As I was getting ready to launch my feng shui consulting business, I was gifted with an exciting challenge: furnish a downtown condo in one month for $10K.
The condo and environs: Small (<1000 sf) 2 bed/2 bath loft (meaning open floor plan) in a 10 year old building in the center of bustling DTLA, steps from Staple Center and the busiest subway station in LA (yes, LA does have a subway!), surrounded by cafes, restaurants, hotels, and stores.
The challenge: Although the neighborhood is thriving, there is increasing competition in the rental market, with hundreds of new units in fancier buildings becoming available every month. This unit has been on the market for 2 months, with offers, but no closing. This unit has to do more to stand out. Hulum Feng Shui to the rescue!
Solution: Furnish the unit and make it irresistible yet affordable for corporate and medium-term (> 30 days) tenants. Because the clients have already lost considerable income while the unit sat empty, money and time are tight!
Before week 1 of challenge: After 6 years of tenancy, the unit needs a facelift. The main ceiling lighting fixture is replaced with a cool chandelier (Sputnik, ready for orbit?), the bamboo floors repaired, and the walls repainted with a fresh coat of paint.
Feng shui is all about good flow and good spacing. It’s actually a nice change to start with a blank slate instead of wading through a lot of stuff. I begin by sketching a floor plan that shows the orientation of the unit and its parts with my handy interior design app. Then we plan what the function of each section would be. Since there’s no enclosed 2nd bedroom, we decide to curtain off one part of the great room. The soft room divider provides the option of opening it up or closing it when an extra guest needs a private space for sleeping. Rugs also help to define each functional area: sleeping, conversing, TV-watching. By creating the floor plan and “furnishing” it with model pieces, I’m able to get a concrete sense of the size and shape of the furniture I need to purchase. Makes the shopping much more efficient. And I can practically see the flow in this floor plan!
I shop for new and gently used furniture in local stores that are known for great bargains. (In general, I avoid the big name stores like Crate & Barrel and West Elm—customers pay a premium for those glossy staged ensembles in their catalogues). I always ask if they can give me a better price, and they usually do, from 15 to 50% discount. To furnish a whole apartment on a limited budget, every dollar counts.
Curtains, curtains, and curtains! Nothing says cheap like vinyl blinds. I do a combination of Ikea curtains and custom curtains to soften the space. I found a woman who fabricates curtains. Key member of my future design staff.
A lot of waiting for things to arrive. Pretty much everything I ordered online arrives on time and looks great. One key exception is the order from CB2. Every time I contact them, the delivery date gets delayed further and further. Terrible communication, no willingness to work with me, not worth the headache. I cancel my order with them and find all of the items (just as nice, but cheaper and no delivery cost) elsewhere.
Finishing up. Putting up art. Shopping for all the items that make this a home: kitchen and bathroom supplies, towels, sheets, etc. Adding natural elements like plants. Waiting for last items to arrive.
Also important for good feng shui: I had the locksmith fix our door, which was sticking. The $65 fee was well worth it, since the entry way is crucial as an entry point for positive chi, which brings prosperity into a home.
Finished the space, under budget and just slightly over the time limit (mostly because of CB2’s tardiness). The day the unit was advertised, the clients received three inquiries from interested renters. Success!
- Always start with a floor plan and a clear idea of what you need. Look online first to get a sense of pricing for items.
- Keep a spreadsheet with all of the expenses, and tally up the total on a regular basis. This will allow you to feel you’re in control of the budget and help you make informed decisions about purchases.
- Mix new and used items for affordability. Hard furniture, in particular (i.e., tables, lamps, desks), stay attractive even with time and use.
- Always keep the tags on until you’ve used the item once. There will be many returns and exchanges when you’re furnishing an entire home.
- Get your inspiration from the fixed elements of the home. This apartment was largely informed by the colors of the concrete wall, bamboo floor, and brown countertops and by the limited amount of natural light. Neutrals with metallic accents and lots of lighting helped to warm up the space.
- Don’t get frustrated by the little setbacks (of which there will be many!). Take it one step at a time and the frustrations will be a distant memory once you’re living in your beautiful home or renting it out to a happy guest.