Every time I walked into the lobby of the duplex we share with our neighbor, I was greeted with piles of junk mail. The way-too-small mirror and hand-me-down console table, left behind from a former tenant and topped with faux gerbera daisies, weren’t helping the overall look of the space either. The ambience was overdue for an update.

I casually mentioned the idea of painting and improving the space to my landlord, who gave me the green light as long as it functioned the same way (we would still need a table on which to drop letters that didn’t block the hallway, etc.). I was planning on presenting my thoughts to our neighbor, as well, but before I could, they moved out. I jumped at the opportunity to make some executive decisions. The following eight elements were a must.

The Solid Foundation 

The dimensions of the new console table had to be very specific given it’s a tight space. I spent a lot of time searching and ultimately landed on this piece from Wayfair that has traditional lines and took advantage of the long wall. I also liked that it had a second shelf so we could incorporate baskets for bonus storage.

The Filing System 

From a practical standpoint, we needed to be able to sort mail, but our previous organizer took up way too much tabletop space. In lieu of a catchall container, I switched things up with two brass holders from Anthropologie that hang on the wall. They take up less room and have multiple compartments that make separating bills from grocery shopping lists a breeze. 

The Splash of Color

I wanted to choose a color that was a little risky, so I went with a bright mint hue from Valspar dubbed Cuddle Bug. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but this isn’t a huge space and I try not to be too precious with paint—it’s easy to go back over it if you change your mind. I covered the walls in less than an hour. Now it feels so welcoming and happy.

The Quick Touch-Up

Once I had the table in place, I looked for a large wall mirror to really fill the space (the one there previously was way too tiny). To find the perfect fit, I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the shape I was looking for to ensure I ordered the right one. It’s a simple trick, but I’ve learned from experience that spending 20 minutes mocking something up saves time and money. I ended up choosing this wood find from Rejuvenation that feels modern and lends a sense of warmth. Plus I can check my lipstick as I’m rushing out the door.

The Nod to the Past

I was racking my brain for what to frame that would be appropriate for the lobby of a building. I remembered a website my friend had sent me that showed all the houses in New York from the 1940 census. I corrected the image in Photoshop and printed it out. It’s so fun to see our building from 80 years ago and think of the people who have lived here before us. I painted the frames red to add a pop to the wall. 

The Time-Tested Rug 

I specifically looked for an indoor-outdoor rug because it’s the first thing people step (read: wipe their shoes) on when entering our home. I bought a few knowing I could return the ones I didn’t use and ended up choosing one that tied in nicely with the picture frames.

The Backup Plan

After scooping up a bunch of umbrellas at Muji (it’s my favorite place to buy them, not to mention I scored them on sale), I put a holder next to the console so they don’t end up at the bottom of a coat closet. I also love the idea of sending an umbrella-less friend home in a storm with some coverage, almost as if they were leaving a nice hotel. 

The Finishing Touches

For the final layer, I added a lamp I had stored in my closet that’s the ideal size for a narrow table (it won’t topple over when delivery people come through). And a simple-to-care-for olive tree has brought a ton of life to the space. Now it’s much easier to stay organized and keep up with all the action the lobby sees. Our new neighbor recently moved in and immediately complimented the entryway. 

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