I Completely Redecorated My 350-Square-Foot Living Space to Fit My Family of 3

Updated 02/12/19

I distinctly recall a moment in our living room earlier this year when I turned to my husband, Troy, and said, "It's high time we decorated a home we're proud to live in and truly reflects who we are." Three years prior, we moved to Los Angeles from Melbourne, and all of our focus and money went into building a life here. Now that we're working in roles and companies we love (I'm MyDomaine's editorial director, and my husband is the senior wash designer at Paige denim), and our 10-year-old son, Neon, is settled in at school, we're finally ready to create a space we can't wait to come home to.

While I loved aspects of our home before, I really felt it was time we took a grown-up approach and created a space that was warm and cozy yet elevated and cool. Our bedroom desperately needed a makeover too, but this project wasn't about speed. It was about getting it right and taking our time to find the things we love. So we opted to focus on the living and dining areas first, and I'm so glad we did. You'd be forgiven for thinking that the area's small size—350 square feet, to be exact—would make designing easier, but in fact, it just upped the intensity of the challenge.

We had relocated as a family several times before moving to L.A., and each time we just bought the bare necessities with a few vintage flea-market finds peppered in. We never really thought about designing the space from scratch. This time, I was ready to sell everything and start over.

modern apartment tour—Sacha Strebe

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted, but I also needed to consult Troy. My husband has incredible taste, and while we often agree, there were moments where we had to negotiate and compromise. Needless to say, navigating the redecorating process with a partner was a whole new experience. I'm sure many of you reading this can relate.

So to help us steer this new design ride in the right direction, we decided to enlist the help of an interior designer. I always knew I had an eye for design (and I know what I like), but you need more than good taste to create a stylish space. That much I know for sure. I've always admired Tali Roth's work. The Homepolish designer is a fellow Aussie, so I knew we'd get along, but her contemporary and clean aesthetic is what really sold me. I knew the two of us could create some interior design magic—and we did!

She also taught me so much about the process along the way. For example, I had no idea how to create a floor plan or that we even needed one, and that it would take about five months to redecorate the living and dining rooms from start to finish—here are a few things I learned. So without further ado, take the tour of our modern Los Angeles apartment with some style notes from Roth and me on how to decorate a small space.

modern los angeles home tour—Sacha Strebe

CREATE A FLOOR PLAN

Like every successful creative project, you need to start with a plan. Even though we were only designing the living and dining rooms (which is basically one open-plan room), Roth was adamant about drawing up four simple floor plans first. "Over time it has become my rule as a designer," she told me. "The floor plan has to make sense and work with the space, and it has to be decided upon before you can graduate to selecting the actual furniture pieces."

Roth stressed a floor plan is even more important with small spaces. "It can dramatically impact how the spaces flow and feel," she said. "After we workshopped four plans, we ultimately decided on a plan that was similar to Sacha's existing layout but with a more 'structured' approach, meaning we added proper coffee tables, a rug, two armchairs, and a round dining table."

Thomas Bina Georgina Coffee Table
Thomas Bina Georgina Coffee Table $795
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Holly Addi Rococo Study 2 (Price Upon Request)
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Justina Blakeney Formo Planter $188
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Sacha Strebe
modern living room—Sacha Strebe

CONSIDER LAYERS, COMFORT, AND TEXTURE

In smaller homes, Roth prioritizes comfort. "Sometimes people overlook that and it's a shame," she said. "There is nothing worse than feeling as though you can't sit down and chill. Aside from purchasing upholstered furniture that is genuinely comfortable, adding texture helps to create a feeling of warmth and comfort."

For example, the rug from Armadillo & Co. is super soft to touch (I really wanted something Neon and I could play on, and I fell in love with this Aussie design at first touch), the Borge Mogensen–inspired hunting chairs from Chairish are draped in Icelandic sheepskins from Jenni Kayne to ensure that they have an extra layer, and the Mantis BS2 wall lamp from Design Within Reach sets a warm mood that feels as good as it looks.

Bernard Schottlander Mantis BS2 Wall Lamp $900
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Martine Side Table, Matte Black
Lulu and Georgia Martine Side Table, Matte Black $380
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Armadillo & Co. Nala Handmade Rug $1490
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living room ideas—Sacha Strebe

STAY TRUE TO YOUR AESTHETIC

After years of traveling and trawling vintage flea markets around the world, my husband and I have honed in on our aesthetic and crafted a collection of interesting decorative items along the way. Roth wanted to fuse these with modern pieces to create a space that was uniquely us. "They collected these pieces over time, so it wouldn't make sense to design a stark apartment that couldn't house these gorgeous symbols of their life adventures and experiences," she said.

"They're also really creative people who care about aesthetics. They don't do crazy color and both have a timeless sense of style that is monochromatic and thoughtful. Their home needed to reflect that. I really feel that what we were able to achieve a stylish apartment that is simply a grown-up version of what they had before."

Aaron Probyn Brass Candleholder
West Elm Modern Brass Candleholders $29
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Hans Olsen Antilop Suede and Oak 1960s Safari Chair
Hans Olsen Antilop Suede and Oak 1960s Safari Chair $1395 $1100
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Jenni Kayne Arctic Sheepskin $190
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coffee table ideas—Sacha Strebe

ADD PERSONALITY WITH ART AND SENTIMENTAL PIECES

On top of the personal touches, Roth suggests filling your space with art too. "I like to call it organized chaos," she confessed. "Sacha and Troy have so many books they love, so many collected crystals from their trips to Arizona, with love scents and candles (and you know they actually use them because they are burnt right down). The record player is central to their family lives, and all of this makes their space feel so much vaster—there are so many 'nooks and crannies' to engage with."

Some of Roth's favorite pieces are those that Troy made in art school. "They fit effortlessly with the new décor because they are authentic," she added. We searched high and low for the right artwork to fill the large blank wall above the sofa. It was especially important to both of us that this artwork reflected Troy and me but also paired well with the furniture and architecture of our apartment.

So we called on the help of Uprise Art. Its team curated a selection of artists based on the modern mood board we created. Then we asked our community to help us choose. After much deliberation, we went with a striking large-scale abstract work by the Utah-based artist Holly Addi. She custom painted the most incredible piece that really made the room come alive and brought much-needed cohesion to the space. I am truly honored to have Addi's work hanging in our home.

Jenni Kayne Cedar Matte Glass Candle $55
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West Elm Marble and Copper Dip Bowl $19
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Cinnamon Projects Circa Incense Burner
Cinnamon Projects Circa Incense Burner $150
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Dining room ideas—Sacha Strebe

BALANCE OLD AND NEW

Roth believes interesting spaces are always a balance of the high end with the high street, the old with the new. The dining table by Consort Design and the Crosland and Emmons custom handmade ceramic pendant above it are both super high end and from small bespoke designers while the dining chairs (also beautiful and high quality) are from CB2 and readily available.

"The entire apartment has this mix, and the end result is a home that feels familiar and a little nostalgic, but you haven't seen any of the pieces everywhere," said Roth. "The balance of old and new is crucial along with that mix of high end and high street. Remember when decorating to try and do one-third vintage, one-third high street, and one-third custom or similar—it's the perfect mix."

It's important to consider this high-low mix when designing your coffee table. We chose a marble coffee table from Lulu & Georgia with a nesting side table of the same style and layered decorative items from our personal collection (e.g., crystals and books) with newer pieces from West Elm and Cinnamon Projects

Crosland and Emmons Drift Pendant
Crosland and Emmons Drift Pendant $2800
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Crosland and Emmons Handmade Ceramic Pendant (price upon application)

CB2 Isa Black Conference Chair $599
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Consort Home Tangle Table $5500
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small apartment design—Sacha Strebe

USE MIRRORS TO OPEN UP THE ROOM

Since the living room wall was covered in Addi's artwork (and a Banksy we already owned), we needed a different plan for the opposite wall. Roth suggested an oversize round mirror instead, which would reflect that artwork and give more dimension to the space. She was right. It wasn't until we hung it up that I realized the massive difference it makes. I am so unbelievably happy with this purchase, and it looks so chic and clean above the wooden credenza. The floor lamp adds just the right amount of light too, especially when my husband is spinning records at night.

  

Since we didn't have much space for a bookshelf, Roth advised we install some metal wall shelves and display our favorite covers like artwork. I already had my Russh magazine collection in a perspex box so we moved it into this corner, put a small task lamp on top, and hung Troy's classical guitar in between. Now it's become one of my favorite places to sit and read (or work) while listening to records. 

Metal Framed Mirror
West Elm Metal Framed Mirror $499 $349
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Thomas Bina Angelica Credenza
Thomas Bina Angelica Credenza $2295
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Gigi Lamp, Bronze
Lulu & Georgia Gigi Lamp $699
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Tali Roth quote
dining room design—Sacha Strebe

DON'T OVERFILL IT

From the moment we started working with Roth, I started sending her links and images of things I loved to get her opinion. It triggered an obsession. Thankfully, Roth was a true professional and reminded me of the floor plan and square-footage we were working with when my wish list (and budget) started to be disproportionately larger than reality. But more than that, Roth was intent on curating a space that was brimming with personality yet still felt minimal and livable. 

We thought through each piece carefully and discussed where it would go, what its purpose was, and why it needed to be in the space before making the purchase. One of the more extravagant pieces that I've had on my list for a while is the Echasse floor vase. I knew it would fit the theme of the room but wasn't sure about how. Thankfully Roth was equally obsessed, so we nestled it behind the dining table next to an aged log we already had and filled it with pampas grass. I couldn't be happier. 

Menu Echasse Floor Vase $570
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Petrified Wood Object on Stand
West Elm Petrified Wood Object on Stand $59
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Sacha Strebe and Tali Roth

TAKE TIME TO FIND THE RIGHT DESIGNER

When the opportunity to work with Hompepolish came up, I knew straightaway I wanted Roth as our designer. We've featured a few of her projects on MyDomaine—you should see her modern NYC loft—and her style fits our aesthetic seamlessly but also offers a unique perspective that I knew would challenge ours. The only issue is I was based in L.A., and she was based in NY. Homepolish shared a few other local designers with me, but I just didn't feel the same connection. 

So we reached out to Roth to see if she could design the space with me remotely, and thankfully, the distance wasn't a deterrent for her at all. We kept in constant communication throughout the entire process, hopping on regular calls to go through the plan and the pieces I'd ordered. Then Roth flew out here the week of the photo shoot to put on the finishing touches.

After being through this lengthy process firsthand, I can't stress enough how important it is to work with someone who gets you, your vision, and your aesthetic because when you do, they can work with you from anywhere to create interior magic. Don't compromise. It's just not worth it, and you'll end up with a place that doesn't feel like home. 

Roth agreed. "The right designer and client fit are so important," she stresses. "It's the most personal relationship, and you need to make sure that you aren't paired with someone who will pull you in any direction that you don't feel is authentically you. It's not the result that's important to me but the process of how we got there. Both I and my clients learn a lot throughout the process. My takeaway from this particular project was that this is a very special family, and it's so important to collect things over time.

I always knew that to be true, but I was strongly reminded of it with Sacha and Troy." 

CB2 Sadie Matte Black Vase
CB2 Sadie Matte Black Vase $40
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West Elm Papier-Mache Sculpture On Stand $69
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Sacha Strebe—Troy Strebe

REMEMBER FAMILY-FRIENDLY CAN ALSO BE CHIC

Since our apartment is also home to our 9-year-old son, we wanted the space to feel elevated yet cozy with pieces that weren't so elevated that he couldn't touch or play around them. Of course, he isn't a toddler anymore, so it was much easier for us to design a space knowing there is less chance of him spilling drinks or dropping food on the rug. 

The sofa is my husband's design, so he sewed the cushions out of a durable canvas fabric that can easily be thrown in the washing machine if there is an accident. (Very handy given the ecru color, which isn't always so easy to keep clean with a family). I think we managed to find a happy compromise between chic and cozy when decorating our space for a family.

Kamlyn Counter Stool, Black
Lulu & Georgia Kamlyn Counter Stool $506
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Etsy Giant Selenite Crystal Stick
Etsy Giant Selenite Crystal Stick $20
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Lux Eros Laoc Candle $70
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PHOTOGRAPHER: Jenna Peffley
ASSISTANT: Vince Madero
HAIR: Reece Walker
MAKEUP: Daniele Piersons

PHOTOGRAPHER: Jenna Peffley
ASSISTANT: Vince Madero
HAIR: Reece Walker
MAKEUP: Daniele Piersons

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