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This Georgetown Apartment Is Full of Ideas to Enliven Even the Tiniest Space

If your walls feel like they’re closing in, take a few notes from this super-colorful, small-space revamp.

Photographs by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

The 700-square-foot Georgetown apartment used to be so dreary that practically every paint sample showed up the color of a rain cloud. “Blue looked gray, pink looked gray,” says its owner, Karine Shebaclo. “Every time we brought in a color, we were like, ‘Why does it look gray?’ ”

Shebaclo and interior designer Zoe Feldman were determined to get it right. After testing about ten shades of blush, they finally found one from Benjamin Moore that enlivened the whole place. (Go figure, it was called “Love & Happiness.”)

The rosy walls were just the start. Feldman amped up the cheery vibe with playful wallpapers, pops of turquoise, and much (much) brighter lighting. “Zoe was like, ‘We’re going to make this place so fun,’ ” says Shebaclo. “ ‘You have to trust me.’ ”

And, especially during the worst of the coronavirus lockdown, the 30-year-old ophthalmology resident was so grateful she did. “I was home all the time studying or cooking. It was very isolating,” she says. “But it was nice because my place is so happy.”

If your own place could use a mood boost, here are some tips and tricks inspired by Shebaclo’s apartment.

Let there be light

Nothing makes a tight space more inviting like better light. The apartment’s cement ceiling made recessed lighting cost-prohibitive, so Feldman combined track lights with stylish hanging and flush-mount fixtures.

The pendant light over the tulip-style dining table is from Etsy.

Mix in something with history

Shebaclo inherited several antique rugs from her grandmother—such as the one in her kitchen, below—which Feldman used to warm up the rooms.

Consider the trim

For an unexpected jolt of color, why not paint the baseboards? Feldman coated these in “Inchyra Blue” by Farrow & Ball. (The mural behind the headboard is actually wallpaper by Rebel Walls.)

Go bright—in small doses

For a high-impact pop, Feldman recommends trying a bold paint color on a piece of furniture. She used Farrow & Ball “Lake Red” on the oversize medicine cabinet in Shebaclo’s bathroom.

For an entire room, think pink

Sick of gray? “Pinks can be incredibly neutral,” says Feldman. “Something that seems like it might be too feminine and too youthful can be sophisticated.” She recommends these three soft options for full walls.

“Love & Happiness” by Benjamin Moore
(seen throughout this apartment)

“Calamine” by Farrow & Ball

“Set in Plaster” by Farrow & Ball

Try a no-commitment print

It might seem counterintuitive to hang a busy print in a small apartment, but Feldman says a whimsical wallpaper is actually perfect for a tight space: “It creates interest. It creates purpose. So you no longer care that it’s not big.” Plus, it doesn’t have to last forever, and if you use a removable, paste-free option—like these five papers by local wallpaper maker Kate Zaremba Company—it’s much easier to hang yourself.

“Bright Eyes”(seen on the back of the dining-area niche and inside the medicine cabinet)

“City Plan” in multicolor (seen in the entryway)

“Grove”in terra cotta

“Muse”in mustard

“Mirror Mirror”

Photographs of wallpaper courtesy of Kate Zaremba

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.