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Decorating an Apartment with Downtown Spirit and Style

Living downtown might sound like a dream to some. City lights, coffee shops, boutiques, food trucks, and skyscrapers; images of “urban” materialize in your mind when conversation turns to “downtown lifestyle.” It could even be the idea of walking to your workplace instead of being stuck in traffic that sways you to move into the heart of the city.

However, when you’ve finally made the dream come true and you are living right in the center, there appears another question: How will you decorate your new apartment? How can you make this space a reflection of who you are and who you want to be? For your guests, how can your apartment be comfortable, modern and inviting? The challenge is to create a space you look forward to coming home to at the end of a day, and to like it enough that you feel free to invite in friends, family and neighbors. 


Living in a small apartment doesn’t mean your space has to be boring. If you are living in downtown Winnipeg’s Exchange District, you are already surrounded by some of the most historic and beautiful architecture in Western Canada. Looking out of your window every morning is your first source of inspiration for your downtown apartment décor!  


Let me give you a few more sources of inspiration. Here are seven easy tips to decorate your apartment with style.

1. Decide what you want to say through the interior design of your apartment.

Our houses show the world who we are just as our clothing does. It is said, “Dress to impress. Dress for success.” I would also say, “Dress up your house so people can know who you are and what you’re about.” I love looking at the small details of someone’s home. Books on shelves, pictures on walls, and decor from foreign countries can tell a lot about the dweller. How do you want people to feel or what do you want them to know about you when they walk into your apartment? “He must be a musician, I see sheet music all around and a guitar right there in the corner”; or “I love those strict and simple lines of his furniture. He must be a pragmatic and realistic person.” When I lived in a small studio in downtown Winnipeg, I placed an open easel right beside the window along with oil colors and canvases. I didn’t have to say a single word to my guests about who I am or what I value. They could see a creative woman living in that studio just because an easel was a part of the interior.


2. Minimalism, modern, boho…step number two is to decide on the style. 

There are many sources of inspiration for new style ideas. However, before you start browsing the internet and designer magazines, make a list of what you like. Try to list colors, shades, lines and textures. Your perfect home—what does it look like? Does it have darker or lighter furniture? Would you prefer surrounding yourself with books, pillows and candles, or do you feel more relaxed in an empty and open space?  


When your list seems complete, it’s time to start browsing. You need to describe the desired style in one word. Why? Let me give you an example based on minimalistic style. You decided that Scandinavian minimalism makes your heart beat faster. When your eyes rest on perfect wooden details, grey couches, potted plants in nooks and on sills, you are in love. This Scandinavian minimalism will become your base. White, grey and cold dusty blue will be the palette for this minimalistic style. Interior design has the same building techniques as clothing capsule; you will build, add, and create from your base. When you have a strong base, incorporating items and accessories from a different style won’t ruin your look; the spirit of your space will remain the same.


3. Mix them all up!

In step two, you’ve done the hard work of finding one style to act as a strong base. Step three is more fun! If you want to add more life, more chic, and a professional-looking vibe to your place – mix styles. You might have a very simple grey couch in minimalistic style, but the coffee table, rugs, and wall prints are funky in a creative or modern style. Mix modern and classic, urban and traditional; many interior designers use this method. It helps breathe a sense of life into a space.

4. Add textures.

Even the most minimalistic person with the most minimalistic interior design would love to cuddle up under a warm throw on a cold winter evening. Texture adds comfort. Look for textured pillows, curtains, blankets and rugs. Textured curtains with a print mounted close to the ceiling can be a great way to add some visual height to apartment walls.  


5. Don’t forgetmemorable pieces or vintage details 

What I love most about Winnipeg is the antique stores and flea markets. Among other interesting items, I have found 1920’s picture frames, extravagant lamps, and even an umbrella holder. Antique stores and flea markets are full of hidden gems that have the power to make your place look special. We’ve all been in a house or apartment that presents the finest furniture, yet it feels plastic and fake. There is no spirit of home. These houses do not reflect the owner’s vision; on the contrary, those expensive, perfect pieces of furniture only bring with them an impersonal feeling of coldness.  


If you, on the other hand, are the owner of a basic, simple couch, what is the trick to making your place look and feel interesting and inviting? Try displaying vintage photo frames with pictures of your happy self or your cat (or better yet–you with your cat!), or the people most important in your life. If vintage details are not your thing, do the opposite. Allow yourself to splurge on just one unique and funky looking piece of furniture, a piece which will express your style and personality. It might be a sofa chair with curved legs, or a set of bar chairs offering an unusual shape, shade or aesthetic detail. Don’t shy away from bringing interesting pieces into your life. Have fun creatively incorporating into your décor items that are particularly meaningful to you; pieces with history or which have a story to tell. 

6. Add color accents.  

Living in Winnipeg with its long, cold winters has its effect on our visual appetite. We crave bright colors time after time. The best way to bring more color into your daily life is through intentionally incorporating richly-colored accents and prints into your interior design.  

I love colorful pillows in my living room. When the seasons change, I change my pillows from mustard yellow to crisp, bright blue. Colors make a room look different. (Though I would recommend keeping your walls white or light grey to make the room appear more spacious.) Adding colorful pillows here and there can make any gloomy and snowy day seem better. 

7. Maximize space.

Living in a smaller space can be challenging in the way of finding storage solutions for your stuff and protecting your place from feeling or becoming overcrowded. Bring more air into any room by minimizing the clutter. Clutter could include things like overloaded piles of papers, too many countertop appliances in the kitchen, or even chairs around a table that are too close to each other. To instantly make your apartment feel more spacious, rearrange furniture pieces so they have at least two steps between them. You’ll be amazed at what this simple trick can do. 


If I could leave only one parting tip, it would be this: Don’t be scared to be bold and brave. Life is too short to decorate your home with boring furniture. To prove it, I just purchased a yellow couch. That’s right, a yellow one! And I’m not turning back.