Before and After: This Student Apartment Was Transformed In Only One Week

Reader Caroline Savard shared the transformation of her Quebec rental—which only took one week! This apartment went from intensely colorful and crowded to calm and cozy, yet still absolutely packed with personality and style.

(Image credit: Caroline Savard)

Now the kitchen is so lovely and calm. You might laugh, but I had to look back and forth a few times to confirm that the only major change made was the painting of the cabinets and walls. And, of course, the clutter was cleared, which is incredibly powerful. The table is the right size for the space, and the matched-yet-mismatched chairs are charming. Caroline’s enthusiasm about the remodel is quite infectious:

My friend and I lived in this apartment together for a year and a half, and then she left and my boyfriend moved in with me. I love that this apartment looks so much like me and is so original. It certainly has an interesting look, but with many winks to my passions and sense of humor. I love the creativity we used to finally get to have a beautiful, but cheap apartment. As the time passes by, I still continue to improve this place and add some cute modifications. But because everything in this apartment has its place, it’s very hard to add something without overloading the place. There is not a lot of storage place, and it’s getting difficult to only keep the essentials and not accumulate useless stuff.

(Image credit: Caroline Savard)

In the living area, there seems to be a lot of furniture in a cramped space. I mean, you have to do what you have to do to make sure there’s enough seating and storage, but it does look a bit crowded. (That floor looks amazing, though!)

When I decided to move into this apartment, I was going to live there with a friend whom I met in my interior design classes. We decided together to make big changes and put in a lot of work to transform the place into our perfect apartment. Because the flat needed so much care and work to be transformed into a trendy bohemian place to live, the rent was very cheap for such a well-located place. Every room had a very strong color, with no consistency and too much furniture and objects everywhere. Also, the place was not very easy to develop and the vocation of the rooms were not clear. We wanted to make sure that each room will finally find its purpose and its look.

(Image credit: Caroline Savard)

This is so cozy! This living room makes me think that its residents probably have an amazing collection of mugs and lots of fun types of tea. It’s a room to curl up in, whether to chat, watch a movie, or just gaze out that amazing window. The subtle green paint is much more serene than the bright goldenrod that was there before, while the black furniture adds a bit of an edge. I’m sure the landlord appreciates that the beautiful wood floor is protected by that luxurious rug, yet it can still be admired around the edges. Here’s how the space came together:

We moved in with the intention to transform the entire apartment on the first week. Before moving, me and my friend decided to make a plan of the various changes we needed to do. We drew a plan and placed all our furniture. We found cheap solutions to replace furniture we needed, but couldn’t buy (the TV stand, for example, is made of reused bricks and pinboards). We also chose colors before moving.

(Image credit: Caroline Savard)

Caroline was right: every room did have a very strong color, like this green wall. As in every workspace I’ve ever had, the desk and chair don’t really go together, and while the chair matches the Waldo art. Here’s a bit more about the remodeling process:

We took a full week to transform the place (painting and cleaning). After this big job, we took a few weeks to complete the “first draft” of the apartment. In the following year, we added stuff to complete the decor and fill in few needs we still had. We found old furniture we transformed to complete the eclectic decor, like the two school lockers we use as pharmacy and storage. The complete project was very cheap. We bought few paint gallons, some IKEA accessories, and a lot of reused furniture. A lot of furniture was handmade by ourselves or friends, like the living room table, the side table, the TV stand, the headboard…

The notion of “first draft” is a valuable one. I like the idea of having a plan and specific goals to accomplish by a set date, knowing that other aspects will be taken care of in the future.

(Image credit: Caroline Savard)

They really made the most of this slightly odd, transitional spot in the home by turning it into an office. The black-and-wood shelves and desk link the spot to the living room, as does the cheerful green filing cabinet. The work area is nicely stripped down, while that wire bulletin board is a playful way for multiple people to add bits of beauty that are important to them.

Caroline leaves us with some excellent apartment-hunting and -transforming advice:

Keep in mind your budget and respect it. It’s very easy to transform a place with a small budget if you are creative and willing to “get your hands dirty.” Also, choose carefully the place you want to move in and find the places where you can already see some potential. Don’t hesitate to create unexpected matches with the colors and furniture so your place really feels like your home and not a de-personalized place. Finally, dirty or ugly decorated places tend to be cheaper, and sometimes it’s not such a big deal to transform the place. Maybe this could help you finally have the big flat you wanted but couldn’t afford!

Thank you, Caroline!

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