick candle in the cedar magnolia scent (my personal favorite!) is perfect for any room. Not only does the neutral cement container compliment most aesthetics –– this candle does double-duty when it comes to setting a mood (get it? because it has two wicks?).
6.5oz Glass Candle ($8)
On the other hand, if the cedar magnolia scent is exactly what you’re after, but the ceramic container doesn’t fit your aesthetic, try this one instead. It’s the same candle in a smaller size with a different base — amber glass — and a more detailed, scripted label.
A pillow goes a long way
Pillows are the often overlooked home essential that instantly make a space more inviting.
When picking out fabrics, Berg starts with neutral bases, solid fabrics of cotton or linen, that are pleasing to the eye and add an organic feel. “If you want to add a pop of color or pattern, make sure it’s in the same hue of the room, Berg says.”
Designer Tip: “Squint your eyes and examine the space. Hues are meant to blend. If something stands out or feels unbalanced, it’s not the correct hue!”
This pillow needs no introduction. You can put it on the couch, a chair, or your bed. And the best part is, it can be wiped or spot-treated for easy cleaning! Plus it comes in multiple different colorways to fit whatever the hues of your space are.
It takes a great deal of work for a house, apartment or dorm to become a home. That being said, decorating does not have to be an incredibly expensive endeavor. A few staple pieces go a long way in tying together disparate elements. A chair from Facebook Marketplace and a lamp that has been sitting in your grandmother’s basement for God knows how long can be made to feel more cohesive with a few carefully selected decor items.
As Berg reminds us, you should be intentional in your design choices, pulling items that you love. “No matter if your area is large or small, styling it with pieces that you love will always result in a space that is cozy and comforting.”