Transforming an empty white loft apartment

Me, the color queen… and I find myself renting a stark white loft apartment in a converted turn-of-the-century warehouse in NW Portland’s Pearl District. Time for another makeover – my first in a home I do not own.

Most tenants and owners of these loft apartments keep the industrial white & industrial gray “decor” of the original building. That look is fine for other people, but too grim for me. And because I am a renter, my makeover options were limited to paint and furniture placement. (I did change a light fixture.)

Kitchen before

Kitchen before – note exposed pipes

The building is held up throughout by MASSIVE (18″ on a side) old-growth fir beams, which appear at random places in each apartment. I have a big one between my kitchen and desk space (that is, pretty much in the middle of the space), and a corner of one peeking through the wall in my bedroom area. The cast iron tops were painted black but looked too prominent, so my first step was to paint the tops to blend into the ceiling.

Old growth fir post

Old growth fir post

The bedroom is not separated from the entry hall  🙁  but a bank of freestanding Ikea “closets” separates it from the living room area. Unfortunately the backside of the closet was super ugly – melamine with pressed wood edges – totally unpaintable. You see a little of it to the right below. My desk was to go against it. The long bare wall is where my couch and bookcase were going.

Living room wall and backside of Ikea closet

Living room wall and backside of Ikea closet

First order of business was to bring some of the gray on the pipes into the rest of the space. So it went on the lower part of the kitchen wall. A little more went around the large warehouse windows. (Color in this photo looks more blue than it is in reality, and blends well with the slate countertop.)

Kitchen after – gray wall

Next job was the long white wall that went from behind my bed through to the couch wall to the windows. My bedroom looked cold, my couch looked lost, and the white did my art no favors. Dusty rose did the trick.

Dusty rose living room wall

Before I could bring in my desk setup I had to cover that Ikea closet back. Fabric was the only option. I found a pair of textured gray curtains at Target which weren’t big enough to cover the whole thing (but they matched the kitchen gray), so I bought a piece of navy fabric to cover the lower third, and repainted my ancient file cabinet navy to blend in.

Desk space on closet back

I also painted the humongous white pillar navy and now use it as a changing art gallery, since I have little space elsewhere for art.

Navy pillar art gallery

Navy pillar art gallery

My bedroom space was pretty grim in white. The dusty rose feels super cozy now.

Bedroom area before

Bedroom area before


Bedroom area After

Now if I were a guy, I would choose some color other than dusty rose… but I’m not.

The bathroom was also totally white, with an icky ochre-ish colored vinyl floor. I found a color that warmed the space and also blended with the floor.

Bathroom before

Bathroom before

Bathroom - after

Bathroom – after


I have a year lease, and hope to hell the landlord will extend it, because I am very happy here. Besides, fixing up a new place to suit my standards is a butt-load of work. At some point I will write about down-sizing yet again – this time from a 2100 sq. ft house (with garden) to 730 sq ft (plus one potted plant)….

[Not shown, my dining room area – because it’s too difficult to photograph because of a mirrored wall.]

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