The white box rental

Decorating the White Box Rental: Part 1

(Editor’s Note: Courtney McLeod, Owner and Design Director of Right Meets Left Design LLC, provides interior decorating and staging services to residential clients. Courtney has completed projects in Cobble Hill, Chelsea, Upper East Side, Harlem, Madison Square Park and Midtown West. Today, she begins a series detailing the process of one of her projects.)

Decorating the White Box Rental: Part 1

by Courtney McLeod, Right Meets Left Design

Part 1:  Design Plan

The following is the first in a series about the process of designing a studio rental for a recent client.  The goal of the series is to give the reader a view into the process and tips for your own space.

My client for this project was a 30-something, single professional.  She is smart and driven, with a humorous and bold personality.  She isn’t afraid of color and wanted to see something dramatic in the space.  She loves pattern, clean lines, and vintage furniture.  She wanted her space to be a fun, eclectic, vintage-y mix.  She asked that we incorporate a few existing pieces, including a very large brown velvet headboard, a gray rug, a low media console, and vintage dining chairs.  She was interested in finding a new sofa, dresser, dining table, lighting, shelving, and accessories.

As I began to develop the design plan, my main concern was how to prevent the dramatic headboard from overtaking the one-room space.  I also wanted to clearly delineate a dining area, living area, and bedroom.  My client’s budget was very tight, so I knew we would need to pick where to save and where to spend.


The apartment itself was your typical NYC studio rental: long and rectangular with windows at one end.  Luckily, the closets and bathroom were separated from the main space by a small hallway, and the kitchen was also separate from the main space.

 furniture plan

Furniture Plan

No matter the size, I always start a project with a furniture plan.  Making sure the flow through a space is comfortable and logical, but not necessarily expected, is the key.  There was one primary constraint here: the apartment next door to the north has a balcony with a side view into my client’s apartment.  For privacy, my client requested the bed be oriented on the north wall so it could not be viewed by someone on the neighbor’s balcony.  This meant the bed would be located on the shorter of the two main living area walls.

This decision really drove the layout as it prevented us from lining up the bed and sofa on the same wall.  By putting the bed and sofa on opposite walls, it created a natural delineation between the spaces and really worked well.

Developing The Budget

I love creating a project budget.  Crazy, huh?  While for some it is a tedious and uninspiring prospect, I view the budget as the foundation and structure of the project.  Spending a bit of time early on allocating dollars to different areas will make choices down the line much easier.  My first step is to lay out the items I plan to purchase by room and add an estimate of how much I would like to allocate to each item.  This is meant to be a ballpark, but educated guess.  This is an obvious step, but a critical one so I recommend taking time to really try to include everything on this list, big and small.  If I have any specific items in mind for the space, I add them to this draft as well.  One can quickly see if the original budget is realistic to accomplish everything on the list.  If there is a big disconnect, this is the time to reconsider priorities and whether increasing the budget or eliminating some items makes the most sense.

My client quickly realized her original budget would not be enough to purchase the amount and quality of furniture she wanted, while allowing enough room to accessorize and complete the space.  She decided to increase her budget to accommodate her wish list.  We discussed priorities and decided to focus our dollars on the sofa and dining table, while considering less expensive big box, vintage or DIY pieces for the coffee table, shelves, lighting and dresser.  It is worth noting while increasing the budget is helpful to the process, I always keep in mind it may be a stretch for my client and do my best to find savings where I can to stay as close to the original budget as possible.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week: “Color – How Bold Can You Go?”