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Alexandra Gater knows a thing or two about transformations. As the host of a YouTube channel dedicated to renovating rentals in the Toronto area, she has captured nearly 720,000 subscribers as she DIYs room dividers in teeny studios, removable tile backsplashes in kitchens, and built-in storage anywhere it will fit. Naturally, Gater also frequently shares the process of personalizing the 19th-century home she shares with her partner, Noah. Her latest project on this front has been to turn their tiny entryway into a happy and tidy space. 

“It was so disorganized,” she says. “Our winter accessories were in baskets on a shelf that were out of reach, shoes were strewn at the door, and jackets were being piled on top of each other on coat hooks.” If that wasn’t bad enough, Gater also didn’t like that her love of all things pink and squiggly was nowhere to be found. “It lacked any sort of decoration,” she says. Gater aimed to streamline her entryway with solutions that felt personal yet totally relatable. Here’s how she pulled it off in just 34 square feet.

Lean on Tried-and-True Favorites 

Courtesy of Alexandra Gater
Photography by Carla Antonio

Gater’s entryway is essentially a nook between her front door and a flight of stairs. As she considered her options, she realized that it being removed from the rest of the apartment isn’t such a bad thing. “I really wanted the entryway to be a statement,” she says. “Because it’s separate from the rest of our home, I knew there was potential to paint it a bold color and have fun. It didn’t have to match an adjoining room.” 

Initially, Gater went far outside her comfort zone and chose Periwinkle Bud by Behr, thinking that it would be refreshing to pick a color that wasn’t present in the rest of her mostly pink and green home. But when she applied the first coat to the walls, she knew it didn’t work. “I was really picturing an energetic and bright entryway,” she says. “But I realized that blue wasn’t the answer because it was feeling too cold.” Gater abandoned the plan and embraced a shade she was sure about: Sulking Room Pink by Farrow & Ball. “I ultimately ended up using one of my comfort colors, and it makes this space feel so cozy and warm rather than just utilitarian,” she says.

Upgrade a Simple Shelf With a Scallop

Courtesy of Alexandra Gater
Photography by Carla Antonio

Graham Hayes, the resident handyman on Gater’s team, knew that this entryway required new shelving near the door, both above and below the hanging rod. But traditional straight-edge planks wouldn’t do. Hayes wanted them to stand out among the busy rack of coats. So his solution was to incorporate Gater’s favorite undulating shape. “I love for a room to be sophisticated with touches of whimsy,” Gater says.

They painted the three shelves the same color as the walls to give the installation a bespoke feel and stocked them with baskets that share the shelves’ playful design. As one last tie-in, Gater replaced the existing overhead light with a Mitzi pendant lamp that seamlessly goes with the flow and can turn on with a switch with a scalloped plate. The results are decidedly cohesive, with a wink. 

Refresh What Works With More Function

Photography by Carla Antonio

This was by no means a gut reno. Gater wasn’t going to touch the tile flooring or stained-glass window—two details that beautifully anchored the entryway—nor did she want to nix the IKEA Hemnes shoe-slash-console cabinet that she’s owned since she lived in her last apartment and had previously been storing upstairs in this place. By adding clever accessories to the storage piece, its small refresh fits right into the rest of the renovation. “It’s hands down one of my most favorite IKEA pieces because it is so functional,” she says. Gater refreshed it with a re-stained custom wood top, new knobs, and coats of Bone by Farrow & Ball. But it was still missing something.

Look closely on one side of the cabinet and you’ll spot another one of Hayes’s creations: A pair of semicircular shelves that happen to be the ideal spot for sunglasses. When there is a hook or a ledge for everything—keys, mail, umbrellas—it’s hard to lose track of stuff. And it makes a styled space feel even more intentional. 

“This space feels like a completely decorated room rather than just a place to drop our shoes,” says Gater. “One tip I have, now that this update is over, is for people to go through their entire routines to leave their homes. When you come back, note each step. What do you need to ensure your entryway functions better for you?” Even in her own home, Gater is still a generous design host. 

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