When dealing with small spaces, a strategic layout is key — but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice form for function. That was immediately clear to Shaolin Low, of Studio Shaolin, upon walking into the Honolulu condo that she was tasked with redecorating.
The 798-square-foot space was full of ill-fitting furniture pieces and had an overall dark feel — quite the contrast to the sunny lifestyle that visitors come to expect from the Aloha State. “There was no vibe or cozy, comfortable feeling, and it felt like a bunch of random things put into a unit without being styled,” Low says.
Overall, she wanted to transform the two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo into a comfortable space with modern style that would appeal to a wide variety of vacationers, as it was a rental. “Since it was going to be an Airbnb, we wanted to be sure it would pop in photos and also be really comfortable for people during their stay,” she says.
First impressions are crucial, so it was obvious that the living room, which you immediately step into when entering the unit, needed a major makeover. But it wasn’t an easy fix, considering that the room had an odd shape “with tons of angles and not a lot of wall space,” Low says.
That left her with limited options. Still, it was clear that the sofa — a wood-framed futon with a palm-leaf-print cover — was in the right place for a seating area, pushed up against a long wall of windows that let in ample natural light. However, she traded it for a modern sofa bed, perfect for accommodating extra guests, in an L-shape and a marine blue hue reminiscent of the deep blue sea not too far from the condo.
Low replaced the dark wood coffee table, which was too bulky for the small space, with two modern nesting tables that can easily be moved when the sofa bed needs to be utilized. Completing the sitting area is a colorful, graphic area rug; a textural blanket; and a few throw pillows that pick up on the color palette and add further dimension.
Near the end of the sofa and adjacent to the front door, where there was previously a console table and a large piece of art, Low created a gallery wall. She included a round mirror and three framed abstract prints in subtle hues to “make the space feel open and interesting and also to give it a layered look and feel,” she says.
While the placement of the sofa was a no-brainer, the rest of the room provided more of a challenge. “The rest of the space is angled in a way that makes you have to be really aware of the pieces you’re choosing and their size relevant to the room,” she says.
A large dark-wood cabinet across from the front door and between two other doors was removed to make way for something much more functional on the small expanse of wall: a light-wood desk with a cream-colored chair for guests to get some work done. “We put floating shelves above it to create a moment for artwork and some layers and added a mirror to help make the space feel bigger and open,” Low says.
Final touches included potted plants here and there, decorative books, and whimsical ceramic pieces that, altogether, provide a chic-yet-lived-in feel — as if you were spending the night at the home of a very stylish friend.