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How to Turn Small Spaces from Drab to Fab

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Artist turned fearless designer Kate Zaremba shares her advice for how to best turn small quarters into dazzling spaces.

By Chantal Rice, Room photos by Taz Wimer and Kate Zaremba, Kate Zaremba photo by Taz Wimer 

When it comes to enhancing small spaces—whether it’s your cozy she shed, your bijou studio apartment or your itsy-bitsy dorm room—getting creative is essential. Sure, bringing in a few treasured curios can add a personal touch. But what’s a gal to do about those white walls, lackluster fabrics and antiquated furniture? Take the advice of a talented artist and designer who specializes in turning any drab space into one with pizazz, of course. Kate Zaremba, an accomplished Austin-based designer, is best known for creating imaginative, funky—and easily removable—wallpaper, as well as expressive art pieces. Zaremba admits she never really stops editing her own spaces, adding and subtracting elements; opting for furnishings with clean lines that mix metal, wood and glass; and allowing a beloved piece of art, a favorite color palette or a chic wallpaper print to lead her design decisions and enable a space to feel more cohesive. Here, Zaremba shares her expert tips for adding a little style and charm to your own small spaces.

“The spaces we inhabit, whether big or small, deserve as much time and attention as we give to what we wear or put in our hair. These are the places we live, love, gather, work, create, etc., and should be thought about. I always have some artful inspiration on the walls or tabletops. Pops of color are a must for me, along with a variety of textures to create a balanced space that is comfortable, lively and unique to my tastes.”

In This Room 

• Kate Zaremba Company Reef wallpaper

• Kate Zaremba Company Pinstripe Floral Noir wallpaper

• ceramics created by Kate Zaremba (Watch for her new ceramics collection to launch this fall.)

• Matisse print from the Museum of Modern Art Design Store in New York City

• vintage textile from GoodWood DC

Get Creative with Wallpaper 

“Wallpaper is a great way to liven up and completely transform a space. Whether you choose to put it up on a wall or line the back of a midcentury bookcase, it is always a hit with guests and the perfect backdrop to those gorgeous vases you brought home from your last trip to Sante Fe or the art print you picked up on Spring Street.”

Warm Up Your Small Space with Distinctive Textiles

“Unique textiles can really change the character of a room. From a handwoven blanket thrown over a chair to floor-length curtains, colorful or unique fabrics add both warmth and a refinement to a room.”

Gather Inspiration but Beware of Pinterlust 

“When designing for a specific space, sometimes I’ll start by pinning a mood board. Be careful, though; it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest and get sidetracked by all of the outrageously beautiful designs out there. I actually refer to this as ‘Pinterlust.’ And while it’s likely you will lose hours and hours of your life pinning at the start of a project, it is hands down the very best place to pull together ideas and inspiration.”

Repurpose with Purpose

“I am a big fan of upcycling. Taking an old love seat or set of chairs and reupholstering them with bold, modern prints is a favorite. Framing a big piece of vintage wallpaper or stretching a yard of vintage fabric like a canvas is a great way to make some large-scale artwork for a room. It’s also a really easy way to show off your individual style without buying new.”

Adorn with Bold Embellishments

“Don’t be afraid of pattern! As long as there is a cohesive color story happening in your space, then adding pattern—even more than one—is a sure-fire way to get your friends asking you to design their space too.”

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