Another Feel Good Flash Makeover Has Wrapped – Here’s How Lowe Transformed This Empty 2 Bedroom Apartment Into A Cozy, Kid-Friendly Oasis
Information about Another Feel Good Flash Makeover Has Wrapped – Here’s How Lowe Transformed This Empty 2 Bedroom Apartment Into A Cozy, Kid-Friendly Oasis
Hey friends! Lowe here — again! And this time, I’m popping in to say we’ve wrapped up Jem’s Feel Good Flash Makeover *cue the celebratory bells!*.
In case you weren’t here when we first started, I’m a lover of all things decor (the weird decor, the cute decor, and the cheap decor, too). And I got the amazing opportunity to share a bit of that love with a sweet family of three that was transitioning out of homelessness. Thanks to the collab between two women-led teams I’ve admired for ages (Pen + Napkin and Emily Henderson Design), I met Jem* and her two young sons. They secured an apartment after going through a time living in their car and then a shelter and temporary housing. But when they first moved in, they didn’t have much. There were no tables, no chairs, no mattresses, and certainly nothing to make things feel cozy.
Pen + Napkin’s mission is to turn empty houses into homes for families like Jem’s, though. So that means we HAD to make things cozy. In my original moodboards for the apartment, I layered in things like art, throw pillows, rugs, and more to get that warm look. I wanted to add color and vibrancy while ensuring each piece was kid-friendly and fun. For the living room, I focused on making the space feel open and inviting with a great spot for family dinners and games. For Mom’s room, we wanted to really hone in on the relaxation factor with calming colors and a few luxe touches. And finally, for the boys’ domain, making things feel styled but not too precious was a top priority. I wanted everything from the feature wall to the bedding to be poppy and bright. Plus, the two little ones love all things related to planes, cars, and trucks. So we needed some of that, too.
The Original Moodboards
And after sharing those plans and moodboards with you all, words of encouragement (and the most generous donations) came pouring in. I was floored to read everyone’s kind messages and suggestions. Even those who weren’t able to contribute financially shared about Jem’s story as well as Pen + Napkin’s mission (which by the way, the folks at P+N regularly do home makeovers for families transitioning out of homelessness so if you’re able, please consider donating whenever you can ^_^).
In the end, we didn’t quite reach our $3K fundraising goal, but we got so so close and SO many lovely people purchased items from our decor registries. (I’m still trying to figure out who donated what so I can say thank you personally, but I’m not savvy at all when it comes to figuring out things like that. Also maybe the names are private?).
It was amazing to watch items get crossed off of the list, from things like the canopy bed we got for Jem to the impossibly cute green bedding we found for the boys to the sweet toys we used to fill in a DIY bookshelf.
Let me tell you, though, I’ve never furnished any space in such a short time period using pieces mostly sourced from online. So I was not prepared at all to receive so many packages in the weeks leading up to the apartment install. Actually, thinking about all the boxes that I had to go through, store, and eventually, transport to Jem’s still gives me just a little bit of anxiety. But of course, that’s a great problem to have!
As for the actual installation, we did a lot of pivoting from the initial plans. But that’s something I was completely prepared for. I’ve learned that even when you have an unlimited budget, sometimes the item you have your heart set on is out of stock; sometimes things break. Overall, decorating can just be unpredictable. But usually, I find that having a bit of flexibility can create an even better, finished room.
In this case, for example, we weren’t able to get the navy blue sectional that I had my eye on. It just wasn’t available when P+N founder Catie took me to the magical world that is the Poly & Bark outlet store. But instead, we ended up finding the most gorgeous warm brown, chestnutty leather couch and ottoman that will likely last for years and years to come because the quality is just that good. I also had plans to get a small circular table for Jem and her little ones but we found one that was much more substantial also thanks to Poly & Bark. No matter how rough playtime, study time, or dinner time gets, that mid-century modern beauty will not be moving (I know because I accidentally tripped over it, and the table didn’t budge).
Another pivot was changing up the art. I had plans to do fun mini gallery walls in each room, but as I’m sure everyone knows, art ain’t cheap to put it plainly. So to make sure the walls still had some pizazz, I dug into the hoards of decor that I’ve been keeping for just such an occasion. Simple nature prints helped the living and dining space feel cohesive. A few wall hangings added some geometric intrigue to the faux entry situation. And for the boys’ room, we let the wall decals be the main focal point behind mattresses that were generously donated by Tuft & Needle. If we’d had more time I would’ve LOVED to do some art DIYs to finish off each space but alas.
One thing I realized during this process is it truly was a flash makeover. I think I’ve always taken for granted how much time you need to turn a blank canvas into a home. In my own apartment and in the projects I’ve done, I’ve always been lucky enough to work at my own pace. Deadlines were few and far between, and I could do everything mostly by myself because there’s never been a time crunch. That was 100% (not even an inch) the case this time. Not only were we all trying to furnish Jem’s home as quickly as possible because we didn’t want them living without for any longer than they had to, but we also only had TWO days to get everything built, hung, cleaned, and mounted. I was optimistic (foolishly optimistic, some might even say unrealistic) about finishing up until the very last moments. But we seriously ran out of time, and that felt pretty disappointing. If I could change anything about this process, it would be that.
However, there was also no way in heck that I would’ve been able to install everything myself. Assists came from everywhere.
My boyfriend loaded up his van multiple times to cram in copious amounts of furniture, rugs, and more. Then he made the drive from my apartment all the way to Jem’s and didn’t complain once, not even when his contact literally fell out on the freeway.
Emily’s team (hi Ryann, Jess, and Mallory!!) came out on both install days to build beds, style kitchens, and just lend their expert design eyes whenever it was needed. Jess even made a last-minute trip to Target and completely saved the day with the cutest decor finds that brought in some much-needed spice and transformed every single room.
Pen + Napkin powerhouse Synthia — who is somehow managing design school, work, and interiors — literally was a Godsend throughout it all. She came to IKEA with me, and we shopped until the store kicked us out/closed. And then on install day, Synthia kept everyone in good spirits and singlehandedly built Jem’s IKEA dresser. And dressers are verifiably the hardest thing you can build from IKEA (lol maybe not verifiably but I said what I said).
All in all, this was the biggest team effort project I think I’ve done. It was certainly the most meaningful. Jem welcomed me into her house, she told me her story, and she trusted me to transform her space. It’s a major thing to be responsible for something so precious. I remember on the first day of the install, Jem handed me the keys, and she only had the one set. So it truly felt like she was entrusting me with something major. The pressure was there, and it felt like a lot of pressure if I’m being honest. But it also felt soo special to have her trust.
It was special to have everyone’s trust actually. And I cannot thank Catie and Emily enough for giving me the chance to be part of this makeover. I can’t wait to see what the next designer comes up with!
Now the best part – the before and afters!
*Design and Photos by Lowe Saddler of Hot Sunday Home