How To Organize Your Home Without Making This One Mistake

If there’s one thing Jessica Torres has learned through multiple apartment moves, it’s that you should never rush to make your home a home.

In the past, the New York City-based content creator found that she would hurry the process of putting new apartments together just for the sake of them feeling “done.” “I was just filling in holes and corners with objects that weren’t really me and didn’t tell my story,” she recalls. “I wasted so much money — I learned my lesson the hard way.”

So when she moved into the Bronx two-bedroom she shares with her girlfriend last year, she saw this blank slate as an opportunity to design her home in a slower, more meaningful way. Rather than adhere to a strict arbitrary timeline, she decided she’d complete her space with a lot less urgency and much more intention. “I wanted to be more mindful about what I brought into my home — and be kinder to the environment and my pockets along the way,” she says. “What’s the rush to just fill in empty spaces with items that don’t even represent me?”

It was through this new approach that Torres discovered several interior design principles — ones that she now swears by — especially when it came to planning out her two bedrooms, which she now considers her favorite areas of the entire apartment.

The first? Get the big stuff out of the way. “When I have a blank canvas, the first thing I think about is where all the big furniture is going to go,” she says. For her bedroom, her main focus was sourcing a minimalist (in design), yet maximalist (in space) dresser, which she found in the IKEA MALM Dresser. Since it has six drawers, she was able to store plenty of personal items in one place and, more importantly, keep them out of sight to keep the rest of the room neat. And since it’s white, it would work with whatever other design elements she’d eventually bring into the space.

This leads us to her second principle: Opt for a neutral color palette, especially when it comes to large, critical items, like dressers and desks. For Torres, she leaned into a bright white hue not only to create a seamless, calming ambiance in the room (she kept her walls white for this reason), but to also serve as a backdrop to her true interior design style, which she describes as “a celebration of color and femininity” and incorporates plenty of vibrant personal touches.

Much of Torres’ affinity for color stems from her and her partner’s South American heritage, which is reflected throughout the apartment. Torres moved from Loja, Ecuador to the U.S. when she was five months old, and now, at 33 years old, she finds joy in curating a mix of vintage pieces with sentimental travel finds, particularly those she collects when she visits home, as well as items that nod to her girlfriend’s Colombian roots. Dotted around her space, you’ll find colorful throw pillows she sourced from Ecuador and a handful of “little chivas” — mini versions of the popular chiva bus, brightly colored vehicles used for transport throughout Colombia — among other meaningful objects and knick-knacks. Above her bed hang art prints from two iconic Ecuadorian and Colombian artists. 

“I have South American prints hanging all throughout the house, representing my heritage through art. Living far away from my homeland can be very nostalgic,” adds Torres. “Including these items as accents is not only fun but a great way for us to bring more of our backgrounds into our home.”

The key to small apartment living is being smart in how you utilize your space — something many New Yorkers have to learn rather quickly. This sometimes means that rooms need to be multifunctional…or serve entirely different purposes than intended. In Torres’ case, the second bedroom (which is only used as a bedroom on the occasion they have guests) doubles as her walk-in closet — a coveted rarity in NYC real estate — and an office where she and her partner can work, a plan she was set on the moment she first toured the apartment.

An essential piece that grounds the hybrid space is the IKEA ALEX Desk, another white, “blank slate” piece that serves a dual purpose: for makeup and for work. She appreciates the large workspace surface and the discreet drawers for storing laptops, gadgets, and important files. Of course, the desk also required a designated (and comfortable) spot to plop down and turn on work mode, a job achieved by the lumbar-supporting IKEA LÅNGFJÄLL Conference Chair.

Another eternal challenge of city living is finding sufficient closet space, and given that the entire room is now open storage, Torres knew she needed to incorporate hidden storage space in order to keep the room clutter-free. There was a perfect opportunity for this underneath the racks of colorful clothing lining the walls, so she stacked a couple of lightweight, zippered IKEA SKUBB Storage Cases to house anything she wanted out of sight, such as extra comforters and duvets for when the bedroom *does* need to be a bedroom.

After a year of living in her space, it appears put together, but Torres never really considers it finished. There are still plenty of empty white spaces and blank walls — and that’s okay; she’s not in any hurry. “Whether it’s something that a friend gave me, something I bought secondhand, or a piece I bought from back home,” she says, “I want every room to have a special vibe and tell a story.”

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