Many Canadians living in urban centres like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal call their spaces in multi-unit low, mid, and high-rise dwellings "home". My spouse and I have lived in our “petite” two-bedroom apartment in Toronto’s West end for four years. Self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic spurned me to re-evaluate whether I have truly made our modest space a personal reflection of my self. The quick answer is "sort of"? I’ve always furnished and decorated my space to be cozy and aesthetically pleasing but after weeks spent indoors during the COVID-19 lockdown (which started on March 13th, 2020 here in Canada), I realized that I had not fully optimized to promote productivity, nor a healthy lifestyle in our dwelling.
My journey to address these gaps began by bingeing on the brilliant content of some talented millennial Toronto home decor YouTubers. These digital creators Alexandra Gater, DIY Danie, and The Sorry Girls (see below for some sample bonus videos) specialize in renter-friendly tips and tricks to improve your home on a budget. I'm in awe of all of their "hacks" and thrifty online shopping as well as the simple concept of reimagining an already owned household item. I set out to do my own mini-makeover that would make them proud!
In a nutshell, simple changes = Big Impact!
Here are some very simple changes I made to my apartment...and lifestyle...to make my small urban space more liveable. Hopefully, these ideas will also inspire some changes in your home life!
1. I Updated My Home Office
Like many Canadians in 2020, I pivoted to working from home. I quickly realized that my home office wasn’t setting me up for success. I found myself becoming distracted by my busy and colourful corkboard. I swapped it for a modern minimalist wire bulletin board that displayed my memos, art, and photos without the visual chaos. Burning a candle at my desk has added a lovely dose of Hygge to my workspace. My next game-changer was adding a second monitor and a laptop stand to my desk. This made my computer use more ergonomic and video chat friendly. My monitor was a repurposed item that my spouse had stashed away collecting dust! I’m proud to say that my office update was done without even leaving the house.
2. I Decanted Products Into Amber Glass Bottles
My lotions, hand sanitizer, and even my dish soap are stylishly and uniformly displayed throughout my apartment! With limited storage space, making these everyday products more visually pleasing upped my home’s sophistication factor. I used a label maker to mark each container. I subsequently went on a bit of a spree labeling other items in the apartment, giving me more points for functionality. These bottles are available at many Canadian retailers. I purchased mine online at National Nutrition.ca.
Thanks to Alexandra Gater for the idea.
3. I Surrounded Myself With Inspirational Messages
Below is a favourite quote of mine that has a special meaning in 2020. The uncertainty that we are all facing in 2020 doesn’t have to be scary. I decided to display this message on my felt board prominently in our main living area, near the front entrance to inspire positive thinking.
4. I Created A Zone For Fitness
Exercise is crucial to managing my physical and mental health. Finding a sleek, low-profile stationary bike was a big win for our household. I set the bike up next to my free weights and am thrilled to have a cardio and strength training area only a couple of metres from anywhere in the apartment. I've learned that with enough research, you can find the right pieces of fitness equipment that are quiet and suitable for condos or apartments. It’s been empowering to workout at any time of day without having to leave my home, and I now have no excuse for not hitting the gym during our brutal Canadian winter months
5. I Added Plants & Dried Florals
This added more colour and life to my small space. Did you know that houseplants clean the air? I’m embarrassed to say that until recently I did not. Also, certain plants are super propagators. We have a Pilea plant that has sprouted many miniature offspring that we were able to re-pot for ourselves or to drop off at the doors of friends and family as gifts. My favourite local Toronto shop called is Willem & Jools. There is a surprising amount of online plant retailers who deliver across Canada. One popular online store is Plant Collective.
6. I Embraced “Hipsteading” Unwittingly!
Hipsteading is a simple, self-sufficient way of life that seeks fulfillment from domestic activities. Common Hipsteading practices are DIY home or art projects, from cooking and baking from scratch, or repurposing already owned items. There has been a lot of discussion about this movement, including this post by Steven Fudge at Urbaneer.com. I hadn’t heard of the term until recently, but it certainly describes how I’ve been living in my space for the better part of 2020.
For example, I’ve started knitting again, my spouse is on a sour-dough baking kick, and our pots of fresh herbs are plentiful. I usually scoff at most trends my generation (I'm an older millennial) adopts, but I’ll admit that hipsteading has improved my life. I never thought I’d get satisfaction from passing along a dough starter to a friend, but here we are.
Living in a small space can be challenging for anyone, but it was being stuck inside for unprecedented reasons which ignited my urgent need to improve my surroundings. With a little foresight, re-imagining, inspiration, and simple solutions I now feel safe, secure, and comfortable in my bijou urban home. With my refreshed pad and a new approach to domesticity, I've regained a sense of calm and contentment despite the pandemic that we are all still navigating.
For more great home decor and DIY tips and tricks, visit the sites of these YouTube creators mentioned in this post:
If you want to learn more about improving your Canadian homes during Covid-19, read these other stories right here at Houseporn.ca:
All photos courtesy of the author.
BRYNN BYRNE is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster with a passion for BIG cities and tiny homes.