The designer used to have an HGTV series called "Small Space, Big Style." Now she has a book aptly titled "Libby Langdon's Small Space Solutions" and a line of home-design kits for freshmen heading to the dorms -- who need to maximize their space without causing damage in the process.
With Langdon it's all about making the most of the small space we have or, more importantly, that we can afford.
"I'm the person to help with maximizing square footage," says Langdon. "My tips are perfect for this economy. People who were hoping to move but can't afford the upgrade at the moment can use my solutions for creating a gorgeous space with what you already have."
Langdon's used to tough, quick-response challenges, so I tested her by asking for five ways to change, say, a 500-square-foot studio apartment (mine) with little money or, better yet, without having to go to the store, period.
Here's her fast breakdown:
Change the layout.
So simple yet so rarely done. Langdon suggests surveying what you have already to reconfigure and rework it into what feels like a totally new space. Remember: you can always move it back!
"Avoid the 'wallflower effect' where pieces of your furniture are pushed up against different walls," says Langdon. "Pull things off the wall and create a conversation area."
A Langdon Lesson: If you pull furniture off wall, you want to create a little pathway large enough to walk behind it. With a sofa, that would mean a width of 30 to 36 inches.
Buy some paint and paint!
Try to find a design expert who doesn't suggest this. What are you waiting for? Paint that wall! It adds a ton of personality to your space. Langdon's a big fan of Sherwin Williams paints and an admitted "huge believer in the power of paint."
"Paint is the least expensive and most dramatic way to completely transform a space in one day," says Langdon. "It has the most dramatic before-and-after. But don't paint all your walls! I paint one accent wall which is usually the one with your sofa or bed, or, the fireplace wall. It recedes the wall and makes the space feel bigger. Paint it a really rich dark chocolate brown (Sherwin Williams #6006) and navy blue (Sherwin Williams #6244).
A Langdon Lesson: Paint your furniture to pull together mismatched pieces for a more cohesive design. Despite the smell, get liquid sandpaper from your hardware store and rub it on old mismatched furniture. It eats through the finish enough to accept paint, so you don't have to sand it. Langdon suggests white for a shabby chic look and a high-gloss black to reinvent drab pieces. With paint priced at $30 a gallon, if the color doesn't work out it won't break the bank to paint over it!
Illuminate your space.
Good lighting is critical for a livable space. For affordable lighting, Langdon suggests shopping at Home Goods, Target or TJ Maxx for lamps. "Any area of your place that isn't lit is square footage that essentially doesn't exist," says Langdon. "Don't just rely on sunlight. Light it with lamps.
A Langdon Lesson: The bigger the better. One big lamp vs. several small lamps makes for a more finished and less covered look.
An accessory-free home is like walking around without pants on. Artwork and accessories are a necessity. Like lighting, the larger the pieces, the more dramatic and more finished it feels. Besides big lamps, Langdon suggests going big with area rugs, mirrors, benches and ottomans. Benches are good for small spaces because they can be stacked in an entry hall and later used as seating or a coffee table. An ottoman is another must-have. Langdon prefers the ones on casters and uses them as impromptu tables and for storage.
A Langdon Lesson: A sofa and chairs accessorized with a postage-stamp-size rug looks silly. She suggests going to a carpet warehouse and asking for the remnant. Have the warehouse folks cut the carpet to size and bind the edges for a finished look.
Get rid of that clutter!
Clutter is one of the biggest interior design dilemmas. Langdon likes to pretend like she is moving when she sits down to declutter so that she is harsher with items she feels she should throw or give away.
"You have to throw stuff away and not save it for the "what if" and "when," says Langdon. "Parents and grandparents constantly hold onto furniture for their kids. No one wants that antique breakfront. Don't hold onto things for other people, because they don't need it either."
A Langdon Lesson: Set a timer for 30 minutes and choose one space you want to declutter. Start small with your medicine cabinet. Make three piles: keep, donate, and throw away. When the buzzer rings you can stop. (Once going, people rarely stop.)
If there's anything Langdon wants people to get from her advice it's the simple, lovely fact that "it's fun to live with a place that is stylish."